Runny nose and sneezing? Sore Throat? Coughing? Body aches? Fever? So many overlapping symptoms! Is it a common cold? Allergies? The flu? The current virus or one of its variants? There is no way of knowing for sure except to be tested. In the meantime, what can you do to keep yourself safe and protect those around you?
Runny nose and sneezing are particularly problematic when we go out into the public. And coughing is just as bad. We don’t want to spread nasty viruses. For those of us with allergies who sneeze often, it is extremely awkward to go out into the public, although we are not contagious. Even if we think it’s just another allergic reaction, can we be sure? With a runny nose and sneezing, we certainly don’t want to make other people sick.
Viruses are changing our world and our lifestyles.
We seem to be at war—a war against the debilitating viruses and all their variants that have been attacking us for decades and have been definitely troubling us for the past two years. They have already seriously altered the way we live our lives and how we interact with other people.
We fight back with vaccines, masks, social distancing, disinfectants, and healthier living practices. Yet the viruses continue to mutate and infect our lives.
What else can we do to protect ourselves and those we love? Can we shield ourselves whenever we might be exposed? These are the questions we have been asking for the past two years.
The answer to that is YES! We can shield ourselves somewhat against infections. Researchers have discovered that certain minerals from the earth, which our bodies have relied on forever, can now be accessed in a form, such as Zinc Plus. They can provide us the much needed shield to prevent nasty bacteria and viruses from incubating in our bodies. There are also hygiene practices we can do to protect our families, homes, and health. I will share eight helpful tips later in this article.
But first, let’s look at some of the differences between a common cold, a nasty flu bug, and the formidable virus that has already mutated into several variants. These illnesses seem to have similar symptoms, some of which are common with allergy attacks.
A Common Cold, Allergies, the Flu, or Worse?
Viruses have been around a long time. There are over 200 viruses that cause the common cold. Did you know that people in the US suffer from over a billion colds per year? According to the CDC, children average 6-8 colds a year, and that number is higher if they attend daycare.
According to the NIH, vaccines can help protect you from the flu but not the common cold. While both colds and the flu are caused by viruses, they are caused by different kinds of viruses. Colds seem to be less severe with shorter lasting symptoms. Flu illnesses tend to be more severe and last for 3-4 weeks or more.
As we can see from the CDC table of comparisons, the common cold and allergies have milder symptoms, most of which are quite similar. Flu and the current well known virus have more severe symptoms. They tend to be somewhat similar as well.
Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention
Symptoms that occur or sometimes occur with all four cases are runny noses, sore throats, cough, chest congestion, and sneezing. All four are attacks on the respiratory system. Breathing becomes obstructed and may at times be uncomfortable or even difficult.
The recommended treatment varies, but in all cases, rest and good sleep is essential in allowing the body to heal. For tips on how to get better sleep, refer to “Beauty Sleep Is Possible: 7 Tips for Better Sleep.” The CDC chart does not mention rest specifically, but as someone who has suffered from hay fever type allergy attacks all my life, I know rest and good sleep can be difficult during the sneezing and runny nose phases caused by allergies.
Drinking plenty of clear fluids and staying hydrated is always important but especially important when your body is producing extra mucus and causing runny noses. To protect yourself and relieve your body from fighting off toxins that might be in tap water and plastic bottles, I recommend the use of a reusable water bottle with a high quality filter. My favorite is the Puritii® water filtration system.
Cleanliness is an absolute must when it comes to prevention. Keeping the air and surfaces of your environment free of viruses is the best form of protection. See below for more tips.
One thing for sure is that we want to protect ourselves and our loved ones as much as possible from allowing the illness to worsen into sinus infections, pneumonia, or worse. Sinus infections often accompany both the common cold and allergies and can be quite miserable and last for weeks. Unlike pneumonia or respiratory failure, sinus infections probably won’t put you in the hospital, but they can certainly make you miserable and quite possibly contagious.
7 tips for preventing the dangers and discomforts of respiratory infections
Tip #1 Wash hands frequently and properly.
This is the most widely recommended practice for protection against most types of pathogens. Learn to wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water. Wet hands, turn off water for conservation purposes, add soap, and scrub. Scrub between fingers and under fingernails as well as the palms and wrists. Continue scrubbing for 20 seconds. (Sing the happy birthday song twice if you are not sure how long 20 seconds lasts.) Turn the water back on and rinse thoroughly. Dry hands. Be sure to use a clean towel. Otherwise, allow hands to air dry.
Tip #2 Stay home when you and/or your children are sick.
This is the most obvious but may not be as easy as it sounds. Some people don’t get paid if they don’t go to work. Many jobs cannot be done remotely from home. For older generations with a strong work ethic, they may have to overcome their built-in obligation to work even when they don’t feel well. An important factor to keep in mind is that we don’t want diseases and infections to spread.
Tip #3 Keep hands away from your face.
We all know this is practically impossible, but avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes. And certainly, do not pick your nose. Use a tissue and then immediately discard it in the trash. Do not stick your fingers in your mouth or eyes.
If it becomes absolutely necessary to touch your face, or if touched without thinking, then be sure your hands are clean. Wash your hands right away after contact. Learn to carry clean tissues in your pocket for those times when you need to scratch, wipe a runny nose, cover a sneeze or cough, dry a tear, or attend to a tickle or irritation anywhere on your face.
The Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), reminds us that microbes are attracted to warm, moist areas and thrive in the mucous-covered surfaces inside the nose, mouth, and eyes. Touching these areas of our bodies increases the likelihood of infections.
Tip #4 Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
This is an obvious one, yet it seems to be a difficult one for people to remember. It is best to cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue, which should be discarded in the trash immediately. Young people seem to be better at this. They are being taught in schools to cough or sneeze into their sleeves if a tissue is not handy. With peer pressure, students are learning this much better than many adults I have seen.
Tip #5 Avoid close contact, especially with sick people.
This includes NOT sharing personal items. Unfortunately, people can spread infections even when they do not show any symptoms. You do not want to be ill, and you don’t want to make others sick either. So, avoid spreading and receiving germs from others. When caring for a sick person or sharing personal items out of necessity, be sure to sterilize objects and wash up before and after contact. OMG. It seems so gross to me now that I used to put pencils in my mouth when I needed my hands free during writing times! Oh the germs!!
If and when you come into close contact with people who are, or potentially could be sick, use a nasal hygiene cleanse such as Zinc+ Skin and Nasal Wash. According to the International Journal of Internal Medicine, Zinc possesses antiviral qualities and can act as a barrier that protects our respiratory epithelium. Basically, zinc blocks a variety of bacteria and viruses, including current problematic ones, that attempt to incubate in our respiratory tracts.
Tip #6 Keep your home clean and free of germs.
Spray and wipe commonly used surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, sinks, toilets, showers, tabletops, countertops, toys, phones, keyboards, pens, markers, and remote controls. Use a disinfectant that is safe around children and pets. Wipe with a clean cloth.
Speaking of clean cloths, be sure to sanitize dishcloths, towels, and sponges. These are the most likely places to host germs. According to Dr. Micah J. Ryan, M.D., washing them in the dishwasher or washing machine is not sufficient. The best method of killing off the germs is to wet the washcloths and sponges and heat them in the microwave for two minutes.
A clean home includes clean air. Ventilation is important and has become highly recommended with the new viruses that are presently active. Use a HEPA filter that will remove 99 percent of the dust, pollen, pet danders, bacteria, odors, and pollutants from the air. This is not only important during cold and flu season but is life-changing for allergy sufferers like myself.
I use a couple of different models of HEPA air purifiers. My favorite, which I use in the main living space of my house, is the Puritii® Multi-Effect Air Purifier. It’s a bit pricey, but it removes up to 99.99% of microbes, plus more than 99.99% of ultrafine airborne particulate matter measuring less than 2.5 micrometers and from 0.1 to .03 microns. The technology also reduces harmful pollutants such as emerging contaminants, chemicals, allergens, VOCs and more. My air purifiers have definitely reduced the number of allergy attacks and sinus infections in my household and has made me feel much safer during these years of trying to isolate from viruses in order to protect my loved ones.
Know that animals carry potential infectious microorganisms as well. Keep your pets clean and wash your hands after playing with them and caring for them. Sanitize their toys and water and food dishes. Be sure any disinfectant you use is safe around children and animals.
Be aware of the dangerous rodents that may be running around both the interior and exterior of your house. Keep areas around your house clear and clean to prevent mice, rats, and other rodents from spreading pathogens into your living spaces.
Tip #7 Get age and health appropriate vaccines.
Vaccines are designed to teach the body how to fight off viruses whenever exposed to them. Vaccines do not mean you won’t become ill, but they have proven statistically to decrease the degree to which you experience the symptoms. In other words, most people will suffer less from the virus if they have been vaccinated.
Even if you have had covid, you are still vulnerable and can become infected again. In fact, a PubMed.gov article published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported the results of a study in Kentucky. The study indicates that people without the vaccine were more than two times (2.34x) likely to be re-infected than those with the vaccine.
Tip #8 Take extra precautions when you travel.
Research health and safety measures of airports, plans, restaurants, hotels. Check that public areas are frequently cleaned and sanitized. Be sure you are in rooms that are effectively ventilated.
When traveling to underdeveloped countries, extra precautions have always been necessary. Check ahead of time to learn what immunizations are both required and advised for the areas where you will be traveling. See http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/ for more information months before you go.
APIC points out that infectious diseases can be picked up during your travels. Be sure to learn about the water. Water is not always completely safe for drinking or brushing your teeth even in some areas of the US and Canada. Carry a water bottle with a good filter such as the Puritii® water filtration system. It will save you time and money in the long run because you won’t have to be searching for and standing in lines to pay for bottled water–which may have its own toxicity from leaching plastic.
If the water is questionable, the food might be as well. Avoid raw fruits and vegetables that could be contaminated by the water and pesticides. Choose foods that are fully cooked.
The more we are able to practice these eight tips, the more protected we will be. It is time we take back control and not let viruses infect our health and dictate how we live our lives. We don’t always have control over what happens, but we can control how we respond. Our response will determine the outcome. Choose your path to a healthy life!
APIC, “Top Ten Ways to Prevent Infection in the New Year, Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, accessed Jan. 18, 2022, https://apic.org/monthly_alerts/top-10-ways-to-prevent-infection-in-the-new-year/
Cavanaugh, Alyson, M., et al., “Reduced Risk of Reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 After COVID-19 Vaccination – Kentucky, May-June 2021,” National Library of Medicine, Aug. 13, 2021, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34383732/
CDC. “Keeping Hands Clean,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dec. 4, 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/hand/handwashing.html
Neal, Teresa S., PhD, “Beauty Sleep Is Possible–7 Tips for Better Sleep, Kwik Marketplace, Dec. 18, 2021, https://kwikmarketplace.com/personal-care/beauty-sleep-is-possible/?fbclid=IwAR1wHCbBcyC0wLsqXNJpfN69mVzczHWVZtp5DNAgCXK-qoMWG5N9hxBxVoU
NIH, “Is It Flu, COVID-19, Allergies, or a Cold? Staying Healthy This Winter,” NIH Newsletter, Jan. 2022, https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2022/01/it-flu-covid-19-allergies-or-cold
“Preventing Viruses,“ reviewed by Micah J. Ryan, M.D., 2022, https://www.boystownpediatrics.org/knowledge-center/preventing-viruses
Skalny, Anatoly, V., et al., “Zinc and Respiratory Tract Infections,” International Journal of Molecular Medicine, Apr. 14, 2020, doi: 10.3892/ijmm.2020.4575