Absolutely. But in order to understand how chiropractic can help, let’s talk about some of the basics of cold and flu (influenza) season. Right now, news headlines are filled with reports on Influenza A, Influenza B and the Coronavirus. But if you’ve gone to the doctor with any of these, there isn’t much they can do to help. We don’t have drugs to manage viruses. We must lean on the human immune system to fight it off. The good news is that you can strengthen your immune system on your own so it can be ready to do the job and potentially save your life.
How long is cold and flu season
Typically, cold and flu season runs from October through May in the United States with the highest number of cases often peaking between December and February. That doesn’t mean the viruses disappear the rest of the year. These germs hang around all year, but the risk of catching it outside this window is much less.
Also, it’s important to note that just because you come in contact with a cold or flu virus, doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get sick. That’s because your body’s immune system is designed to fight off these viral invaders. The stronger your immune system, the better you can fight off the illness. It’s also why those with weaker immune systems, like the elderly and young children, are at higher risk for developing more severe symptoms.
How chiropractic adjustments help boost your immune system
While you may think your chiropractor’s only role is to help you get relief from neck and back pain, we’re here to tell you there are many more benefits to regular chiropractic adjustments than that. One of those benefits is boosting your immune system!
Numerous studies show that spinal adjustments help boost immune function because they correct spinal misalignments that cause neural dysfunction. Why is that important? Neural dysfunction stresses your body out because your system can’t send out the messages it needs to for the rest of your body to function properly. This constant stress on your body can lead to a weakened immune system, which will lower your body’s immune response to cold and flu viruses. When everything in your body is working (and talking to each other) properly, your immune system is able to perform at its best.
More best practices to boost your immune system
In addition to getting chiropractic adjustments both before flu season starts as well as throughout the year, here are a few more tips on how you can boost your immune system.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help flush bacteria out of your lungs and airways. This may help reduce your chance of catching a cold or flu virus. Exercise also helps your body fight any viruses because it causes a change in antibodies and white blood cells (WBC). During exercise, WBCs circulate more rapidly helping your body detect illnesses and start fighting the disease earlier.
- Eat a healthy diet. Food is a great way to boost your immune system… but only if you’re consistently (as in daily) eating the right stuff. Try to eat the rainbow with your fruits and vegetables and mix in some whole grains, lean protein, and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like eggs, salmon and avocados.
- Take a daily multi-vitamin. Vitamins B6, C, and E are all known for their immune-boosting properties. A good multi-vitamin will help fill any nutrition gaps you have in your diet and give your immune system that added boost.
- Get plenty of sleep. Sleep is one of the strongest and simplest ways to boost your immune system, yet one area that many people still don’t make sure they get enough of. To help your body fight off sicknesses, aim to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
Is it a cold or the flu: recognizing the symptoms
Try as you might to avoid it, you still can get sick. But how do you know what you have? Because they are both respiratory illnesses, colds and the flu share many symptoms but they are caused by different viruses.
Most of the time, the common cold — which can be caused by more than 200 viruses — is identified with this trio of symptoms: sore throat, blocked nose, and cough. On the flip side, the flu — caused by influenza viruses — often manifests with a high temperature, aching, and cold sweats or shivers. Another good way to tell them apart is that flu symptoms typically come on faster than a cold. But to help you know the difference, here is a list of common symptoms and how your body will most likely react.
- Body aches. Not typically with a cold. Almost always (and often severe) with the flu.
- Congestion, runny nose and sore throat. Almost always with a cold. Only sometimes with the flu.
- Exhaustion. Sometimes mild exhaustion is common with a cold. The flu almost always results in exhaustion and it’s often severe.
- Fever. Not usually with a cold. Almost always with the flu.
- Headache. Sometimes with a cold. Usually with the flu.
- Location of symptoms. Most symptoms from a cold are all above the neck. Flu symptoms are often the entire body.
- Duration. Colds last about a week. Flu symptoms last one to three weeks!
Everyday actions to stop the spread of germs
Outside of making sure your immune system is powered up and ready to combat the worst of the germs this season, here are some everyday actions you can take to make sure you stop the spread of germs.
- Stay home if you’re sick. Trust us, your circle will thank you – especially if you have flu-like symptoms. General rule of thumb is you need to be fever-free—without the help of medication—for 24 hours.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue, then throw it away. Every time you sneeze and cough, you’re releasing thousands of germs into the air. And they travel farther and stick around longer than you may think! Researchers at the University of Bristol found the average sneeze or cough sends around 100,000 contagious germs into the air at as speeds of 100 miles per hour! Given the small size of these bioaerosol droplets (their diameter is less than the width of a human hair), they can actually remain suspended in the air for prolonged periods of time before dropping. Sometimes that means weeks later! To put this in perspective, a study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology calculated that one sneeze could travel from 19 to 26 feet.
- Wash your hands. This is common sense, but the more you wash your hands with soap and water, the fewer germs you’ll expose yourself to! Be sure to wash your hands after using tissues as well!
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. This is basic Germ 101 info, but a key way germs spread and make you sick.
- Wipe down light switches, doorknobs, and other commonly used surfaces. Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that may be contaminated will also help stop the spread of germs. Look for proven anti-bacterial, anti-viral cleaners in the store or try a more natural solution such as white vinegar.