Some years ago, I posted a page on my blog with homegrown steps for preventing colds and flus by heading them off before they get going. I am reposting them below, updated, for family and my doctor.
In the close to 20 years that I have employed these strategies, I have never had the incipient symptoms of an upper respiratory infections—like sore throat, congestion, cough from post-nasal drip—turn into anything. I’ve experienced the beginnings of runny noses or bad sore throats plenty of times—and I don’t mean minor ones, I mean the kind of sore throats that are so inflamed and painful, it’s hard to talk or swallow your own spit, including fever—and other symptoms that at one time would have always turned into a major illness.*
These strategies have reliably helped me (and my family members and friends who have used them) to cut those symptoms short and get better quickly without ever developing a systemic illness.
As with SolveEczema.org (environmental strategies for eczema and astham), the strategies involve taking simple measures that anyone can do, generally regarded as safe, and that are based on a combination of my own research and methodical, empirical observation. And just as with SolveEczema strategies, it can be easy to make wrong assumptions and miss getting the results unless one reads and understands that these strategies are something new and different despite familiar elements.
And just as with SolveEczema.org, I tend to keep things low-key until there is research to back it up—even more than SolveEczema, these flu-prevention strategies could be easily validated with appropriate clinical trials. Which are difficult to get done as an outsider. (As SolveEczema.org users know, I am not a medical professional.)
But as the Covid-19 pandemic has progressed, I feel I should speak up. Testing the above strategies would be easy and fairly low risk, with the potential benefit of reducing the number of people who get sick with Covid-19 after exposure, allowing for a faster recovery, faster resolution of the epidemiological “curve” and faster and more confident transition to normal life. Especially for healthcare workers and people in essential jobs like first responders, grocery and delivery employees, construction and transportation workers, having a way to regularly mitigate the likelihood of infection even after exposure or development of new symptoms would be very powerful. If these steps prove broadly effective, it could significantly reduce the risk of illness because of exposures in their work. The strategies could conceivably reduce transmissibility and thus cut short the epidemic.
There would be relatively few downsides to a clinical trial. The strategies could be employed by half of those with a known exposure but who have not gotten sick and comparisons made with the other half for how many came down with the full-blown disease. Another group could be health care workers or public health professionals who get constant exposure, with half getting the strategies (modified specifically for their circumstances), half not.
The best trial would be to test the strategies with people who get incipient symptoms like GI problems, sore throat, or congestion, because these strategies work best in my experience when used at the beginnings of an illness or right after a known exposure, rather than as regular well-care prophylaxis, but from what I understand, the typical symptoms of an incipient flu are not necessarily present very often at the start Covid-19.
The other kind of trial that might be helpful is to give the strategies to a portion of those who develop incipient flu symptoms and give only partial strategies that are already in common use to others, and see if it changes the number of people who get sick with flus. Even if the strategies don’t work with Covid-19 as well, if they are generally as effective as I have observed with flu, they could reduce the number of people who need medical services for flu, and thus help free up the healthcare system at this time of crisis. (And would also help reduce the number of flu deaths every year!)
These are not just typical strategies such as to reduce the pain of a sore throat by gargling with salt water, they are a combined set of strategies to eliminate the sore throat altogether within a short period of time and keep something worse from developing. I speculate from what I have observed that the strategies may allow the immune system to catch up, essentially.
I have updated the strategies and posted them below for convenience. My next post will include selected updated research support for this from medical literature, and why I believe these strategies could help with Covid-19 control WITH APPROPRIATE CLINICAL TRIALS FOR VALIDATION. Please note again that if you have symptoms, CONTACT YOUR DOCTOR. If you want to try these strategies, run them by your doctor and understand when you should call. Do not use something anyone provides you from the Internet, even me, in lieu of professional medical attention.
Wishing everyone Good Health as we all do our parts to end this pandemic as soon as possible.
*Only one time, I had something that seemed to go straight into my lungs without any sore throat or other symptoms first, but even then, the strategies allowed my to keep the coughing from starting up so I could sleep.
Better than chicken soup* – Our family’s best home remedy for heading off colds, sore throats, and cough from post-nasal drip
This is what we do during cold and flu season — it really seems preventive and to head off sore throats, colds and coughs. I couldn’t say if it beats my Grandma’s onion poultices because — sorry Grandma! — making onion poultices is not my idea of a soothing solution when I am sick! These steps seem to work fast — without onions — and help head off the congestion that tickles the back of the throat and becomes a cough, especially at night.
As you might expect if you follow SolveEczema.org, I developed this because of research I read over the years, and copious experimentation and observation. Since following these steps, I’ve never had a sore throat turn into anything, and the few times I’ve had problems that seemed to bypass the sore throat stage, it was still helpful at heading off the coughing and letting me sleep at night — without a lot of medication.
DISCLAIMER: As always, I feel like I need to make a disclaimer, because even if this is effective for you — especially if it is effective for you — DO NOT do this instead of consulting your doctor. Only do with your doctor’s blessing, and after making sure nothing more serious needs to be addressed! That H1N1 flu, for example, moves FAST into the lungs and gets scary serious even faster — this is NOT a substitute for getting urgent care for something like that, and is NOT a home remedy once something has moved into the lungs, among other problems. See your doctor immediately if there is any question of there being pneumonia or infection in the lungs. (My readers know how cautious I am about medical treatment — even I recommend everyone getting flu shots.)
So, with that in mind ….
Not all of these steps are always necessary — the essential ones are starred *** — but the order of all the steps is important, regardless. With very young children, check with doctor before doing any of these steps:
Whenever a sore throat, congestion, or cough starts (a cough that isn’t yet in the lungs but comes from higher up):
1. Brush teeth — use a new brush or disinfect toothbrush first with peroxide if possible, use toothpaste from a new tube, don’t contact the bristles to the tube.
Brushing can be skipped in a pinch, but it’s a good idea to start by brushing. The microorganisms don’t just inhabit the back of the throat, and brushing reduces the bacterial soup swimming around the mouth.
2. Drink a large glass of warm water — it’s so important for the immune system and also because you don’t want to drink right after the next steps. Many people come from cultural traditions that view warm water (room temperature or slightly warmer rather than cold water) as important for health — there is research support for this notion now, and from my own empirical observation, I am in agreement with this view.
Simply Saline Allergy and Sinus ****
***3. Rinse sinuses with Simply Saline sterile nasal spray from each side per instructions (regular or Allergy and Sinus formula, they are both non-detergent and JUST saline) and blow nose.
Simply Saline is my favorite product for this purpose, it works well and the mist delivers the product into the sinuses in a very gentle way, especially for children, though you may still have to talk them through it. You can also use other products, or a Neti Pot but not if you are EVER tempted to use it without sterile water!!! (I can’t stress that enough, never put unsterilized tap water in your sinuses!!!!!)
Step #3 is important EVEN IF YOU ONLY HAVE A SORE THROAT AND DON’T YET HAVE CONGESTION.
For very bad congestion, after rinsing well with regular Simply Saline, rinse again with the Allergy and Sinus Simply Saline. That works the vast majority of the time, but if things come back and repeating the steps using those isn’t enough, you can rinse with Simply Saline then follow with Nutribiotic Nasal Spray, per instructions, probably one or two sprays per nostril. (I am concerned about how well the valve works so I always spray it into a clean tissue once or twice after every use, keep the nozzle wiped clean, and throw it away when I no longer need it for that illness.)
***4. Gargle several times with a glass of warm salt water (just use ordinary table salt, maybe a spoon in a glass, it doesn’t have to be ocean-salty). Swish some of the salt water around in your mouth, between the teeth, and spit out. (If you have high blood pressure and need to watch salt intake, discuss with doctor beforehand.)
Step #4 is important EVEN IF YOU DON’T HAVE A SORE THROAT BUT ONLY HAVE CONGESTION AND/OR COUGHING FROM POST-NASAL DRIP.
***5. Dissolve a dose of probiotic in a small amount of warm water, like only just a teaspoon or two of water, then swallow so it coats the back of the throat and tongue.
My favorite probiotics for this (including for myself) are Jarrow Baby’s Jarro-dophilus. (The link is for information only, this product has to be refrigerated and is available in most health food stores, although it can be ordered here with a cold pack if necessary.) It comes in powder form and can be measured out by the teaspoon or fractions of. It tends to clump, so make sure it is well dissolved. Primadophilus Intensive is also good. It comes in a powder, in separate packets. (I can no longer find this product in stores, perhaps they don’t make it.)
I find in a pinch, just taking the concentrated probiotic can help combat a sore throat. LINK
If you don’t have those brands, you can use what you have, split open a capsule and dissolve it in the glass. Be sure it’s a refrigerated acidophilus with live bacteria. Dead shelf-stable ones are better than nothing, but you may not get the same results. Use a probiotic with as many strains as possible. If you only have one, that’s better than nothing, but 6-12 strains is best in my experience. (There is at least evidence that 2 strains is better than one when it comes to cold and flue prevention.)
You may have to try more than one probiotic product to hit the right one to beat back whatever is causing the problem sometimes — it’s always more effective to do this at the very start of the sore throat than after it gets entrenched. How do you know if it’s a good probiotic? It should begin working right away. If it makes no discernible difference, you need a different probiotic. The difference is usually pretty obvious.
Repeat whenever the pain returns. But try to do after eating rather than before.
This seems to work really well to ward off sore throats and congestion when they happen and keep them from turning into something else, and also, it has been very useful to stop the coughing at night when lying down, whether there is a sore throat or not. Even if you don’t seem to be congested, the stuff that comes down postnasal can be very irritating and be the reason for the cough. This really seems effective at getting all that stuff out of the way, if you do it right before going to bed, so you can sleep and the immune system can do its job better.
If you want to be really hard core — it does seem to help — eat healthy and don’t eat sugary and starchy foods while sick, the bad microbes seem to love those foods as much as we do. If taking an antibiotic, take probiotics during treatment (not just after) per medical advice — take oral enteric coated probiotics in addition to the dissolved per #5 above.
Lastly, if you spend time at school or the doctor’s office during cold and flu season, when you get home, wash hands (of course) and change into clean clothes (bag the dirty ones and put them by the laundry, don’t leave them in your room even in the hamper). I don’t know if the question of how much doctors’ coats and ties are spreading disease has been settled LINK , but taking this step has definitely worked for me from personal experience.
So the steps are again:
1. Brush teeth with a clean brush and paste.
2. Drink a large glass of warm water.
3. Rinse sinuses with sterile saline nasal rinse (whether you are congested or not), immediately followed by:
4. Gargle with warm salt water (whether you have a sore throat or not).
5. Dissolve a dose of probiotic in a small amount of water, just a teaspoon or two, and drink.
6. Repeat the whole process as soon as symptoms return. Use Allergy & Sinus Simply Saline in all subsequent repeats if the regular wasn’t enough to make things go away completely the first time.
Remember to rinse and sterilize the sink when you are done, as necessary.
Do not get “lazy” and let things go just because the steps make things feel instantly better when you do them. They work best if you go do them right when the symptoms start and repeat them right away if symptoms come back. Doing this, I have been able to reliably get rid of even aggressive sore throats and congestion and keep them from turning into a something worse for around 20 years now. If symptoms get entrenched, it’s not too late—following the steps seems to help reduce the severity and duration of any illness that gets a foothold.
Be Well! I hope this helps!
*My opinion! Believe it or not, I think chicken soup can actually claim published support for its healing properties!
**As everyone who reads my site knows, I am a mom, not a doctor. I have given this advice to my own doctor!
****I have mostly suspended affiliate marketing, because it’s a lot of work, and people get the wrong impression. I do earn a very small percentage if people buy using the links, but with personal care products, it earns very little, it’s just a convenience. Sadly, my favorite site for personal care products was bought up and closed down. As of this writing, Simply Saline products are available at Costco, Amazon, and many drugstores.