Some of these are common-sense; some of them might not be scientifically proven. I use all of them, though; try them and see what works for you!
Cover your neck when outside
Traditionally, instead of “catching cold,” Chinese Medicine theory uses the metaphor of “wind invasion.” In this metaphor, “wind” commonly “invades” the channels at the back of the neck/upper back, which is why you hardly ever see an acupuncturist without a scarf in the chilly months. Plus, who needs an excuse to rock a stylish scarf?
Don’t hang around in sweaty clothes
When you sweat, you are more “open” to wind invasion. So, after you work out, it’s best to dry the sweat off with a towel (if you can’t actually shower off), and change into dry clothes as soon as you can.
Raise your temperature & REST
This is the most important one. I rarely catch cold because I take herbs and go to bed early whenever I feel one coming on. Boring? Yes. But if you too have the kind of job where you don’t get paid if you don’t show up (especially if you love your job, like I do), staying in one night is worth not losing a week or two of work.
If you’re strong, you can sometimes fight the early onset of a cold by working up an (active) sweat – a short jog or brisk walk, for example; but if you’re already feeling run down and exhausted, it’s often better to gently raise your temperature a little bit, passively. This can be taking a warm bath, and/or taking a traditional herbal formula, chasing it with hot tea or soup, getting under some covers and resting for at least a half hour.
Eat lightly/lower on the food chain
If you can, go lightly on the cold, rich, dense foods (meat, nut butters, dairy products, sweets) and eat more soups and steamed veggies. Let your body save its energy for fighting that virus, instead of digesting heavy foods. As always, your mileage may vary; pay attention to your body’s needs.
Especially for those of you that live alone, I strongly suggest that you make up a pot of some nice congee or veggie soup and freeze some of it (we have a good congee recipe hand-out at the clinic, but you can google it too). That way, if you DO get hit with the flu, you’ll have some good nourishing food on hand. (And if you get really sick, call someone to look in on you, okay?)
When do you catch cold or flu? Some people always get sick after a big project is finished; or when they fly in an airplane; or when they haven’t been sleeping well; or when they’re having their menstrual cycle. Try to notice when your immune system tends to be most vulnerable, so you can take preventative measures. And, if you DO get sick, don’t beat yourself up about it, and try not to take it personally; remember those viruses have evolved to use us as hosts!
Last but not least, acupuncture can help keep your immune system functioning well – partly by giving your body some “concentrated rest” and a break from the stresses that can make you more vulnerable.
This isn’t Chinese Medicine, but I’ve heard many patients and friends swear by using a neti pot at the first sign of a cold. A similar piece of advice (from an MD) is: when stuck in a dry, closed place, such as an airplane or office, flush your nasal passages regularly by spraying with saline spray and blowing your nose. And, as always, avoid touching your face before washing your hands – and to avoid spreading viruses, please cough or sneeze into your sleeve, not your hands!
Feel free to add your favorite tips (or soup recipes) below!