Winter has made its presence felt, which means the cold and flu season will start to take a hold. Often, we get a few niggling signs of a cold or flu a few days before they really strike. A scratchy, sore throat is usually the first to appear and this is the time to take action.
Why do we get a scratchy or a sore throat before a cold or flu?
First things first, let’s start with why you get a sore throat before coming down with a full-blown cold or flu.
Viral infections are the culprit in cases of cold and flu, and these viruses invade the body via mucosal surfaces in the nasal passage, sinuses, mouth and eyes. Once the virus breaks through these membrane barriers, they don’t get far before being detected by the immune cells on patrol in the lymphatic glands located at the back of the throat and under the jawline. These immune cells raise the alarm, creating a localised response to invading virus that results in inflammation, swelling and some discomfort or pain — all of which can cause that scratchy “feels like I have swallowed razor blades” sore throat.
A sore throat is your first indication to take action — nip it in the bud
It is during the very early stage of infection (when you get that initial niggle in your throat) that you can really nip that cold or flu in the bud. There are a few key things you can do to support your immune system in fighting off the infection and prevent it progressing to a nasty cold or flu.
Your immune system is working overtime to quash this infection and this takes energy. So, one of the most supportive things you can do is rest. Skip the high-intensity gym session and opt for a restorative yoga class or a gentle stroll along the beach. Head to bed early with a good book and cup of herbal tea. Carve out some time during your day for restful breaks — do a meditation, sit outside in the sun or even a quick lie down under the desk if you can’t escape the office. Resting doesn’t always equate to sleep, you just need to take things down a notch or two.
Your hard-working immune system needs nourishment, so it’s time to dig out mum’s chicken soup recipe. Soups and slow-cooker meals are really nourishing foods that provide nutrients and energy to keep your immune system going. If you don’t have a go-to soup recipe, this immune-boosting chicken soup is delicious and packed with medicinal foods. Make up a batch and keep and emergency stash in the freezer.
Inadequate hydration can impact our health in a number of ways, including immune function. Healthy mucous membranes are normally coated with a thin layer of mucous, which traps particles such as dust or pollen and microbes such as viruses, bacteria and fungi. Small finger-like projections in the mucous membranes (known as cilia) beat simultaneously to sweep the mucous out of the body. With dehydration, mucous membranes tend to be drier and stickier, making it difficult for the cilia to sweep out the mucous and debris it has accumulated, and much easier for pathogens to take up residence and cause infection.
As humidity levels are often lower in the winter months, we can lose more water via our skin without really noticing. Keep up your fluid intake with lots of warming herbal teas, soups and bone broths.
Soothing your sore throat and preventing a full-blown infection is likely to be the main priority at the moment. So, here is a simple naturopathic remedy you can brew up at home with infection-fighting properties and a soothing, anti-inflammatory action.
organic green tea (either bags or loose leaf)
4-5 sage leaves
1 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoons of Manuka honey
Combine the lemon juice or apple cider vinegar and honey, then add the sage leaves to soak for an hour. You can also leave it to soak overnight to get a stronger, more potent mixture. Brew up a pot of green tea and add in your sage, honey and lemon juice mixture. Sip on tea throughout the day to soothe that scratchy, sore throat.
Author — Sarah Woolner, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist at Total Health Brookvale.