Coughs and chest infections

As it is January there are a lot of visitors to Evergreen Eyre Square who are suffering with coughs and chest infections. Unfortunately, a cough or chest infection is part of the winter for many, and some vulnerable people may find it hard to recover.

Everyone is at risk of picking up a virus or bacteria which leads to a cough or chest infection. No matter how often you wash your hands or keep your face covered, it is often impossible to prevent infection. What you can do, however, is reduce the severity of the infection and get better faster.

Why do I have a cough?

A cough is a reflex action that temporarily clears the airways of mucus and irritants. Mucus or phlegm is the substance your body secretes to trap viruses, bacteria, and other irritating substances. So basically, you need mucus to trap all the baddies, and you need to cough it up to get them out of your body.

If you have a cold or cough and you are taking decongestant medication, you could be slowing down your recovery process or opening yourself up to reinfection by drying out your mucus membranes and making it more accessible to bacterial and viral materials.

What can I do to feel better sooner?

Firstly, drink plenty of fluids. This is a healthy thing to do anyway, as it prevents dehydration, but it is all the more important if you have an infection. If you are dehydrated or overdosed on coffee, you are slowing your immune system down and impeding your recovery.

Try liquorice. Love it or loathe it, we are all familiar with liquorice in the form of a sweet. As an herb it is an expectorant which means that it facilitates the movement of mucus from the respiratory tract. In short, it helps you get it up and out. Liquorice also supports your adrenal system; this means that it can improve your energy and stress levels through your period of illness. Many natural cough bottles contain liquorice extract, but you can also buy liquorice capsules and tea. Liquorice is not suitable for those with high blood pressure.

Eat more garlic. Garlic works to overcome both viruses and bacteria and has been used throughout history to treat infectious conditions. It thins mucus, so it can be very good for a chesty cough that is not producing any or much phlegm. Eating garlic raw is best, however if you cannot do that it is available in strong capsules called Kyolic garlic.

Take regular vitamin D. Vitamin D is the new vitamin C. The Vitamin D Council has stated that low vitamin D is linked to increased frequency of respiratory infections and coughs. It has also said that supplementation of daily vitamin D can cut the severity and duration of a chest infection by half. It is thought that 20 per cent of over 50s are deficient in vitamin D. Also at risk of vitamin D deficiency are those who work inside, vegans, coeliacs, and the elderly.

Inhale some steam. Have you ever had a cough and taken a hot shower only for it to make you cough even more? When you breathe in the steam it can loosen mucus deep within the chest, and your body responds with the coughing reflex. If you can stand to inhale steam for several minutes, it may help you to cough up deep seated mucus which is infected and this should aid your recovery.

For more advice on how to feel better faster when suffering from a cold, cough, or a flu, call into Evergreen Healthfoods, Eyre Square, or any of Evergreen's seven stores. Further information can be found on evergreen.ie/blog

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