Your Guide to Colds & Essential Oils

Sick-Person-Using-Diffuser

So often, we don’t realize we’re “catching a cold” until it has already been caught. 

We go to bed feeling more or less alright…and wake up with some combination of cold symptoms—a sore throat, a cough, a headache, or perhaps a nose that is either congested or dripping like a leaky faucet. 

It’s really nothing to be ashamed of! The “common cold” strikes most adults 2-3 times a year. And children catch colds even more often!

Fortunately, colds are usually gotten over in a few days (7-10 on average) and they don’t typically have long-lasting consequences for our health. 

But for those with delicate health *and for those of us who just want to minimize our annual “sick days”)—there are things we can do to help prevent colds, recover from them more quickly, and make them more bearable

Best Methods for Preventing Colds (With Essential Oils!)

  1. Virus Be Gone!

Colds start when some kind of respiratory virus (rhinoviruses, adenoviruses, coronaviruses, etc) manages to get into your respiratory tract and takes root in the tissues of your nose or throat. 

So, anything we do to avoid, kill, or limit the spread of these viruses (or otherwise protect our respiratory passageways) can help limit cold-catching!

What can I do? What can my essential oils do?

  • Wash your hands. Cold-catching viruses often catch a ride on human hands. So be sure to wash them often. Scrub them with soap (try an EO-inclusive hand soap!) for 20 seconds every time you use the bathroom and also before, during, and after preparing food. 
  • Clean those hotspots! Anything often touched by human hands could be a hotspot for cold virus spreading. Your phone, tv remote, doorknobs, light switches, even your iTOVi Scanner could carry viruses. So clean these places often. You can even make your own antiviral cleaning solutions with essential oils!
  • Cover your face when you cough or sneeze. Use tissues or, in a pinch, use your arm to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Wash your hands (and possibly your arm) afterwards.
  • Breathe clean. Clean, fresh air helps to keep your respiratory tract healthy and resistant to infection. So, get some fresh, outdoor air regularly, avoid smoking, and take good care of your home’s indoor air quality as well. (If you live in a dry climate, add a humidifier to your home. This will help keep your respiratory passages healthy and there are even humidifier + EO diffuser combos!)
  • Avoid contagious people where possible. People with colds may be contagious as long as their cold symptoms last. Unfortunately, they are at their most contagious during the 1-2 days before their symptoms start—likely before they even know they are sick! So use judgment and caution, especially around cold season, to help you stay healthy!

     2.     Take Care of Your Basic Health

Even if cold-causing viruses do make it to your body, they’ll have to fight past your immune system defenses before they can make you sick! And the healthier you are, the harder it will be for them to bring you down!

What can I do? What can my essential oils do?

  • Get regular, solid sleep. Lack of sleep sets you up to get sick big time. Use a solid bedtime routine, your essential oils (especially the well-researched lavender), comfy sleeping arrangements, a white noise machine, or whatever else will help you get your solid 7-8 hours of z’s in. 
  • Eat healthily. Nutrition plays a big role in overall health and your body’s ability to fight off viruses. During the cold season, it may help to place special emphasis on: 
    • Vitamin C-Found plentifully in citrus fruits, green & yellow bell peppers, thyme, kale, kiwi, broccoli, & brussel sprouts
    • Vitamin D-Found in both dairy and plant milks, fortified orange juice, salmon, tuna, or just 10-30 minutes walking in sunlight!
    • Zinc-Found in meat, legumes, seeds, nuts, dairy, eggs, & whole grains
    • As a plus, essential oils can help provide a variety of antioxidants to your skin and diet. But do your research and be safe about ingesting essential oils!
  • Exercise. Try to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic exercise in every week. Use invigorating essential oils to keep you motivated! (But don’t over-exercise, that can make you vulnerable to sickness.)
  • Manage your stress. Every day brings stress. And usually there are one, two, or more moments in a day where it would do us good to step back and destress a bit. Use your iTOVi Scanner to track your stress and your personalized essential oils recommendations to get faster, deeper stress-relief results!

Recovering from a Cold: What to Do & How EOs can Help

Once a cold is caught—rest assured that your body is already working hard to free you from infection! In fact, this is exactly why the body starts producing so much extra mucus, to flush the virus and all the virus-infected cells out of your respiratory system. 

And once that is done, your body can safely turn its attention towards reducing your symptoms (inflammations, aches, etc) and restore normal functioning to the body. 

Our job then is to support the body, giving it all the resources it needs (and, in some ways, to get out of its way) so that it can do its virus-flushing-and-healing job. 

Note that the measures listed below are especially important for the first few days of a cold. 

  1. Rest, Warmth, & Fluids

Rest and warmth allow the body to direct more energy towards healing (Curious why? Learn more about healing and the parasympathetic nervous system here). It may be tempting to “work through” a cold, but we recover most quickly and efficiently when we bundle up, sleep more, and work less. 

And extra fluids help expand your body’s ability to flush out toxins and viruses!

What can I do? What can my essential oils do?

  • Sleep well & sleep extra if you can. Use your essential oils (along with a dark room, comfortable bedding, a warm bath, or whatever else helps you relax) to be sure that you get enough, or more than enough, sleep. See below for tips on how to deal with cold symptoms that might prevent or interrupt your sleep.
  • Stay warm. Some essential oils have a “warm” aroma, but you can do more by (carefully and safely) adding them to tea or a relaxing bath. Other ideas include warm socks, heated blankets or pads, a space heater, or just turning up the thermostat!
  • Drink this, not that. Water, tea, clear broth, and juices (without added sugar) can help keep your body well-hydrated. And some can even be safely infused with essential oils! But note that alcohol, coffee, and caffeinated sodas can dehydrate you. So put these on hold while you’re sick. 

   2.   Combat Respiratory Symptoms

The main target of a cold is your respiratory system. And, as a result, respiratory tract symptoms like sore throats, coughing, congestion, sneezing, and stuffiness are common. 

Much of the battle will be fought with a box of tissues and lots of nose-blowing (remember, ‘better out than in’ as mucus flow helps to flush out the virus), but there are a handful of other things we can do to reduce respiratory symptoms and speed our recovery.

What can I do? What can my essential oils do?

  • Diffuse or topically apply eucalyptus oil. Eucalyptus oil has proven effective, in multiple human clinical trials, against a wide range of cold-causing viruses. And it’s even an ingredient in Vicks VapoRub! Rosemary oil and oregano oil may help as well. 
  • Soothe that sore throat. Salt-water gargles, warm tea, honey, ice chips, sore throat sprays, lozenges, or hard candies can all help soothe a sore throat. Note 1) that not all these remedies are safe for children and 2) if you add essential oils to any of these be sure that you do so safely. 
  • Fighting congestion & stuffiness—let it flow! There are things we can do to lower nasal-passage inflammation and improve mucus flow! Some common approaches include using a nasal saline spray or neti pot or inhaling steam, humidified air, and/or certain anti-inflammatory essential oils such as peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree, oregano, and clary sage. (Find a humidifier + EO diffuser combo here!) 
  1. Other Ideas

  • Soothe muscle aches. Warm baths and the topical application of frankincense, helichrysum, peppermint, or marjoram oil should help.
  • Reduce headache pain. Try either inhaling or getting a head massage with diluted peppermint, lavender, chamomile, rosemary, or eucalyptus oil. 

Kids & Colds

There are a couple of important things every parent should know about how colds affect children: 

  • Firstly, children catch colds more often than adults—often 6-8 (rather than 2-3) times a year! And so, especially for children with respiratory or autoimmune conditions, it is important to adopt the cold-prevention measures mentioned above. 
  • Secondly, sometimes children present different cold symptoms than adults. Apart from the typical symptoms, children may also show a decreased appetite (including difficulty breastfeeding or taking a bottle), trouble sleeping, or irritability. They are also more likely to develop an ear, chest, or sinus infection as a result of a cold. Keep an eye out for these added symptoms and call a doctor if they persist. 
  • Thirdly, essential oils should not be used on children the same way they are used on adults! As a general rule, do not use essential oils on children younger than 3 months, use lower dilutions, and always patch test! Visit the safety page for the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy for more information. 

When Should You Call a Doctor?

  • If your symptoms last for longer than 2 weeks. 
  • If, after 3 days, your symptoms significantly worsen or you develop new symptoms. This could be a sign of another type of infection. 
  • If, for longer than 3 days, you have a sore throat or a fever above 100 degrees. 
  • If you are experiencing either intense chest pain or significant shortness of breath. 

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