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October 18, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
The alarm sounds, and you realize you can’t breathe out of your nose. Hitting the snooze button causes achiness, and your head spins. Drops of sweat dapple your forehead. It feels like you are swallowing knives. You start cursing the last person you shook hands with or the last doorknob you touched and frantically search the fridge for a gallon of orange juice. Days, even weeks, go by before you start feeling normal again.
We all know the symptoms and that they often signify the onslaught of a cold or flu virus. We’ve tried our own ways of getting back to health. Besides a box of Kleenex and large doses of Mom’s chicken noodle soup, what can help us feel better faster? Vox examines three different approaches to healing.
No cure exists for the common cold, so we can only hope to put up with the runny nose and coughing fits until our body fights off the virus. For quick relief, pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help with cold and flu symptoms including headaches and sore throats. Kilgore’s pharmacist Ann Bromstedt says more potent treatments such as cough syrup with codeine and Sudafed act as decongestants. These drugs help get you through the days or weeks that the body needs to fight the virus.
For upper-respiratory infections such as strep throat or sinus infections, Bromstedt says doctors might directly treat the illness instead of the symptoms. Most antibiotics kill bacteria by keeping it from reproducing, she says. Antiviral medicines are not prescribed for the flu in ordinary circumstances because the bug can become immune to the drug. “The virus may mutate in such a way that results in resistance to the antiviral itself,” Bromstedt says.
She explains that antiviral treatment of the flu virus is only prescribed in high-risk circumstances when individuals have an underlying illness. The flu combined with asthma, for example, might warrant use of Tamiflu, the most common antiviral at Kilgore’s. She recommends that most people get a flu shot.
At the first sign of the cold or flu, D&H Drug Store pharmacist-in-charge Erica Hopkins-Wadlow refers to the basics to strengthen immune systems: get plenty of rest, stay hydrated and wash your hands frequently to prevent infection.
At Clover’s Natural Market, employee Nellie Boyt has many customers who come in looking for natural remedies.
One of the market’s most popular therapies is Source Naturals’ Wellness Formula, which is made up of more than 35 antioxidants and vitamins from herbs including roots, leaves and fruit extract. If people can get over the bad smell and taste, they seem to have success taking it at the first sign of symptoms, Boyt says. For those looking for other options, the book Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Dr. Phyllis
A. Balch, available at Clover’s, lists common ailments and suggests lifestyle changes and natural remedies for each.
Boyt says the elderberry is starting to be recognized as a virus inhibitor. The bluish-purple berries of the plant grow on shrubs throughout Missouri. A 2012 study concluded it could help defend against the Influenza A virus. The first study of elderberry as a remedy was conducted in 2006 in Israel and tested the effects on the West Nile virus.
Matthew Cowan, a naturopathic doctor in Columbia, says that one of the primary strengths of naturopathic medicine is its focus on supporting the body’s ability to heal itself. When patients come in, he first speaks with them about their medical history. “There’s a lot you can learn just from talking with people,” he says.
Naturopathic medicine is another branch of natural healing. Missouri does not allow doctors of this type to diagnose or prescribe treatment for patients, but 16 states, Washington, D.C., and two U.S. territories do offer licenses to those practicing this brand of medicine.
When Cindy Sheltmire was an infant, she had both whooping cough and pneumonia. Doctors gave her three days to live on a Friday, but by Monday, she was healed without explanation. She believes it was because her moth- er’s coworker, a Christian Scientist, prayed for her. From then on, her mother raised Sheltmire and her siblings as Christian Scientists.
Sheltmire, president of the board of directors at the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Columbia, says healing through prayer is still based in science. “It’s not simply imploring God to heal or save us,” Sheltmire says. “It’s an application of what we call divine law to the problem. Most of us in the church are there because we have a track record of seeing spiritual healing in our lives.”
David Corbitt, another Christian Scientist, believes that his experience with healing through prayer strengthened his faith. “The crux of it is what I have found to work in my life,” Corbitt says. “And that is my thoughts affect my health.”
There have been circumstances where Christian Scientists faced controversy in cases of child endangerment for refusing medical treatment. Neither Corbitt nor Sheltmire reject the use of traditional medicine; instead, they turn to prayer first.
On a day-to-day basis, Corbitt refocuses and reenergizes his thoughts, including at the onset of a cold, through prayer. “My symptoms literally dissipate, and I feel that I go about my day perfectly,” he says.
Corbitt is reminded of his belief that God’s power is with him even when he is feeling down or ill through his favorite biblical verse, Isaiah 60:1.