Home tips to help combat cold and flu season

Posted on: January 12, 2017

Dr. Jenn Keller ND & Dr. Alex Keller ND

As the days get colder and winter’s impending doom settles in, cold and flu season starts wreaking havoc on family health. There are many ways to prevent catching whatever nasty bugs are going around, but sometimes we just can’t escape them.

When that time comes, it’s best to support your immune system so it can effectively combat the bugs and get you back to feeling well as quickly as possible.

Here are some tips for simple home treatments you can do in a pinch when you suddenly find yourself or your family members sick with a cold or flu.

One of the most simple and beneficial things we can do to support our immune system and blood flow is to drink adequate fluids. When we get sick, the immune system (our army) sends its soldiers to the area where it needs to combat the invading bugs, most commonly viruses when it comes to colds/flu, but occasionally bacteria.

To get there, the immune soldiers travel along a network called the lymphatic system, which is made up of lymphatic vessels (highways) and lymph nodes (battle zones). To travel along these highways and eventually clean up the battle zones, the immune system requires adequate hydration to keep things moving. Without enough movement, the highways congest and the battle zones stay littered, which means it takes longer for the infection to clear. Be sure to stay hydrated when you’re starting to feel sick. We love organic broths and warm herbal teas for extra immune boosting power, and of course water. Lots of water! Leave the coffee and spirits behind.

Warming magic socks
We’ll acknowledge that this will not sound like the most comfortable, but just trust us and try it! This is great to boost immunity and decrease congestion.

What you need: One pair of thin cotton socks, one pair of thick wool socks

How to do it: Soak the thin cotton socks in cold water. Wring socks out and ensure no dripping. Once ready for bed, put on the cold wet socks. Immediately cover them with the dry warm wool socks. Crawl into bed and sleep. When you wake up the socks should all be warm and dry—MAGIC!

Why do it: Our bodies are smart. They will identify the temperature shift and immediately send blood to the cold area to warm it up. By sending blood to our feet, we are increasing the overall movement of our circulation even while lying down and not moving. This is important because as our blood moves, our lymph moves. As above, good lymphatic flow is necessary for good immune function. So while we are quietly resting and rejuvenating, we support our bodies in fighting the good fight so we can feel better sooner.

Steam inhalations: This therapy is great for sinus congestion, the sniffles, coughs and throat infections.

What you need: Large bowl, large towel and essential oils (ideal eucalyptus)

How to do it: Fill the large bowl with boiling water and a few drops of essential oils. Place the bowl on a table. Sit in front of the bowl and lean over it, while wrapping the towel around your head and bowl to form a mini steam room. Breathe in the steam through your mouth and nose. Do this for 10-20 minutes. It is most effective if repeated twice within the same hour and multiple times a day.

Why do it: The hot moist air will be both soothing to your mucous membranes and help to break up any congestion in your sinus cavities. Essential oils can increase this action and act as an anti-microbial agent. Only use a few drops as they are very strong and use caution as steam can burn.

For children, try creating a steam room in the bathroom by running the shower, closing the door and trapping all the steam in the room. You can also place a few drops of essential oil near the drain of the shower and it will diffuse into the air.

Mustard poultice: Great for chest congestion and/or chest pain due to a chronic cough.  

What you need: Dry mustard, flour, cheesecloth/flannel/old kitchen towel

How to do it: Mix one part dry mustard with eight parts flour. Add enough warm water to make a paste.  Spread the paste on the cloth. You want the cloth to be large enough to cover the chest area and then fold over to cover the spread paste. Apply poultice to chest and relax, covering up to prevent getting chilled. For adults, leave on for 15-20 minutes. For children, leave on for 10 minutes. Check every 2-5 minutes to avoid burning the skin. Do not use on children who cannot communicate to you that it is becoming too hot.

Why do it: Mustard is a rubefacient, which means it can stimulate blood circulation. This treatment will increase blood flow to the lungs and encourage movement of mucous that may be trapped in the lung cavities. This has two benefits: you will feel much better having the mucous out of your body and it also prevents further lung infections. It’s important to understand that this WILL get hot and can burn the skin. Check your skin every few minutes to ensure it’s not getting too hot and do not exceed the suggested treatment times above.


These simple home therapies are wonderful, inexpensive and effective in supporting our body’s natural ability to fight off infection. Try out these tips the next time someone in your family comes down with a cold!

Dr. Jenn Keller and Dr. Alex Keller are naturopathic doctors and the owners of Vis Tree Health in North Gower. By educating people on diet, healthy lifestyle choices and using natural therapeutics, they offer their patients a natural medical option when dealing with health concerns. They also operate Vis Tree Farm, a certified organic produce and herb farm, where they offer health workshops throughout the year.

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