Colds and flu occur primarily in the winter months and are caused by viruses. The best way to prevent colds and flu is by washing your hands frequently. Alcohol sanitizers are insufficient since they kill bacteria as opposed to viruses.

When colds and flu become problematic:

For the most part, colds and flu are uncomplicated illnesses that occur just a few times per year and resolve within two weeks. For some people, colds and flu can become problematic. Many experience a series of recurrent colds throughout the winter, every winter. Others will become ill only once and suffer from lingering symptoms (frequently a cough) for months. Colds and flu can also occur at the most inconvenient times and it is not always easy to recover quickly when you really need to. At times, symptoms may become overwhelmingly uncomfortable.


Many cold and flu symptoms overlap which can make it difficult to tell the difference between them. In general, symptoms of the flu are more severe in intensity.

Fever Mild fever can occur Often high (above 100° F) and lasts 3-4 days
Headache Occasionally Common
Body Aches Slight Often severe
Fatigue and weakness Occasionally Often lasts 2-3 weeks
Exhaustion Never Happens at the beginning of the illness
Stuffy nose Common Occasionally
Sneezing Common Occasionally
Sore throat Common Occasionally
Chest discomfort / cough Mild to moderate; Hacking cough Common; Can become severe

Naturopathic treatments for preventing and treating colds and flu:

When there is little support from medications for viral infections, naturopathic medicine has treatment options to help you get better faster whether your cold has been lingering for months or you just need to get well quickly.

Naturopathic doctors use a variety of herbs to support the immune system and fight infection. These herbs have anti-viral properties, can clear mucous from the chest thus alleviating a cough, clear the sinuses, or simply coat and calm mucous membranes providing symptomatic relief. Appropriate combinations of herbs can be customized to each patient based on individual symptoms. Additional immune supporting treatments will consist of supplements, dietary changes and lifestyle interventions.

Why seek advice from a naturopathic doctor for colds and flu:

  • Whether it is bronchitis, sinusitis, a common cold, or the flu, if viral symptoms will not go away a ND may offer a targeted treatment plan to help you get better faster.
  • Testing: Bacterial cultures may be performed where relevant to ensure that a referral for antibiotics is not necessary.
  • Lifestyle and dietary habits may be contributing to repetitive viral infections. An ND will make appropriate recommendations to ensure that you are supporting the immune system through these avenues.
  • Herbal support may treat viral infections and reduce congestion and coughing allowing you to get better faster. The combination of herbs used will be targeted to a patient’s individual symptoms. Botanicals and supplements prescribed will be checked with current medications to ensure there are no interactions.