Natural Remedies for Upper Respiratory Infections

Feb 02, 2017

Upper Respiratory Infection Remedies

Upper respiratory infections are caused by viruses, and quite commonly by a rhinovirus. Upper respiratory infections can also have a bacterial or fungal cause. Upper respiratory infections (URI’s) affect the upper parts of the respiratory system. Natural remedies for upper respiratory infections include apple cider vinegar, vitamin C, rest and keeping warm.

While "upper respiratory infection" or "rhinovirus" may sound like serious diagnoses, they are just more technical terms for the common cold. Severity of upper respiratory infections can range from mild, with uncomfortable symptoms to severe with more debilitating symptoms, including malaise, fever and pain in the ears, throat or sinuses.Those who have immune deficiencies, chronic lung disease, the elderly or young children are more at risk for complications from upper respiratory infections.

The sooner treatment begins, the better. Some remedies, like Zinc, are more effective if treatment is begun within 24 hours. However, do not fret if you are just getting around to looking for a natural remedy for your upper respiratory infection and have let it go on for days or even a week or more. Natural remedies can still reduce the misery and duration of upper respiratory infections.

Causes of Upper Respiratory Infections

The rhinovirus, a common cause of upper respiratory infections, is so called because of its affinity to the nasal cavity. “Rhino” is the Greek word for nose. It has been found that at least some rhinoviruses replicate easily between 33-35 degrees Celsius.2 Core body temperature on the other hand is 37 degrees Celsius, on average.

Grandmothers knew it all along. Going outside in the winter without adequate outerwear will put you at risk for getting sick. (Did you ever hear, “You’ll catch your death of cold!”) If you have a cold virus and your core body temperature goes down, that virus that readily replicates at 33-35 degrees Celsius may have a foothold in your lungs.1

Symptoms of Upper Respiratory Infections

The upper respiratory tract includes your nose, throat, ears, and sinuses. When these areas become infected, the body responds with inflammation to fight the infection. The Greek suffix “itis” means inflammation. Many conditions associated with an upper respiratory infection are inflammatory in nature – tonsillitis, sinusitis, otitis media, laryngitis. Inflammation has its role in bringing healing, but the swelling it brings also causes pain and discomfort.

Natural remedies help your body to fight the infection so your body won’t need to respond with so much inflammation.

Your body will also produces mucous and fluids to help remove infection from your body. Again, this is a response of a healthy immune system that brings discomfort. Using natural remedies to fight infection and strengthen your immune system will reduce the necessity of the excess mucous and fluids that are making you miserable.

Additionally, your body generates extra “heat” to kill germs. If you happen to have an otoscope (tool to look in your ears) when you have an ear infection, you will find redness. Extra blood and heat are there to fight infection. Sore throats are commonly red from the extra blood flow. Fever is also a heat that your body produces to fight infection. The white blood cells that are part of your blood’s infection fighting mechanism reproduce more quickly when you have a fever. Miserable as it can be, a mild fever is actually helping you. (High or prolonged fevers can bring risks like dehydration, though.)

Five Steps to Conquer Your Upper Respiratory Infection

1. Keep Warm

Resist the urge to treat low grade fevers. And if your body isn’t producing extra heat, be sure to keep warm. Turn up the heat a bit, take a warm bath, use an extra blanket at bedtime. Wear socks and even a stocking cap around the house.

2. Boost your Immune System

Vitamin C

Your body uses extra vitamin C when you are sick, if it is availabe. Taking a vitamin C supplement several times a day can really make a difference. Sodium ascorbate is usually well tolerated by the body and can be taken by the gram frequently throughout the day. If you get loose stools, your body has enough and you can cut back your dose a little.

Zinc

Zinc3 has been found helpful in shortening the duration of upper respiratory infections. Zinc supplements should be taken with meals according to manufacturer's directions.

Elderberry Syrup

Elderberries are great for your immune system. You can often find elderberry syrup in larger grocery stores and pharmacies.

3. Kill the Germs

Salt

Salt has been used for thousands of years to kill germs. A salt water gargle (1/4 teaspoon salt in 1/4 cup warm water) and Neti pot with a salt water solution (1/2 teaspoon salt in 1 cup water) will kill germs where they like to replicate, right in the throat and sinus cavities. Use your gargle and Neti pot at least twice a day.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is another very inexpensive but wonderfully effective remedy to kill germs. You can gargle it, use it in a Neti pot and put it into your ears to kill germs.

Start with 3% hydrogen peroxide from the drug store, in a brown bottle. Dilute it with water (1/2 3% hydrogen peroxide and ½ water) and gargle it. Use a capful in each ear several times a day. Add 1/2 teaspoon to 6 ounces of warm water and rinse your sinuses once or twice a day with a Neti pot.

4. Rest

If you have significant symptoms do curl up in bed with that extra blanket and watch a movie or read a book. Your body needs its resources to heal.  Don’t use them up working overtime or going to the gym when you have an upper respiratory infection.

5. Nourish Your Body

Give your body tools to heal and strengthen your immune system with a good diet. Vegetable soup, chicken broth, citrus fruits and berries are some of the very best things you can eat for your URI. These foods will not overly tax your digestive system (diverting energy from your immune system) but will provide essential vitamins, minerals and fluids to maximize your healing.

Avoid heavy meals, dairy products and sugar (except for a moderate amount of honey) when you are suffering with an URI.

Below is a recipe for a tonic for upper respiratory infections. It includes a number of remedies that are commonly used singularly for a variety of illnesses, including URI’s. Honey has antibacterial properties, is soothing to the throat and tastes delicious. Apple cider vinegar alkalizes the body and vinegar fights germs. Garlic kills viruses, bacteria and fungi. It also strengthens the immune system. Cayenne pepper kills germs and is “thermogenic” (it helps your body to produce heat.)

Recipe for URI Tonic

  • 6 ounces hot water
  • 2 t. honey
  • 2 t. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/8 t. cayenne pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Ideally you will take this tonic 2-3 times a day. It is also great for days when you “feel like you are coming down with something.”

Certainly each of these remedies could be used by itself if you prefer.

Do you have a natural remedy for an upper respiratory infection? We would love to hear from you!

Additional pages of Interest:

Colds

Preventing Colds

Sources:

  1. http://www.pnas.org/content/112/3/827.abstract
  2. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/body/scientists-finally-prove-cold-weather-makes-sick/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3553670/



Burned Whiskey  

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Posted by Oolagirl (Chicago) on 01/23/2017
5 out of 5 stars

Burned Whiskey for Upper Respiratory infections

This is an amazing expectorant, and by the time it's finished, there is no alcohol in it. My Grandma always gave this to her kids, and my mom, who is a nurse, used it on us. The relief is instant.

Using a glass pie plate, put in 1/4 cup of sugar, and a shot of whiskey. Light it, and stir with a wooden spoon until the fire goes out. Keep trying to re-light it, once it no longer catches a flame, all of the alcohol is gone and you are left with a brown syrup. Add a tablespoon of the syrup to 4 oz of warm water, and it is ready.

It is a wonderful expectorant, and we have used it in my family for generations. My kids' pediatrician wrote down the recipe a few years ago, and uses it on his own family.

Replied by Natasha
Kenosha, Wi
01/26/2017

How often is this to be used and in what amounts?


Cayenne  

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Posted by Mama To Many (Tennessee) on 09/06/2016
5 out of 5 stars

I woke up with congestion in my head; the beginnings of an upper respiratory infection. I really hate the feeling of not being able to breathe through my nose. I immediately got out the neti pot. I put in 6 ounces of boiled cooled water, 1 capful of hydrogen peroxide, and 1/2 t. sea salt. I love that remedy for my sinuses and it always works well. But lo and behold, my sinuses were blocked so much the water would not go through them.

I got a q-tip and put water on it. I dipped it into some cayenne pepper and put that in my nostril. It brought about an immediate sneeze. Then many sneezes. And voila! My sinuses were open. I was able to use the neti pot. I was able to blow my nose. (And blow and blow - but always gently lest you get your ears stopped up.)

It DID STING! My kids were pretty horrified. I had considered eating a hot pepper since we have plenty from the garden (one of the only things I actually grew this year.) But I didn't think a hot pepper would sit well in my empty stomach, or go well with my morning oatmeal when I got around to fixing it.

Using the neti pot likely drove some cayenne into my sinus cavities but that didn't bother me. Just the nose interior. But it wasn't unbearable and didn't last terribly long. And it was totally worth it.

Hours later I can still breathe through my nose.

I love cayenne pepper. It is amazing.

~Mama to Many~


Hydrogen Peroxide  

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Posted by Beth (Palmyra, Nj) on 03/31/2016
5 out of 5 stars

Caught a cold which for me always leads to laryngitis (several times each year). Tried the hydrogen peroxide gargle (1/2 peroxide, half water) along with straight peroxide in ears about 10 mins. each. Also dripped 50/50 water peroxide into nostrils and inhaled strongly. (Slight burning sensation) Did this during the night when discomfort from upper respiratory infection kept me up. Couldn't believe how much better I felt in morning - 75% better. Repeated in the morning and again after work and at night. BTW, first time I was able to stop laryngitis! Will continue until all symptoms disappear completely, but this is by far the best results I have ever had for multiple cold symptoms!


Onion  

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Posted by Paula (Tulsa, Oklahoma) on 01/06/2013
5 out of 5 stars

I came down suddenly with an upper respiratory type of infection. My lungs felt like they were full of fluid and I couldn't seem to get a whole breath of air without coughing hard and wheezing loud. By day 3 my urine had turned dark and cloudy and I decided it must be time to seek medical help. It was Sunday so I came to this Earth Clinic site to find relief for a day till I could go see a regular doctor on a week day. I saw a post on cutting the ends off an onion and placing it near were I was resting. All I wanted to do was sleep for the last few days. I woke up after two hours and felt so much better and my urine was bright but still a little cloudy. I fell back to sleep and awoke in 5 more hours to have zero couging, no more dripping nose, no wheezing and my urine clear. I did have wet hair from sweating but I feel wonderful and completly good now. I want to post this right away because an onion doesn't cost much and its really scary when you can't breath right. I would never have believed this could have helped if I had not seen it for myself.

Replied by Jane
Seattle, Wa
01/08/2013

I remember reading and sending to all my children, a story on a website last year of a family who had cut onions in each room and thus they avoided the flu pandemic of 1918. This post adds a great reason for actually using the onion when one is ill!