We’re in the throes of winter, which means germs, cold-causing viruses, and sore throat-inducing bacteria are around, ready to ruin your perfect attendance record at work or school.
Among all the other snotty symptoms, colds and sore throats seem to go hand and hand with the cooler season. Not to bog you down with biology, but I always think that knowledge is power. Knowing what you have takes some of the fear away and gives you back a way to deal with it.
What’s the difference between a bacteria and a virus?
Bacteria come in different shapes and sizes and contain all the information that they need to reproduce with in their cell and can double their population in 20 minutes. They can survive extreme conditions of heat and cold, on surfaces and within humans and animals. Most bacteria are harmless and are helpful in our external and internal ecology. Then again, the E. Coli that’s found in food that causes serious digestive upset, so not helpful at all. The flip side diarrhea inducing bacteria are Lactobacillus adicophilus and Bifidobacterium. They are both beneficial bacteria that thrive in the digestive system.
Antibiotics are able to kill off most bacteria–good and bad. Some bacteria have now become resistant to antibiotics. Clostridium difficile, a diarrhea causing bacteria, is resistant to antibiotics and most commonly seen after taking a prescribed course.
Viruses can’t replicate themselves like bacteria can. Instead they take over another cell to multiply. They can’t survive without a host to invade. Viruses can attack certain cells within the liver, kidney, respiratory system or blood. Antibiotics are useless against viruses. Some antiviral medications are now available for viral diseases like herpes simplex or cold sores, the flu and our most modern day deadly virus HIV and AIDS. Vaccines for viruses are the most common prevention although once your immune system has encountered a certain virus, it makes antibodies to it and should it see it again, it’s annihilated.
Which Has You Sick?
Deciphering if your sore throat or runny nose is from a bacteria or virus is difficult in the early stages. It could be from the Streptococcus bacteria or could be the start of a cold caused by a virus. Your doctor can run blood tests or take a swab of the back of your throat to get more information.
What Can You Do at Home?
1. At the first sign of a scratchy throat or runny nose, take extra vitamin C. Up to about 4000 mg per day (and maybe more) is completely safe when fighting off bacteria or a virus. Taking too much vitamin C may cause loose stools or diarrhoea.
2. Stop consuming dairy products. The immune system produces excess mucus to try and capture the microbial invader. Dairy products are also mucus-forming, which causes an overproduction and more nose blowing and coughing.
3. Increase consumption of garlic. As it’s both antibacterial and antiviral. Eat it, drink it or swallow it whole.
4. Take a spoonful of Manuka honey three times a day. Honey is known to be soothing for sore throats and coughs. Manuka honey, from New Zealand, is antibacterial and could fight the Streptococcus (or Strep throat) bacteria.
Cold and Sore Throat Soother
- 1 cm piece of ginger, peeled
- 1 medium size clove garlic, peeled and finely grated or minced
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tsp Manuka or other raw honey
- Boiling water
Put all ingredients into your favourite mug and pour over boiled water. As you drink, swallow the garlic but leave the ginger.
What’s your favourite cold or sore throat remedy?