The Second Half: ‘Tis the season…for colds

By Kathleen D. Tresemer

Lots of my Second-Half pals report having developed a post-Thanksgiving cold, just in time to make their holiday season miserable.

“My head hurts and I’m really dragging,” sniffled one victim. “How am I going to get my shopping done like this?”

I fished a handful of linty Kleenex out of my jacket pocket and handed it to her. “Here, take these…the cold air will help clear your sinuses,” I said. Then, I shoved her out in the bitter cold and gusty winds, to walk approximately 16 miles from our parking space to the door of the shopping mall.

I’m not a fan of holiday shopping to begin with, taking the “hurry up and get it over with” approach. As I’ve said before, “Shopping is not for sissies!” So, if you are shopping with me, beware: there’s a NO WHINING ALLOWED policy. And when I can’t take the crowds anymore, we just leave, no matter where we are or how long we’ve been standing in line. Those are my rules.

Back to the common cold—wellness expert Dr. Mercola says: “Each year, Americans catch more than 1 billion colds, making the cold virus the most common infectious disease in the United States.”

Getting a cold around the holidays is pretty typical for most folks, given that we are in physical contact with about a zillion people every time we set foot in the mall or grocery store. I think it’s nice that my local Woodman’s and Hilander stores put antibacterial wipes next to the shopping carts. All those crying babies wiping their snotty noses on the plastic handle of the cart make Typhoid Mary look like an amateur.

On the other hand, I hardly ever remember to use those wipes. I try to wash my hands a lot, one of the “do’s” for preventing colds, but what other steps can we take?

Dr. Mercola has plenty to say about the subject in his health newsletter and at his website—he offers these main causes of getting a cold:

“If your immune system is impaired…it’s akin to having an open-door policy for viruses; they’ll easily take hold in your body…the more common contributing factors are:

“1. Eating too much sugar and too many grains;

“2. Not getting enough rest;

“3. Using insufficient strategies to address emotional stressors in your life;

“4. Vitamin D deficiency, as discussed below;

“5. Any combination of the above.”

During the holidays, who doesn’t eat too much sugar and too many grains? I grew up believing that love is measured by the amount of cookies, pies, brownies and fudge you gave or received. I was raised in a family of seven boys, and the only way to keep them under control was food. If I served them my special homemade bread and maple butter, they would allow me to tag along to the movies, football games or other boys-only activities. Therefore, I concluded: Food = Love.

Anyway, I try to follow this “no sugar/no grains” advice, but Hubby isn’t having any of it. He’s enlisted the neighbor, Darleen, a wonderful chef and caterer, to bring him homemade treats on a weekly basis. He stashes them strategically around the house, hidden in Harley-Davidson shoeboxes. He thinks I don’t know this, but she let it slip when we were discussing the low-sugar/low-carb foods she secretly prepares for me each month. Whatever Darleen makes, Hubby eats, so slipping him a few healthy things is a challenge I take seriously.

Getting more rest ain’t easy. Aching from surgery on his knee, Hubby is restless all night—my best sleep comes in the hour after he goes to work each morning. I’m meditating, to compensate for the seven hours that I’m an audience for Hubby’s thrashing and groaning as he seeks a pain-free position. They say one hour of meditation equals a full night of sleep: I’ll keep you posted on that theory.

Addressing stressors is easy. Last year about this time, I became a frequent flyer at the Lazy Dog Yoga Studio in Roscoe, Ill. Not only am I more relaxed, but I move more easily, my range of motion has expanded, and my balance is vastly improved. Last class, I stood on my head for 10 minutes—take that, you 20-somethings out there! And, if you do get a cold, many of the yoga poses make your nose run and your sinuses drain, a distinct improvement over clogged and miserable. Finally, Yoga Master Rachel has complimentary hot tea for her students—next to mother-love and chicken soup, she’s the best treatment for a cold!

About Vitamin D—Dr. Mercola says:

“Research has confirmed that ‘catching’ colds and flu may actually be a symptom of an underlying vitamin D deficiency. Less than optimal vitamin D levels will significantly impair your immune response and make you far more susceptible to contracting colds, influenza and other respiratory infections.”

The best way to get it is by sun exposure. While I am outside often in winter, I am dressed to closely resemble the Michelin Man—the only exposed skin is from eyebrows to chin. I eat my sunshine through vitamin D supplements. I also take Sambucol black elderberry extract, a natural antiviral potion. A daily dose got me through last winter without being dropped by the flu.

With these easy strategies, I hope to face the joys of this holiday season without praying my head doesn’t explode.

Note: Read Mercola’s complete article, “How Long Do Colds Last: Strategies for Prevention and Treatment,” at his website,

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at

From the Dec. 8-14, 2010 issue

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