Our panel of local practitioners weighs in


Your kids bring it home from school, then you bring it into the office. Soon, most everyone you know is coughing, sneezing, and whining. It’s cold season on Martha’s Vineyard, and the worst part is there’s no cure. But there are plenty of treatments out there for cold symptoms, some widely known, others downright odd. To explore the options, we asked our panel of health experts: how do you manage the common cold?

Brenda Wallis, Fitness Director, Mansion House Health Club

Hydration. But also I like to load up on zinc, vitamin C, and continue to exercise as I usually would.

Laura L. Denman, MS, RD, Health and Wellness Coach, Abundant Life Nutrition

I am a big believer in vitamin and herbal supplements and also throw in a dash of homeopathy when the common cold is stalking me.

I am a huge advocate of Premium Echinacea from the company Standard Process. Really great echinacea is a game changer where the cold is concerned. I take plenty of Vitamin D, lay off the sugar and caffeine, and hit the hay early. My approach is more about letting your rockin’ immune system do what it’s supposed to do while supporting it with herbs.

Kris Henriksen, Herbalist, Aromatherapist, Owner Reindeer Bridge Herbs

Since the common cold is caused by a virus, I begin treatment with zinc lozenges, no more than 100 mg a day for three days, or until they taste metallic (a good indicator you’ve had enough). Along with zinc, incorporate foods to supply extra vitamins A, C, E, and selenium. Herbs which enhance the immune system and help to prevent secondary bacterial infections include garlic, cayenne, boneset, elderberry, and echinacea. Essential oils used in a diffuser, steam, or foot bath to open the nasal passages and fight respiratory infections include eucalyptus, thyme, pine, oregano, clary sage, lavender and chamomile. Wiping down knobs, steering wheels, phones, and remotes with a tea tree oil spray helps to stop the spread of the virus also.

Tamara Herch, Pharmacist, Owner Conroy’s Apothecary

I commonly recommend Cold-Eeze lozenges if you are within the first 24-48 hours of not feeling well, it works best early in your symptoms. It is a combination of zinc and other homeopathic ingredients and really works to lessen the severity and shorten the duration of the common cold. Another popular zinc product is Zicam, which works in a similar way. More traditional over the counter remedies we recommend are Sudafed for a stuffy nose, Robitussin or Mucinex for chest congestion and coughing, and nothing beats Nyquil if you just want a full nights sleep.

Laura Murphy, RN, VNA Community Health/Town Board of Health Nurse

The common cold is a viral infection in the upper respiratory tract. More than 200 different rhino-viruses exist, and symptoms vary greatly, usually affecting the nose and throat. Drinking plenty of fluid is recommended — 8 or more cups a day — especially warm liquids like cider, tea with honey, and soup. Over the counter remedies may ease symptoms but won’t make the cold resolve sooner. Many people use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for relief of sore throat or headache. Antihistamines, decongestants, and cough drops can also be helpful. Taking vitamin C may shorten the cold by one day. You can also shorten the duration of a cold if you gargle for 5 seconds, 3 or 4 times a day with any liquid, including tap water. This maneuver mechanically removes the bacteria and viruses living in the throat. Apparently if we all gargled 3 times every day during flu and cold season, we would prevent about 40 percent of colds. Prevention, of course, includes frequent hand washing, and avoiding touching your face.

Holly Bellebuono, Herbalist, Owner, Vineyard Herbs

Since sinus congestion is such a prominent part of a head cold, it’s good to know the actions of several herbs that can influence the sinuses: astringent or opening. Astringent herbs are those that tighten or dry up, so these herbs (such as yarrow, sage, parsley, mullein, or goldenseal) can help relieve runny noses or wet coughs. Opening herbs are those that can help with congestion since they get the blood moving and can open airways and passages. We all know horseradish will open the sinus passages immediately when we eat it with our sushi. Horseradish will do the same thing for us when we have sinus congestion. Other opening herbs include ginger, cayenne pepper, peppermint, and garlic. Make a hot tea with them, take them as capsules, or steep them in apple cider vinegar and take by the teaspoon.

Sheila Muldaur, Certified Classical Homeopath, Integrated Health Care        

These homeopathic remedies and cell salts, low potency homeopathic “vitamins,” may relieve symptoms:Allium cepa helps colds which comes on with a drippy nose, watery eyes and perhaps sneezing. Use Arsenicum for colds where the dripping discharge from the nose burns the upper lip, or dry nostrils are burning. Nat mur is a good choice once the discharge become thick and whitish and the noses alternates between being blocked or running. Pulsatilla helps in the late stages of a cold when the mucus becomes yellow-green and thick. Ferrum phos is a cell salt that when taken at the first sign of a cold can push away the cold altogether. Kali mur helps post nasal drip and pressure in the ears. Kali sulph is needed when the mucus is yellow-green, thick and slimy without much discharge. It will help the final phase of a cold and chronic sinus issues. Nat sulph also helps green, thick, profuse discharge that happens later on. Remedies can be purchased at Healthy Additions or Vineyard Grocer in Vineyard Haven or Conroy Apothecary in West Tisbury.

Lisa Nagy, M.D., Vineyard Personalized Medicine

The common cold responds best to colostrum: the immunoglobulin component of breast milk that lends immunity to babies. It is harvested from cows and humans can use it for fighting both viruses and allergies. If you take it at the beginning of the flu, further symptoms may never appear.

I advise taking a high dose for a couple of days, then a lesser dose until the person is well. Other supplements that are useful are vitamin C, zinc, and echinacea. Silver supplements are also virocidal. In addition, high doses of vitamin A and D are used in my practice. For pain, I recommend alternating with Aleve and Tylenol.

If patients develop bronchitis and cough, I wonder if they have mold exposure in the home. If they progress to pneumonia or chronic sinus problems, I recommend cleaning up and dehumidifying the home.

Got something ailing you? Ask us, and we’ll ask the panel. Send questions to onisland@mvTimes.com. please put “What Ails You” in the subject line.