What You Should Know About Catching Colds and Flu

Signs of the Cold Season

Autumn and winter mean seasonal misery for many.
Autumn and winter mean seasonal misery for many. | Source

Does Everyone Get Them?

How many cold do you catch every year?

  • 3 or 4, just like everyone else
  • At least 6, seems like they never go away
  • None, never, not a single one in years, just like Wayne Dyer
  • 1 or 2, but very mild. I go right through them
  • Rarely, but horrible when I do
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Viruses in Your Throat and Lungs

Did you know that everyone has one or more of the viruses that are blamed for common colds and flu in our bodies virtually all the time?

What really are the facts about cold and flu symptoms?

When someone sneezes nearby or we shake hands with an acquaintance who is sick, does it mean we will soon be suffering symptoms too? Clearly, it does not.

Studies have shown that an estimated twenty-five percent, including me, fall into the "not inevitable" category. We seldom if ever get colds or flu, no matter what we're exposed to. Following is a summary of what catching colds and flu is all about.

First, what we call "colds" are the reactions of our carefully trained immune system to a rhinovirus. Fever is our bodies way of facilitating blood flow, rushing much needed healing power to the infected sites. Runny noses, coughing and wheezing, inelegant as they may be, are what nature devised for us as away to get the bad stuff out - indiscriminately, I admit.

Cold symptoms are reactions our immune systems generate for fending off the invader. Each immune reaction is like no other because, although the coughing and wheezing is familiar, viruses evolve so rapidly that each cold comes with a whole new signature.

Oddly, the virus itself does no damage and leaves no scars. Our immune systems are triggered by nothing more than a paper tiger. Of course, knowing this doesn't make you feel any better, does it? Here's something likely to make you feel worse.

Facts About Cold and Flu Symptoms

The more robust, the healthier your immune system, the worse your cold will be. Nice, huh? You build up your immune system with vitamins, exercise and an excellent diet, and your cold will be worse because the response from your immune system is what makes a cold the miserable event it is.

Robust immune system equals robust cold. This is less clear with flu because influenza viruses also do tissue damage, something rhinoviruses never do.

The most classic example is a tragic one, a disastrous event that pummeled us so badly it spurred medical research at a level never before imagined.

In 1917, during the last great flu epidemic, medical researchers were shocked to find that the healthiest young people were the most likely to die, more likely than babies or the elderly. In fact, more soldiers serving then in World War I died from flu than the injuries of battle.

The reason, discovered after much research, was shocking. The powerful immune responses of these young people were literally killing them with overwhelming symptoms, drowning them in fluids, reacting to a potent invader. Weaker immune systems lacked so great a killer response, although many people with them died too, just not as likely from their own immune responses.

Seriously, What's The Evidence?

Spontaneous Healing : How to Discover and Embrace Your Body's Natural Ability to Maintain and Heal Itself
Spontaneous Healing : How to Discover and Embrace Your Body's Natural Ability to Maintain and Heal Itself

Andrew Weil explores the evidence for healing ourselves of even the most serious illnesses.


Catching A Cold, A Flu or Maybe Not

Since we know that some people don't get sick, even when they have the same germs in their systems as others do, it seems that maybe our best hopes for fighting colds may exist somewhere outside the pharmacy.

My own personal experience suggests that researchers should look at something more general, like lifestyle, beliefs about illness and intentions, along with before and after tissue samples and immune system components.

Intention or personal beliefs about getting sick may play a role. Research on this this possibility and the related effects of placebos is only just beginning and bound to be be dauntingly difficult because dealing with nebulous terms always is.

Both intention and personal beliefs are near impossible to define objectively. Without objectivity, no reliable research is possible. Informally, however, there is evidence. Maybe statistics and personal history can teach us something.

Way back in the late 1960s, there was a study I read about about illness and executives who believed themselves critical to their businesses.

The results seem to show that people who believed they were vital to their company's success did not get sick at least until after the conclusion of important initiatives. They were able to stall illness until it was less inconvenient.

It stands to reason, then, that some of us may be able to avoid sickness with our intentions and, by logical extension, just as able to make ourselves sick.

I had my own thoughts about this, and for that reason, the information stuck with me, although its source is now lost.

Later, and especially now that social networking has given me many new and far-flung friendships, I've known people who claimed not to catch colds simply because they decided not to.

Wayne Dyer, as honest a reporter as you will ever find, said he didn't get a cold for twenty years, even though he met many people and surely carried many viruses. He told a funny anecdote of encountering a woman who was offended by his good fortune.

My less famous friend, Martha, doesn't get colds anymore either. Her decision not to get them was both so simple and so anomalous she tired of people asking her to explain.

Now in my fourth year of not catching a cold, I've heard responses that range from, "Lucky you!" to dire warnings about "getting them all at once."

The facts don't bear either suggestion out and research is not in place to explain it. My conclusion that I will never again have a cold or a flu is personal and can't be given a scientific explanation that is provable.

Unless you are willing to accept another round of cold symptoms this year and the year after, until better methods can be found, why not try just turning down the opportunity when it arises, as some of us do?

Wayne Dyer says he talks to viruses and asks them to go away. Are viruses listening or is just the state intention enough? I don't care, do you? If it keeps me away from colds and flus, I'll talk to anyone, even my ex-wife.

Examine your own beliefs. If you believe everyone gets colds, you will too. If you believe you have options, you will pick one of them.

It might be worth an informal personal experiment, just to see what else you learn about your body and how much intentional control you may or may not have.

In any case, Bless you! The so-called cold season is soon upon us.

New, Groundbreaking Work

Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself
Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself

Lissa Rankin's new book is the best I've read on our ability to, not just heal ourselves, avoid getting sick altogether.

What I like so much about it is how her own personal crisis led her, a medical doctor with trust in science, to do the research no one else had done and to report it in convincing fashion.


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What do you think? 4 comments

David Stone profile image

David Stone 2 years ago from New York City Author

The flu vaccine is actually a mild case of the flu intended to build you immune system. Obviously some flaws there, Sam.

esmonaco profile image

esmonaco 2 years ago from Lakewood New York

I'm certainly not ready for this years cold and flu season! Seems everytime that I get flu shot to prevent the flu, I get the flu! Thanks very interesting :)

David Stone profile image

David Stone 2 years ago from New York City Author

Thank you, Merry. Wishing you a cold-free year!

Merrci profile image

Merrci 2 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

That's very interesting! I will try that this year, I think. I must have one of those strong immune systems. Don't get sick often, but it surely isn't fun when it strikes. Fun facts! Thanks for sharing.

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