Have a Cough and Runny Nose? It May Not Be a Cold

By on January 29, 2015

By Sarah Baker for Discover and Play

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We have all experienced it: waking up with a scratchy throat, puffy eyes and stuffed nose. One might naturally assume the common cold is sinking its fangs into our immune system. Even more so, one might believe it’s symptoms of this nettlesome bug when it’s experienced during the shift between seasons. Think again.

What may be disguised as an obnoxious chilly weather cold could actually be autumn allergies. The symptoms are aggravating, in your way from completing day to day tasks, and can be downright draining. We picked the brain of Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Sarah Ouano, on how to prepare for pesky autumn allergies. Dr. Ouano gives us the low down on natural ways to prevent suffering from symptoms, and how to kick them to the curb.

BB: What is the importance of Naturopathic doctors in a Western Medicine dominated country?

Naturopathic doctors provide options for people who are searching for an array of alternatives to conventional medicine. Depending on which state you reside in, naturopathic doctors can provide primary care services, perform minor surgery and IV therapy, or prescribe medications. It is clear that people are looking for options to complement their conventional treatments, and naturopathic doctors are certainly trained to fill this role. It is extremely important for our public health agencies to acknowledge the existence of these practitioners, and to properly license and regulate them, so that the population of people looking for these alternatives can be confident in the education of their doctors. This will also ensure that there is open communication between all of their health care providers, to optimize outcomes.

BB: When should an individual consider visiting an ND?

Naturopaths are trained to address both chronic and acute issues, and patients can seek their advice for things as complicated and longstanding as Lyme disease, or as simple as the common cold. Because some naturopaths specialize in the types of conditions they treat, just as some medical doctors do, it is best to call ahead to make sure that this physician would be an appropriate fit for your needs.

BB: Cold weather is barging in on our lives lately, how can we naturally prevent cold or flu symptoms this fall?

There are a few go-to remedies that I always have on hand during this season. Two homeopathic remedies are always my medicine cabinet: Oscillococcinum and ColdCalm, both by Boiron. These two are indicated for the first signs of colds and flus, and can be very effective if you have access to them in the early stages. I also like a Chinese medicine formula called Cold Snap by Ohco, which is a nice blend of harmonizing herbs intended to bring balance back into the body. The beauty of Chinese medicine formulas is that they see illness as an opportunity to flex the immune system’s muscles, and these formulas often leave patients feeling stronger, with restored energy and vitality. Lastly, constant vitamin D and probiotic supplementation round out some of the more basic protocols for colds and flus.

BB: How do we know if we have allergies?

Sometimes, allergies can look and feel a whole lot like the common cold, even to seasoned doctors. Colds typically only last less than two weeks, whereas allergies will last as long as you are exposed to them. Allergies are never accompanied by the aches and fevers that colds are, but they often do bring on the watery eyes that aren’t characteristic of colds. Both of these conditions may include coughs, deep fatigue, sore throats, and runny noses. If you have no change in symptoms after treating your condition—with either conventional or natural medicine—for over two weeks, I would recommend seeing a licensed health care practitioner to better assess your condition.

BB: What are some natural antihistamines that we can use to fight fall and winter allergies?

If you suspect allergies, I would recommend utilizing anti-histamines and anti-inflammatories, and rinse your sinuses daily. One of my favorite natural remedies is Natural D-Hist by Orthomolecular, which contains stinging nettles and bromelain to break up inflammation, n-acetyl cysteine to break up mucous caused by the allergy, and quercetin and vitamin C to stabilize the mast cells, which release histamine. I also like homeopathic allergy remedies like Sabadil by Boiron, or Reboost by Heel, which help the body to better process the allergen exposure.

BB: How can we prep our homes to be allergen free?

Whenever possible, open windows to allow for proper ventilation. If you are able to use a HEPA filter, I recommend doing so with an oscillating fan, so that all of the air in the room can be filtered properly. Regular washing of bedding and slipcovers/pillowcases can help with dust allergies, and if mold is an issue, try to remediate by exposing furniture to open air and sunlight (when possible!) for at least an hour. This effectively kills much of the colonized mold. I love cleaning with vinegar, and using passive mold fighters like the Kanberra line of tea tree gels, or the Fresh Wave line of essential oil-based products.

Beating allergies once they’re full blown is often a three-pronged process: settling down an overactive immune response, stimulating the lymph system to remove debris, and preventing all exposure to the allergen. Calming the immune system can be achieved with basic anti-inflammatories like curcumin, eyebright, and nettles. Our lymph system can be compared to the sewage system of the body, and when it not optimal, the immune complexes which it would normally remove from the body can become stuck in the body, wreaking even more havoc on the immune system. Herbs like Red Root, Phytolacca, and Echinacea are great at keeping this system flowing, and thereby reducing the time it takes to resolve the issue. Lastly, keeping your home and work environment as free of allergens as possible will ensure that your exposure is greatly reduced.



Sarah Baker is a holistic health, nutrition and Image consultant focused on bringing vitality and balancing to her clients. Her consulting practice, Style Body Soul LLC, offers numerous programs suitable for various lifestyles, and her blog; Balanced Babe, focuses on nourishing recipes and daily tips to leading a vibrant fulfilling life. You can also stay motivated to be healthy by using her plant-based dining guide: Eat Healthful.

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Have a Cough and Runny Nose? It May Not Be a Cold