It's cold and flu season in North Texas, which means it's time to restock the medicine cabinet. While you're running to the store for tissues and cough drops, you might want to throw in some dark chocolate. That's right: Research shows that dark chocolate containing at least 70% cacao may fight cold and flu symptoms.
Cold and flu symptoms that chocolate may help.
It can be nearly impossible to tell a cold from the flu, but typically a cold comes on gradually whereas the flu can hit abruptly, like a ton of bricks. While both are respiratory illnesses caused by viruses, there are ways to tell them apart.
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The most common cold symptoms:
- Stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Mild to moderate chest discomfort; hacking cough
The most common flu symptoms:
- Fatigue, weakness
- Cough that can become severe
- Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)
Chocolate has been identified in several studies out of England as being an excellent cough calmer and throat soother. Chocolate has also been shown to prevent headaches and migraines, according to the National Headache Foundation.
Treat your cold and flu symptoms naturally.
Here are some ways to treat your cold and flu symptoms with chocolate. The higher the cacao content, the better.
- Pop a piece of dark chocolate in your mouth and let it melt slowly. The thick, rich morsel will coat the back of your throat and desensitize aggravated nerve endings, researchers say.
- Sip a cup of dark chocolate cocoa, but if your symptoms include lots of mucus, use water instead of milk, which can thicken phlegm according to the Mayo Clinic.
- Try this healthy, 3-ingredient DIY chocolate recipe from Creative and Healthy Fun Food.
- See what other body parts chocolate is good for in Love Chocolate? Surprise! It Loves You (and Your Heart) Back!
You might also want to try these more traditional home remedies:
- Chicken soup is good for more than the soul — it can also help ease the symptoms of an upper respiratory infection, provide nutrition and help keep you hydrated.
- Ginger and honey, like chocolate, can help soothe sore throats and coughs. Try some ginger tea (boil a few slices of raw ginger root) with honey — as hot liquids have been shown to relieve raw throats and ward off chills.
- Vitamin C is an immune system booster and may help reduce phlegm. Add some fresh lemon juice to your ginger honey tea.
- Probiotics found in yogurt with active cultures (live bacteria) can help keep your gut and immune system healthy and may help prevent you from catching an upper respiratory virus in the first place.
- Saltwater reduces and loosens mucus, which is full of bacteria and allergens. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in a full glass of warm water. Swish it around your mouth and throat (gargle), then spit it out.
The best way to prevent the flu is still the flu shot.
If you haven't gotten your flu shot yet, make it a priority. It takes about two weeks after a flu vaccination to develop antibodies that protect against influenza. Getting vaccinated can protect not only you from getting the flu but your family members, friends and colleagues as well. It's a smart and easy way to score some points for adulting.
Nathan Holbrook, DO, an emergency medicine physician at Medical City Arlington, says the flu shot is still your best bet for avoiding influenza and prevents 5 million cases a year.
Check out your closest CareNow® location for inexpensive, quick flu shots for the whole family.
Find out how to prepare kids for their flu shots in Tips to Prepare Kids for the Flu Shot and Helpful Hints to Avoid Getting Sick.
When to go to the ER with flu symptoms.
According to Manisha Gupta, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Medical City Denton, the flu is especially dangerous for infants, pregnant women, the elderly and anyone with a weakened immune system. If you or a family member fall into any of those categories or have a lung disease like asthma or COPD, heart disease or other health conditions, you should seek immediate treatment for any of the flu symptoms listed above.
If you are otherwise healthy, these flu symptoms should send you to the ER right away:
- Trouble breathing
- Excessive vomiting (can't keep anything down and may become dehydrated)
Other cold and flu prevention and treatment tips include washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes and keeping your kids home from school when they're sick.
When the flu goes askew, one of our many Medical City Healthcare emergency locations has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.
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