Acute upper respiratory tract infections are usually uncomplicated. Nevertheless, the affected persons are partly considerably limited in their general well-being by typical symptoms. Which measures for symptom relief are useful, what is recommended for self-help, what can naturopathy do for these symptoms?
infections of the upper respiratory tract manifest themselves as inflammations of the nose (rhinitis), throat (pharyngitis) and larynx (laryngitis). Uncomplicated respiratory infections (common cold) are the most common human infections and in the vast majority are viral in origin. The proportion of purely bacterial uncomplicated respiratory infections is less than 10%.
As a rule, an uncomplicated upper respiratory tract infection heals in the course of a week; pathogen excretion is possible for up to ten days. An increased susceptibility to infections is said to exist if more than six infections occur per year; a chronic upper respiratory tract infection must be amed if the typical symptoms persist for several weeks.
The overly generous – and not guideline-compliant – prescription of antibiotics for uncomplicated upper respiratory tract infections in practice is pointless in the majority of cases due to the viral genesis of the infection. In the case of uncomplicated bacterial infections, the development of resistance is also problematic in the long term. This is contrasted by the frequently encountered patient desire for a fast-acting treatment, which increases the prescription prere on physicians in private practice.
Nevertheless, the example of uncomplicated respiratory infections in particular shows what a health-promoting lifestyle on the one hand and naturopathic complementary self-help techniques on the other can achieve. Nevertheless, both are associated with a certain amount of effort, both in terms of the medical communication of the sensible measures and their practical implementation by the patients. In this respect, so-called info-recipes have been developed in our institution for the simple treatment of respiratory tract infections. Concise instruction of patients has proven to be effective.
Reduction of susceptibility to infections
A health-promoting lifestyle most likely also reduces susceptibility to flu infections. Regular daily routine-. Endurance exercise preferably in fresh air. Match the intensity of exercise to cardiopulmonary capacity. In addition, excessive exercise intensity can increase susceptibility to infections. Increase chronic fatigue. Five times 45 minutes of endurance exercise per week has been shown to be useful and effective in studies . – A balanced whole-food, predominantly lactovegetable diet, which is based on the recommendations of the German Nutrition Society (DGE). – Drinking 1.5 to 2 liters of thin, low-calorie beverages (mineral water, tea) daily. – Optimization of sleep: For most people, sleep duration should not fall below at least seven hours. – Stress reduction resp. adequate stress management. – Hydrotherapy such as Kneipp's watering, foot baths, arm baths, dry brushing, sauna. In the case of roborating hydrotherapeutic procedures, attention must be paid to the responsiveness of the affected person. Cold applications must always be able to be answered with a corresponding heat production of the body, otherwise they miss the desired effect. For example, alternating warm foot baths can be used to strengthen the body's defences if the body's ability to regulate itself is good. In case of pronounced sensitivity to cold and lack of thermoregulation to cold stimuli, warm or rising foot baths are to be preferred. – Nicotine abstinence, if possible tobacco cessation. – Whether the intake of echinacea preparations is useful for the prevention of flu-like infections still remains unclear, even according to the current state of studies . Nutritional supplements: The effectiveness of vitamin C. Zinc is still controversially discussed. For vitamin C, no protective effect can be identified, but possibly a shortening of symptom duration. Zinc could potentially reduce both incidence and symptom duration, but appears to have side effects (nausea). At present, therefore, no preventive use can be recommended [7, 8, 9].
Furthermore, a whole series of unconventional therapies are used to reduce susceptibility to infection in the naturopathic field, for which there is as yet no sufficient evidence base, but there is a basis in empirical medicine. When used under medical supervision, limited in time, and success-controlled, these procedures are acceptable and often helpful. Examples include fasting, treatment with prebiotic supplements and the administration of physiological intestinal bacteria (z.B. E.coli strain Nissle 1917, Lactobacillus ssp., Bifidobacterium ssp.).
Elderflower (Sambuci flos tot.) Linden flowers (Tiliae flos conc.) aa ad 25.0 g M.f.spec. diaphoreticae
Dosage: Pour 150 ml of boiling water over 1 tablespoon, steep for 10 minutes, strain, drink a cup several times a day, preferably hot.
Sensible general measures
– Physical rest: contrary to the recommendations for prevention, physical rest should be taken in case of infection. Sick leave is dependent on the degree of physical restriction. To consider the severity of occupational activity. – Hydrotherapy: At the first symptoms of a flu-like infection, rising footbaths should be used. These lead to increased blood flow to the mucous membranes in the head and neck area. Support thereby the infection defense in the mucous membrane level. In addition, they often have an analgesic effect (cf. box).
© Mauritius Hydrotherapy as a useful general measure
Both feet – if no vein problems exist also the lower legs- should be taken in a container with initially pleasantly tempered water (approx. 36 degrees) are bathed. Then hot water is gradually added until either the individual tolerance limit is reached or until a maximum of 40 degrees water temperature is reached. Patients with a reduced sense of temperature (z. B. Diabetics) must obligatorily use a water thermometer to avoid burns. The duration of application is approx. 10 to 15 minutes.
With correct application there is a clear sweating on the forehead. application is contraindicated in case of fever.
– Provided there is not yet a high fever, the use of diaphoretic teas may be useful. In empirical medicine, elderflower (Sambuci flos) and lime blossom (Tiliae flos) have been proven to be effective. Extracts of red coneflower (Echinaceae purpurea herba) seem to be effective according to current data Duration. To shorten the intensity of the symptomatology by half a day to a whole day. Efficacy in children has not been proven . Continuous use can potentially lead to suppression of the immune system, so it is currently recommended to take a two-week break after a two-week period of use . – Recommended in the early stages or. In case of a pronounced feeling of cold, the internal application of ginger root (Zingiberis rhizoma) as a decoction is recommended. Ginger increases blood circulation in the stomach and in the body periphery and leads to a generally improved feeling of warmth. Patients with hemorrhoids should know, however, that ginger must be dosed carefully, because bleeding of the hemorrhoids can be triggered. In case of fever, the use of ginger is no longer useful.
© Fotolia Ginger Tuber (Zingiberis Rhizoma)
From a ginger tuber cut a piece of approx. 1 cm piece of a ginger tuber, chop it up and boil it lightly in half a liter of water for 20 minutes, covered. Drink three cups daily. Add a little honey if necessary.
– Sufficient drinking quantity: In case of fever, fluid intake should be observed; in case of existing cardiac and/or renal insufficiency – especially in elderly people – electrolyte fluctuations should be taken into account. Humidifying the air in the room: the ideal humidity level is 45 – 65. Humidity below 30% leads to dehydration of mucous membranes and increases the risk of flu-like infections. If there is no equipment to humidify the air in the room, large wet cloths can be used to remedy the situation. – Nicotine abstinence: Smokers should stop smoking permanently at the latest in the presence of an influenza infection. – It is possible that taking high doses of vitamin C (> 1 g per day) reduced the duration of symptoms by half a day. A general recommendation for use can therefore not be given. – To alleviate sore throat, an attempt at treatment with homeopathic-anthroposophic remedies is also justified. A high-quality study showed that patients who received individual anthroposophic treatment for flu-like infections experienced faster symptom relief than the control group treated with conventional medicine. In addition, antibiotic consumption was significantly lower in patients treated anthroposophically .
Typical symptoms of uncomplicated upper respiratory tract infections are
– Rhinitis, initially watery, purulent after three days – Obstructed nasal breathing – Sore throat – Cough – General fatigue, languor – Headache and aching limbs
In contrast to viral flu (influenza), fever occurs very rarely and with moderate intensity in uncomplicated influenza (< 38.5 oC).
Rhinitis and obstructed nasal breathing
The watery rhinitis at the beginning of an influenza infection can be regarded as a normal reaction of the mucous membrane to the infection, with which mucus, bacteria and viruses are transported out of the organism. In this phase, it is important to take in enough fluids and prevent a buildup of secretions. At the latest as soon as the rhinitis becomes purulent, substances or drugs that have a secretolytic and antibacterial effect such as "Myrtol", a mixture of essential eucalyptus and citrus oil (Gelomyrtol®), or – especially if the sinuses are involved – a mixture of gentian root, primrose flowers, sorrel herb, elderflower and verbena (z. B. Sinupret®). Qualitatively acceptable studies have long been available on the ready-to-use preparations mentioned as examples [4, 5, 6].
Simple, but in the empirical medicine often very effective home remedies are overlays (cataplasms) with horseradish or mustard flour on the paranasal sinuses. Horseradish root (Armoraciae rusticanae radix) has antimicrobial and hyperemicidal, mustard seed (Sinapis albae semen) has bacteriostatic and antiphlogistic effects.
Horseradish toppings: Grate horseradish root fresh (alternative: use canned in a jar), warm in a water bath, wrap a tablespoon in a thin cotton cloth and place on the face.
Practice tip – Mustard flour overlays: Mix one tablespoon of mustard flour with hot water to a thick paste, wrap it in a thin cotton cloth and put it on the face.
Important Notice: Apply cream to the skin beforehand. Eye contact – even with the vapors – should be avoided. It is best to place a damp washcloth on the eyes as protection.
It is important to instruct the patient exactly how long the cataplasm should be applied and how to protect the skin (grease cream or ointment). Excessive use may result in burns to the face. In the case of mustard flour, a skin-irritating effect should also be noted.
There is evidence of efficacy for nasal rinses with hypertonic or isotonic saline solutions, especially for chronic recurrent rhinosinusitis. The data is less clear for rhinitis symptoms of an acute uncomplicated infection. However, the presumed mechanisms (liquefaction and rinsing of the nasal secretion, decongestion of the nasal mucosa) suggest that they can be used to improve the symptoms .
Water vapor inhalations at 43 degrees for 20 minutes can also lead to symptom relief. Whether the addition of phytotherapeutics in the form of tea drugs or essential oils decisively improves the effect has not been clarified from a scientific point of view (z. B. chamomile flowers).
In empirical medicine, the external application of the essential oils of camphor, peppermint, menthol, eucalyptus, mint, cineol, mountain pine and spruce needle is considered useful for improving nasal breathing. The effect is to improve blood circulation in the mucous membrane and stimulate the flow of secretions.
Essential oils should not be applied to the face of small children because they can irritate the mucous membranes and, if accidentally swallowed, can cause a glottic spasm with respiratory depression or even suffocation. A preparation suitable for small children containing eucalyptus oil and spruce needle oil (Babix® Inhalate) is available.
As a home remedy for sore throats, curd compresses have proven to be effective. They have a cooling, anti-inflammatory and decongestant effect. The duration of application is usually 15 to 20 minutes or until the poultice has warmed up. Commercially available curd is suitable, which should be cool but not too cold. The poultice is applied with the help of a sheet. Caution: The wrap should not be applied too cold and only if the affected person is comfortable with a slight cooling.
Onion compresses are applied warm. Crushed onions are heated over steam, wrapped in a gauze or cotton cloth, and used for ca. 15 minutes applied. Skin burns should be avoided.
Various phytotherapeutics are suitable for relieving sore throats, such as sage (Salvia officinalis), whose ingredients have an antibacterial and virustatic effect. Sweets for sucking, solutions for gargling or tea preparations are suitable.
Propolis – the putty resin of honey bees – has been described to have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral and immunostimulatory properties. Solutions for mouth rinsing or gargling are available, as well as tablets, lozenges or dragees. A contraindication exists for atopics. Propolis plays in the empirical medicine. Folk medicine plays a comparatively large role.
Evidence of efficacy is also available for homeopathic combination preparations containing pain-relieving herbal source substances. As an example, a combination of Phytolacca mother tincture, Capsicum annuum D3 and Guaiacum D3 (Tonsipret®) can shorten the duration of symptoms of sore throat .
For cough as an accompanying symptom of an uncomplicated flu-like infection, naturopathy – especially phytotherapy – is an acceptable option. In the case of chronic or worsening cough, naturopathy can at best be used as a supplement to conventional remedies. If the cough persists for more than 14 days, pneumonia or other serious diseases should be excluded. The phytotherapy of the cough should – as far as possible – be differentiated and should be based on the leading symptoms "dryness" and "expectoration. Under the time constraints of practice, on the other hand, combination preparations are often used, which are effective for both dry and productive coughs. The method of application can be fresh plant juice, tea, cough syrup, lozenges, or even essential oils.
In the case of tea prescriptions and essential oils, emphasis should be placed on correct preparation and use – preferably in the form of written information.
Treatment of dry irritable cough
So-called mucilage drugs such as marshmallow root and leaves (Althaeae radix, folium), coltsfoot leaves (Farfarae folium), Iceland moss (Lichen islandicus), ribwort herb (Plantaginis lanceolatae herba) and mallow leaves and flowers (Malvae folium, flos) are particularly suitable for treating a dry, irritating cough.
Rp.Coltsfoot leaves (Farfarae folium conc.) 50.0 g marshmallow root (Althaeae radix conc.) 30.0 g mallow flowers (Malvae flos. conc.) 20,0 g M.f.spec. pectoral
Dosage: Leave 1 heaped teaspoon in ¼ liter of cold water for one hour, strain, reduce the extract to approx. Heat to 70 degrees, drink slowly in sips. Drink one cup (150 ml) three times a day. Sweeten with honey if necessary .
In addition, a combination of mucolytic drugs with bronchospasmolytic medicinal herbs, z. B. Ivy leaves (Hederae helicis folium), licorice root (Liquiritiae radix), primrose root (Primulae radix) and thyme herb (Thymi herba), be useful.
Example of an experiential medicine combination formula for productive or dry cough:
Rp.Iceland moss (Lichen islandicus) 10.0 g Marshmallow root (Althaeae radix conc.) 25.0 g of fennel fruit (Foeniculi fructus conc.) 10.0 g ribwort herb (Plantaginis lanceolatae herba conc.) 15.0 g licorice root (Liquiritiae radix conc.) 10.0 g thyme herb (Thymi herba conc.) 30.0 g M.f.spec. pectoral
Dosage: Pour 150 ml of boiling water over 1 tablespoon, steep for 10 minutes, strain, drink a cup several times a day (Schilcher et al.).
Various ready-to-use tea preparations are available. Exemplary are mentioned: Heumann Bronchial Tea Solubifix®, Em-eukal Cough Tea®, Hevert Cough Bronchial Tea®, Chest Cough Tea Stada® N, Kneipp® Cough and Bronchial Tea.
Treatment of productive cough
Here, mucolytic, secretolytic and secretomotor drugs such as z. B. licorice root (Liquiritiae radix), thyme herb (Thymi herba) and fennel fruit (Foeniculi fructus) are used.
For some ready-to-use preparations there are quite interesting indications on the efficacy. As an example and without claiming completeness, here are some preparations.