Winters in India are not the same throughout the country. While the northern parts do have colder winters, the south is usually more tropical and does not see extreme temperature variations. Nowadays, this situation is changing; the extreme climate change that has been gripping the globe has not left the country untouched. On one hand, the winter has become colder, foggier, and more polluted in the northern parts whereas the south is experiencing drastic temperature variations with colder nights and comparatively warmer days. This unbalanced climate outside has led to many health problems in the population. A few such issues are frequent colds, coughs,s, and chest congestion that affect the respiratory system.
These are more common in small babies and school-going children as they have weaker immunity. The symptoms may include a blocked nose, running nose, cough with or without expulsion of sputum, sore throat, hoarseness of voice, wheezing, rhonchi sounds while breathing, chest congestion, and sometimes sinus headaches. The general relief mantra is keeping warm and taking hot potency medicines. Minor cases of cold and related respiratory problems can be effectively managed at home, but if the symptoms are severe consulting a doctor is always advisable.
- Gargling repeatedly with hot water added with salt, turmeric, or Triphala Choorna is very beneficial in case of throat pain and hoarseness of voice.
- In babies below six months of age, medication is not really advised but the medicines can be given through breast milk by medicating the mother who in most cases may also be suffering from the same symptoms.
- A really effective herb that can help in improving immunity, digestion, and intelligence in babies and one that can be given even to newborns is Vacha (Vach)/ Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus). A very small quantity of this dried herb is rubbed on a rough surface and the paste can be given with a little amount of ghee.
- Dry ginger is also a very effective herb in cases of cold and congestion. It can be used as an ingredient in masala tea, boiled with drinking water, or chewed in small quantities by both children and adults.
- Another very important plant for cold, fever and chest congestion in both children and adults is the Parnayavani (Sanskrit)/ Panikoorka (Malayalam)/ Karpooravalli (Tamil)/ Doddapatre (Kannada)/ Pathar Choor (Hindi)/ Indian borage/Mexican mint. The leaves of this plant are slightly warmed and crushed to extract their juice. This juice can be given along with honey. The leaves can also be used in drinking water.
- Tulasi is also a very handy solution for this set of symptoms. Water boiled with Tulasi reduces fever, cold, and congestion and improves immunity. Tulasi leaves can also be eaten directly after washing them.
- Trikatu is a combination of three dry spices that is usually given in diseases that occur during the winter. It consists of dry ginger, dry black pepper, and dry long pepper powdered together. This polyherbal is used in many formulations in ayurveda and is the major component of Dashamoolakatutraya Kashaya that is specifically given in conditions of cough, cold, and chest congestion.
- The most effective method of unblocking the nose and giving relief to the congested chest is exposure to steam. This process of steaming and induction of sweat is called sudation. Steaming can be done by exposing the chest and face to the vapours coming from hot water. For better liquefaction of the sputum herbs like Tulasi and Parnayavani can be added to the water.
Even though many effective treatments are available for respiratory issues during the winter, it is always better to prevent such symptoms. Here are a few precautionary measures that can keep you healthy during cold spells.
- Always try to stay warm with a proper winter wardrobe.
- Especially cover the ears during traveling and at night.
- Do not drink cold water or eat anything refrigerated.
- Drink hot water preferably boiled with beneficial herbs.
- In places with high pollution and fog, it is essential to wear a mask for protection.
- Do not take a shower in cold water and do not sleep with wet hair.
- Children should be taught personal hygiene ethics so that they do not get infected by contact with sick kids at school. (Dr. Lakshmi Varma K is a [BAMS, MD(Ayu)] Consultant & Advisor at LYEF Wellness)
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