Mix Margaret Dylan Jones

W.A. composer, pianist, teacher, article writer

Specialist in solving singing problems

for a wide range of musical styles


How I handle throat infections, colds & flus

Article by Margaret Dylan Jones
Updated 14 July 2014
We all get colds and flus. But I usually bounce back from a bad cold in a couple of days, and about a week for the flu, because I take a number of actions.

As a teacher of singing I've made it my business to look into what's known about these infections and how to handle them. I've tried to sort out the wheat from the chaff (to separate what is useful or valuable from what is worthless). DISCLAIMER: I'm no doctor or medical researcher, so you ought to check my information with your doctor.

If your flu persists more than 5 or 6 days you haven't got the flu anymore you've moved on to an opportunistic infection like bronchitis or sinusitis (from  bugs that you probably always had). By using the information below you may avoid prolonging your malaise.

At the bottom of this page is a link to a great site for assessing the value of many of these. I strongly suggest checking on it before taking ANY kind of cold or flu remedy, especially because some common ones can cause serious complications and even death if taken incorrectly. Another page on that site is a wonderful resource for all manner of questions about colds, flus, allergies and more.

On another page I have my personal CHECKLIST of all the strategies & remedies, the ones I use myself.

This is what I do:

Head for the bed
If I can, I get lots of bed rest. A bit obvious but how many people only hit the sack when they can't stand up anymore? As soon as I realise what's going on I take a proactive approach and head for my bed.

A note about sleeping. Of course, you want to be warm when you're fighting an infection (the bugs like it cooler), but be aware that it might be difficult to get to sleep if you're too hot. Sometimes it's better to be a bit on the cold side, at least from the waist down.

Cold & flu fighters
1) Chicken soup. You may have thought it was an Old Wives Tale, but it's been shown in the laboratory that chicken soup has a big effect on colds & flus. No-one knows what the main active ingredient is (so you can't buy it in tablet form).

An excerpt from www.healthline.com/health/cold-flu/natural-cold-remedies:
"Science has begun to support what mothers have understood for centuries. The heat, salt, and hydration provided by chicken soup may actually fight the cold virus. Laboratory studies have shown that ingredients of a chicken soup with vegetables could kill viral cells and prevent the growth of new ones. The soup may also provide an anti-inflammatory effect in the upper respiratory tract that helps soothe symptoms."

2) Sambucus nigra (Black Elderberry) capsules. Apparently, this will inhibit the viruses from replicating, so it's best to take it as soon as possible. And you can also take it before you come down with the lurgy if you think you've been exposed. I've always got some in the fridge. Available in Australia and many other countries as Sambucol (trademark of PharmaCare Pty Ltd. See their website: www.sambucol.com). The cheapest I've found is at Greg's Pharmacy (Western Australia). BTW, their throat lozenges and capsules do not contain gluten.

Use a salt gargle
To prevent coming down with an infection I routinely gargle with hot salty water, at least once a day and more frequently if my saliva is thickening. Not much can live in salt, and it’s not only a lot cheaper than chemical gargles it also seems to be much more effective. There is some question over whether a salt gargle is advisable once you have an infection, but I keep doing it because it dramatically reduces my coughing and sneezing.


If you’re concerned about developing sinusitis take the advice of the eminent lung specialist Neil Schachter in his book The Good Doctor's Guide to Colds and Flu: “According to a ... study out of Sweden, humming a few bars of your favorite tune can lower [the] risk of developing sinusitis...humming increases ventilation of the sinus cavities and increases air exchange within the hollow bones in the skull.” (And it helps your sinuses to drain.) So the good doctor's advice is to hum -- that's a pleasant medicine!

I hum a lot more than just a few bars, on many different notes. You can also use a saline (salt) nasal spray.

Hydrogen peroxide gargle and ear drops
A gargle with this bubbly liquid is very effective at killing the bad bugs. It works by releasing oxygen (hence the tiny bubbles) and that wipes out the anaerobic bacteria in your throat or ear. Anaerobic bugs are the opposite of aerobic bugs and your body's cells in the sense that they can't live in oxgyen. So the oxygen kills the bad bugs and leaves you and your good bugs unharmed.

Hydrogen peroxide is available over the counter at pharmacies in two dilutions. I use the 3% soloution. For throat gargles, pour a small capful into a few centimetres of room-temperature water in a glass and gargle until it's really bubbling.

For ear infections use an eyedropper. Lie on your side, drop a few drops in the first ear, leave it in perhaps five minutes. Then do the other ear. You may have to repeat in both ears (so four applications over all). If you don't hear riotous bubbling in your ear the first time the silence indicates it's not working and that's why you ought to repeat it. The oxygen will get right inside your middle ear (at least). You may find you have mucous with dead bugs coming out of your eustachian tube (at the back of your mouth) for a couple of days.

More on eustachian tube problems
The eustachian tube drains the middle and inner ear into the back of the mouth, and equalises air pressure so you can hear correctly. When this becomes blocked you can't hear properly and may experience pain and a prolongation of infection. See this link for advice on tablets, sprays and other techniques for eustachian tube problems, particularly if you are travelling by aeroplane: http://www.medicinenet.com/eustachian_tube_problems/page3.htm

Use a vaporiser

You can get a vaporiser from a pharmacy. See singers-cough.html. The last two times I got the lurgy I had been without a vaporiser for only one or two nights so nowadays I always keep one handy. It prevents your mucous membranes drying out in cold air. You need to keep it all flowing so the bugs can be physically removed.

Other possibilities
Honey probably will help on an occasional basis, especially Jarrah honey because it has more of an anti-bacterial agent (but you also have to consider that honey is 80% sucrose, which means it's really 40% fructose, in itself suspected of causing many health problems). I use honey for throat infections.

Vitamin C is only a maybe, there are just too many contrary views about it. For example, the good doctor referred to above cites research showing that more than 500mg of Vitamin C daily has a negative effect.

Echinacea is another one that is only a maybe: recent studies have cast a negative light on it, especially for certain age groups, pregant women, causing adverse reactions, causing a supression of the immune system, and increasing the susceptibility to cancer. If you really want to use it make sure you read this before using echinacea: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echinacea

Something to AVOID: Zinc sprays
From www.healthline.com/health/cold-flu/natural-cold-remedies:
"After more than 130 reports of permanent or long-lasting loss of the ability to smell caused by zinc nasal sprays, the FDA issued a
recall of Zicam intranasal products (FDA, 2009)."

From www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm166931.htm:
"This warning does not involve oral zinc tablets and lozenges taken by mouth.
"Dietary zinc is also not subject to this warning. Zinc is an important trace mineral that is an essential part of the human diet. Among other things, Zinc is needed for a healthy immune system (the body's defense), and is critical for normal growth. Zinc primarily comes from food."

It seems zinc lozenges and tablets are presumed to be safe, but I still wouldn't risk it.


I haven't investigated the controversies surrounding earlier versions of the flu vaccine, but I like to have the shot every year. I worry that if too few people have the vaccine many more in the wider community will succumb to this disease.


Here's the link to that great site I mentioned at the beginning where they assess the value of many of these cold & flu remedies. It summarises the myths, the studies, the good aspects, and the downsides including side effects and drug interactions. Please check on the page at this link before taking ANY kind of cold or flu remedy, especially because some common ones can cause serious complications and even death if taken incorrectly: www.healthline.com/health/cold-flu/natural-cold-remedies

Another page on the same site I recommend: www.healthline.com/health/cold-flu. This will answer almost any question you have.

I've listed all the substances discussed at www.healthline.com....natural-cold-remedies (as at 11 July 2014) here:

"The Truth Behind Natural Cold “Remedies”

"Some natural cold remedies can really knock out your symptoms, but others are all hype. Find out which treatments might work for you.
Written by Katherine Brind’Amour | Published on October 24, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

"... Before you try any—or all—of the major natural cold remedies, read up on the pros and cons, risks and benefits, and evidence behind each of the most popular options." [Because some are to be avoided]
Chicken Noodle Soup
Zinc Supplements, Lozenges, and Sprays
Warning: Zicam Zinc Nasal Sprays and Loss of Smell
Echinacea Tea, Juice, Root, and Supplements
Vitamin C Supplements and Foods
Goldenseal Root (& Berberine)
Ginseng Root
Saline Nasal Irrigation
Meditation and Mindfulness
Green Tea Beverages and Supplements
Whiskey and Hot Toddies
Lemon and Honey
Vitamin D and the Sun
Camphor, Eucalyptus, and Menthol
High Lactoferrin Whey Protein
Elderberry (Sambucus Nigra) (Sambucol)
Olive Leaf Extract (Olea Europea)
Herbal Over The Counter (OTC) Cold Remedies
Boiron Oscillococcinum (Oscillo)
Similasan Cold and Mucus Relief
Airborne, Inc.
See my other articles:

Singer's Cough: Causes and Cures For Vocal Inflammation And Excess Mucus (Singing And Speech)

Checklist for how I handle throat infections, colds & flus

Click here to send me an email.  My mobile is 0414 374 701.

Margaret Dylan Jones, MusB(UWA), DipEd, LTCL, ATCL, AMusTCL, AMusA, is a composer, piano accompanist and voice teacher, whose first non-musical(?) hobby was examining old pianos at auctions with a torchlight and a tuning fork.

(C) 2012-2014 Mix M D Jones.

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