Many medical problems are not from a single cause. They are often many small things that when put together result in a big problem. This time of year often results in severe head colds or flu that seem worse than at any other time of year.
There is a common pattern and timeline to the holiday season cold or flu.
It starts with general work and the holiday preparation stress in the month or so preceding the holidays. This wears down the strength of the immune system. Starting with thanksgiving and various pre- holiday office parties and shopping, people get out of their normal routines that help keep them balanced. Sudden changes in weather, as well as dashing in and out of stores, makes it difficult to regulate personal body temperature. Holiday cookies and other sweets are suddenly in abundance. These out of the norm sugar hits cause highs and crashes in a personal energy adding to the stress on the body and immune system.
With the immune system stressed, the holidays now bring us in closer contact with a greater number of similarly stressed people. Shopping, parties and visiting relatives spread germs through the now weakened population. It is at this point that people usually “catch” a cold. However the holidays are too important and the body fights the manifestation of the cold. The infected person is tired but not showing specific signs of a cold.
Then it happens. The holiday is over and the person starts to relax. The stress is lifted and the body desires to move out of stress mode and back into regular routine. Now the body tries to clear the viral infection/ cold that it has been suppressing. Because the infection was not dealt with at the beginning of the infection, it is much harder to clear the infection. All the cold and flu symptoms are magnified as the body focuses on clearing the infections. All energy is directed at this one task, leaving nothing for daily functioning resulting in much needed bed rest. Not providing enough time to rest and recover tends to drag out the resolution of the cold over several weeks.
For the person who has fallen into this situation, the best thing to do is to stay in bed and rest. Eat warm nourishing foods like soups and try to keep the body as warm, and comfortable as possible until the energy returns. Bed rest also gives a person time to reflect on the past month and how they might resolve to do better next year.