New research has found that what makes us more susceptible to an infection in the winter is that cold temperatures can lower our immunity in the nose. In fact, just a 5% drop in nasal tissue temperature can lower our immune response by nearly half.
This reduced response helps viruses stick to and infect the nasal cells, making us more prone to catching the common cold, influenza viruses, COVID-19, and other infections in the winter. Typical upper respiratory tract symptoms include sore throat, cough, sneezing, stuffy and runny nose. More severe illness may also include fever, body aches, headache, pressure in your ears and face, and loss of taste and smell.
For most people, these symptoms will clear within a week (with or without antiviral drugs), but that doesn't make the experience any less miserable. Fortunately, there are things you can do to improve your immune system: get a good night's sleep, eat a healthy and varied diet, take daily walks, manage your stress, establish and maintain social relationships, and include red light therapy in your health regime.
What is Red Light Therapy?
Red light therapy (also known as photobiomodulation) is a type of low-laser therapy treatment that uses bright light-emitting diodes in the visible and invisible light spectrum to provide numerous health benefits to your body and overall physical and mental well-being.
Red light belongs to the visible light spectrum, typically containing wavelengths between 630 and 700 nanometers (nm). It is primarily used for conditions on the surface of the skin, including wound healing, skin rejuvenation, reduction of wrinkles and fine lines, skin roughness, skin damage caused by the sun, and others.
Near-infrared light belongs to the invisible light spectrum and contains wavelengths from 700nm all the way to 2,500nm (although most effective ones are usually between 810-850nm). Near-infrared light can be used to treat conditions beyond the surface of the skin, such as chronic inflammation, hormone imbalance, high blood pressure, depression and anxiety, neurodegenerative diseases, etc.
Can Red Light Therapy Give Your Immune System a Boost?
Absolutely. Because red and near-infrared light can penetrate around two inches beyond the skin, there are numerous benefits red light therapy can provide on the cellular level that can boost your immune system.
First, red light therapy can improve the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which carries energy through the body, fueling all cellular functions. This boost in the replication of cells allows them to function optimally and fight off any infection.
Treatment with red light can also release nitric oxide, a molecule produced in your body that lowers blood pressure and improves blood flow to damaged or diseased tissues. It can also induce angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels, which brings nutrients to cells and helps remove toxic waste from the body.
Research has shown that red light therapy can improve the lymphatic system, which helps maintain body fluid levels, protects you from bacteria and virus-caused infections, and removes cellular waste. Because of this, treatment with red and near-infrared light can particularly improve immune functioning in elderly people and help extend their lifespan.
Another way that red light therapy can boost your immune system is through the activation and regeneration of stem cells, which are special cells in the human body that can develop into many different cell types, thus playing a crucial role in our body's self-defense mechanism against any viral or bacterial invaders.
As we mentioned earlier, proper sleep is crucial to a fully functioning immune system in healthy adults. Red light therapy can improve sleep by increasing production of melatonin, a hormone made in the body that plays an important role in the sleep-wake cycle.
How to Use Red Light Therapy Against Cold and Flu
Light therapy was used as one of the most effective treatments during the devastating influenza pandemic in 1918. Similarly, a recent study has proven that photobiomodulation can also serve as a potential treatment for COVID-19. Red light has been shown to alleviate symptoms of chronic obstructive lung disease as well as reduce bronchial asthma attacks in the participants of this study.
To improve your symptoms of cold, influenza, and COVID-19, you can use a portable, ergonomic, user-friendly, at-home red light therapy device. Here are some general recommendations on how to use light therapy to ease the symptoms of respiratory infections.
For cough or sore throat, applying the device on your neck (on or near the carotid artery) for approximately ten to twenty minutes is recommended. For a headache, apply the device on your forehead for the same period of time. Place the device on your nose for ten to fifteen minutes for a congested nose. If you experience shortness of breath, put the device over your chest for ten to fifteen minutes. You can also use it for muscle and joint aches by placing it over the area where you are experiencing pain for ten to twenty minutes.
Is Red Light Therapy Safe?
100%. Photobiomodulation is natural, non invasive, and chemical-free. It does not use ablation or heating for its healing effects (and there are no hazardous UV rays involved in it), so there is no danger of scars, burns, thermal injuries, tissue damage, or the possibility of getting skin cancer.
Studies have shown no adverse side effects or reactions to red light therapy. However, it is important to follow instructions closely, use recommended dosage only, and not exceed twenty minutes of daily treatment per specific area that you wish to treat. Consider consulting your physician to ensure light therapy is appropriate for you before starting the treatments.