Wednesday, September 7, 2016

How to Cure a Head Cold

Well, I think I may be coming down with a head cold. The first fall cold virus seems to always start making its way around town about the same time as school gets started. I am not sure why it works that way, but it's true. In September, the summer colds depart for warmer climes, and the real-McCoy colds set in.

But I haven't had a really full-on cold for three years. Yes, three full years! And the reason I haven't been sick for that long is because I basically take care of myself in the opposite way from how I grew up.

When I was younger the true dysfunctionality of my family was never more apparent than when someone was sick. If you were moderately sick, you were told you were fine, to "stop over-dramatizing," and that it was OK to go to school or work. So of course you did that, and you got sicker. Now, once you got sicker, you were told that you were still fine and so you kept going, until you could not breathe, had a 103 degree fever, and had to go to the emergency room. At this point it was considered OK to declare yourself "a little under the weather."

Side note: My father actually walked around with lung cancer for a couple of years before getting seen at the doc, at which point he was terminal and it was too late to do anything for him. He kept telling himself it was "just a little cough." 

Anyway, as I matured (a questionable claim, I know) I decided I was going to do things differently. Isn't that just the best thing about growing up -- that we can decide to change the rules and make better choices for ourselves? So my rules for being sick are somewhat the opposite than what my family and/or society advocates.

As a note, I am not a doctor, but I am a 55 year-old woman who taught classrooms full of sick children (because their parents did not want or were not able to stay home from work with them) and once saw my family through a documented bout with H1N1 yet did NOT catch it myself. So that kind of makes me an expert, right? Here are my anti-virus rules:

1.  If you think you are getting sick, stay home the first day you feel it. Sometimes your body is fighting something and it just needs a little more rest in order to rally its defenses. You could get up tomorrow and actually be fine. So yes, stay home, even though you are not officially dying. We Americans hail from a lot of Puritan stock, and the Puritans did not indulge themselves in this way (which is probably why half of them died their first winter in Plymouth). Take naps, watch TV or read, and stay hydrated. No exercising, no cooking, no yardwork, no career-work. At this point you're probably contagious anyway, so why spread things around? (Unless you want to show up before business hours, head for that annoying coworker's desk and wipe your hands all over their their stapler, phone, mouse and keyboard. That is OK.)

2.  Place your toothbrushes in near-boiling water or put them in hydrogen peroxide every time you brush. Use a clean brush every time you brush your teeth while you think you are sick. I keep about three toothbrushes handy so I only have to sterilize them once a day. I saw a study once that said this alone can cut a cold's time in half -- from nine days to about three, and I can personally testify to the truth that. Why put all that virus load back into your mouth via a dirty toothbrush two or more times a day? It just makes no sense if you think about it.

3. I know there are many studies that say echinacea is not effective, but my vote is that it is -- as long as you have it handy so you can start dosing yourself at the first sign of illness. Once a cold has taken hold, it's pretty useless. But right at the start....yes. It works.

4. Know that even though you may knock out 90 percent of the virus within a day or so, it will lurk in your system for up to a month, ready to jump back into activation if you go through a prolonged period of stress, alcohol consumption or lack of sleep. So everything in moderation for awhile. It's worth it.

5. This next bullet is about prevention. I am the Howard Hughes of the winery -- germaphobic to a tee. When someone is ill and I find out about it, I spray door handles, telephones, and even the ill person themselves with Lysol. Year-round, I use hand sanitizer on such a regular basis I should buy stock in whatever company makes Purell.  Most of us encounter sick people every day we're out in public and never know it. (The same people who send their kids to school sick also go to work sick, which is another reason why western civilization is doomed.) I use hand sanitizer after leaving each store I visit, especially if I've touched doors or money, and always after handling things like restaurant touch the menu, then pick up some fries with your fingers and voila! Instant contamination. I also sanitize after shaking hands with people. Just be discreet or you will offend when they see you squirt Purell all over yourself after touching their grubby mitts.

Oh, and I never touch my eyes, nose or mouth with my hands either. I'll scratch my face with the arms of my sunglasses or my sleeve before I'll use my hands. 

Anyway, today is a "do illness differently than your parents did," kind of day so I'm back to the sofa now and will post more later, once this virus abates. Stay safe out there and watch out for cold viruses as well as all the non hand washers of the world. They're both out there, I'm telling ya.

At least I do have some nice spots to indulge my malaise in.


  1. Ah yes. I, too, battled a nasty nasty head cold in the last week. I'm proud to say I'm on board with just about all of this already. Given both of our jobs it makes sense we've had to get pretty savvy about these things! Though I did make the mistake of cooking and cleaning my first day sick. I sort of told myself that if I was going to be down I didn't want to see streaks on the floor and eat crap. Oh my god I don't think it's ever taken me so long to prep a chicken. I had to wash my hands about 75 times per minute. So that tip of yours is worth following! I've also never tried echinacea. I'll get some and keep it on hand. Hope you feel better soon!

  2. Cold-Eeze is my magic bullet. It is clinically proven to cut the severity and duration of colds and flu. I agree about taking care of yourself early on. I am not a martyr and do not wish to expose others if I'm feeling ill. I also have a vested interest in getting well quickly.