Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cold Advice You Should Stop Bugging People With

Some of you may recognize the following from my Facial Literature rant from a couple days ago:

Amazing how many people feel irresistibly compelled to share their own personal remedies or methods for relief with you when they discover you have a cold. "You know what you need?" they will ask you rhetorically, and after describing their unique prescription they almost always say something along the lines of "I swear by it" or "it works every time."

At first, it seems kind of nice that people

want to help; after hearing this routine about sixty times in two days, it makes you kind of roll your eyes.

I wish I carried around a clipboard, and asked each person who insisted on describing their special tonic of essential oils or lemons or ginger or even hard liquor to write it down on the clipboard.

"I think there is some space on page four," I would say, and then they would understand how tiring it is when people swear you need to buy a bunch of crap to fix your cold (to which there is no cure) when really all you need is extra sleep and water.

I could offer nothing more than a weak and tired half-grin when later that morning at work a coworker asked, "How's your cold?"

"Oh, it's fine," I replied. "Much better. Really, I just have a little lingering congestion in my chest. I'm sure it'll clear up nicely in a few days."

"Oh, you need some Vick's VapoRub!" the coworker blabbered on moronically as my eyes glazed over. "Trust me, it works like a charm. You just rub it on your chest. Vick's VapoRub."

I don't know if anyone else has been exposed to this phenomenon of cold advice overexposure, but one of the main reasons I am glad to be through with my cold is the unwanted suggestions really seemed unrelenting. I didn't know if I could take much more unsanctioned advice.

"Drink tea with a lemon slice"; "Take echinacea with goldenseal"; "Are you drinking enough orange juice?"; "Before bed, put a drop of eucalyptus oil on top of your head, and put a drop on your pillow where you breathe"; "Drink some rum with honey and lime"; "Oscillococcinum!"; "Dress head to toe in wool before you go to bed, and drink a ton of water. You'll just sweat it out"; "Dude, Jack Daniels makes this whiskey with honey in it...that's what you need."

Always, this dubious advice is prefaced by some version of the rhetorical "You know what you need?" question. Without fail, before you have a chance to say "I don't give a flying finch what you are about to say," they are engrossed in a detailed description of some worthless remedy that at some time they believed helped them work their way through a cold.

Just as predictable is the "Trust me: it works every time" line, or some variant thereof, to punctuate their inane council. It's as if they stand to gain something if they persuade you to try their specific technique, or buy the crap that they like to have when they are sick.

What is the reason for this? Why do people feel compelled to dispense their cold-related advice completely unprovoked, while all too often people can't summon up the courage to point out to someone that they have something stuck between their teeth, or even hanging from their nose?

Honestly, the common cold is a pretty strange topic for people to give unwanted advice for. The cold has no cure, and as such the body must work on defeating the virus in it's own way. The concept that a remedy will fix your cold is somewhat misguided.

True, there are things that will aid your body in it's struggle against the troublesome cold: hydration, zinc, sleep, hydration, vitamin C, sleep, and plentiful hydration are all very useful in making sure your body has a chance to work on the issue.

Sure, that is not a complete list. However, I am not compelled to rush out and buy a bunch of expensive supplements that may or may not be effectual when my tried and true method is quite reliable and cheap.

Also, it's important to be able to separate the things that help you get better from the things that help you feel better. For example, I like to drink peppermint tea with honey when I have a cold; it makes me feel better. However, neither peppermint nor honey are helpful in your body's efforts to rid itself of the terrible and vexing cold virus.

While I was sick, I hardly had the gusto to fend off these relentless tidbits of advice from pretty much everyone I encountered. I would just sort of take it, and pretend I appreciated the stupid idea I was just forced to listen to, and nod appreciatively as my malapropos adviser told me they "swear by it."

In the wake of this sea of misinformation, I feel compelled to dispel a few of the more common ideas that seem somewhat pervasive in the compulsive advice-giving community:

  • Antibiotics are not for beating a cold. "I take antibiotics when I get a cold; I don't mess around." This is probably the dumbest thing that I have heard many people tell me about fighting a cold. Not only are antibiotics pretty bad for you (you should avoid taking them unless there is no other realistic option for healing yourself), but they don't even do anything for your cold. A cold is a virus and antibiotics only work against bacterial infections. Even worse, taking antibiotics improperly can breed dangerous antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Using antibiotics for a cold will only make you worse off.

  • Over-the-counter cold medicine is useful in diluting cold symptoms, but it actually makes it harder for your body to heal itself (it has to distract resources from dealing with the cold to deal with the drugs you just took). Use them as sparingly as possible in your quest to abate your suffering.

  • Orange juice is not good for a cold. We all know that orange juice has lots of vitamin C, and I wouldn't argue that vitamin C can be helpful in getting though your cold. However, orange juice is a horrible choice; it is acidic (especially pasteurized, although even fresh-squeezed is still acidic) which causes your body to produce more phlegm--something your body is trying really hard to get rid of. You are throwing a wrench to the cogs by drinking orange juice when you have a cold. Find another vehicle for your precious vitamin C.

  •  Don't force yourself through a difficult workout. Small doses of exercise are fine, if you are feeling up to it. I'm talking about some yoga stretches, a set of push-ups or an easy bike ride. Not a full-on workout at the gym. Getting your blood flowing and your heart pumping can be beneficial, but straining yourself will just force your body to work on healing two things at once. Take it easy.

  • Echinacea is not helpful if you are already sick. Echinacea is an immune system stimulant. It's useful if you feel like you might become sick, but if you're already there then it's too late. By then, your immune system is already going nuts and doesn't really need further provocation. Taking echinacea when you are already sick is like... if your house were ablaze, and the fire department is struggling valiantly to contain the flames with their wildly blasting fire hoses, when all of a sudden you remember: "Oh yeah! I have that fire extinguisher in the kitchen!" It's too late; put the echinacea back in the cupboard.

  • Alcohol is not helping. This is an example of one of those things that might make you feel better, but that hot toddy you're nursing in between nose-blowings is actually distracting from your body's efforts to heal itself. Not only is alcohol tough on some of your key organs, some of which are lending a hand in the quest to vanquish the virus, but even worse is alcohol's dehydrating quality. Remember, hydration is your number one (and free!) asset in getting yourself well again.
Or maybe it's number two; it's possible that sleep is number one.
It doesn't really matter how you rank them, though. You need both, and lots of both, and you don't really need any other hokey nonsense to stifle your sniffle. The cold is a virus, and time is the only cure. You need to let the cold run it's course.

Get to bed, get some rest, and drink a ton of water--even if you're not thirsty.

Trust me, I swear by it; it works every time.

No comments:

Post a Comment