February 02, 2010

I had this great idea for a post, but then I got a cold.

Not just any cold, but a lay-you-flat-on-your-back, aches-and-chills cold. It was the sort of cold that hits hard, lasts for three or four days, and leaves you with unpleasant memories of sinus bleeds and unimaginable mucus production.

From the time I was a little kid, I've never been able to get sick like normal people. Instead of just strep throat, I end up with scarlet fever (senior year in college). Instead of a stomach virus, I get something nasty that makes the doctor wince (age 14). And instead of a nice, boring, take-some-Dayquil-cold, I ended up with the same thing that flattened two of my coworkers and made me want to die.

This morning, though, I felt better. Not good enough to work out with Attila, but good enough to work out. And that got me thinking about what's good to do when you have allergies, or your tummy is tempermental, or you have The Cold From Hell.

Please bear in mind that, although I am a medical professional, I am not the person you should be listening to on life-or-death matters. If you have chest congestion, body aches, fever, or weeping sores, please stay in bed. If you're not in that category, and the cart with the guys yelling "Bring Out Yer Dead!" hasn't stopped by your house in a while, keep reading.

Things to do when you have a cold:

1. Walk.

This is one of the few times that I would recommend dressing for the weather and getting outside at midday, when it's warmest (in winter) or early in the morning, when it's coolest (in summer). A nice, gentle walk of a mile or so will do wonders for your mood, your circulation, and will loosen up all that junk that's been sitting in your head for two days.

2. Drink.

No, seriously. The whole point of cold medications is to make you more comfortable. Unfortunately, the active ingredient in over-the-counter cough medicine hasn't been shown to be any more effective than a placebo, and it can have nasty side effects. Plus, the usual cold medicine contains stuff that can raise your blood pressure, damage your liver, and make you hallucinate. I'm a big fan of the old-fashioned hot toddy: One part cheap-ass whiskey to one part honey and a dash of lemon juice, all mixed up in very hot water. Take that with your Sudafed and ibuprofen and you'll sleep all night.

Just please don't mix acetaminophen with alcohol, as I don't want to see you in my CCU.

3. Yoga.

No sh*t: Yoga, while challenging at times, can sort of realign your whizznits and make your zoombahs work better. At least, that's what I found during this latest bout of Snotball Express. Downward Dog isn't the best position to hold for more than ten seconds at a time, but yoga in general will make you feel *so* much better.

4. Hot water bottles.

Can't live without mine. It's better than a cat for warming your feet and getting rid of that "I want my Mommy" feeling. Buy one from the drugstore, wrap it in a pillowcase after you fill it with nearly-boiling water, and stick it at the end of your bed. Your tootsies will thank you. Note that this is also a useful device to have around when you lift too much or strain a shoulder muscle.

5. Good nutrition.

There are times when any calorie is a good calorie, and times when every calorie should count. Having a cold or sinus infection is one of the latter times. I suggest low-sodium chicken broth, spiced up with garlic and poblano peppers, lots of good-quality fruit, and a multivitamin. When you can't smell anything, you're less likely to eat, so getting all your daily allowances of vitamins is doubly important. Lemon or orange juice in water soothes a sore throat and cuts the crud, and hot chocolate--in addition to being tasty--can give you needed calcium. I'm partial to acidic fruit like pinapple, kiwi, and oranges, and full-fat dairy in small amounts. Most people can go for days without consuming protein and have no ill effects, but vitamin C and zinc are essential to good immune function. I myself take a zinc supplement, but there's no clinical evidence that it helps with colds: I'm banking on the 30% cure rate of the placebo effect.

Now that I'm feeling better, I'll start working out like a demon again. Attila has promised new tortures for me this week; you'll hear about them for sure. Meanwhile, I'm going to celebrate being able to breathe through my nose and not having to sleep upright.

(It wasn't so much the stuffy nose that bothered me as the sleeping upright in a chair. And it wasn't so much the sleeping sitting up that bothered me as it was the fact that one of the cats took it upon himself to curl up atop my head while I slept. And it really wasn't so much the cat on my head as the fact that he snores something awful.)

Wash your hands and eat your greens, People. And when it happens that you feel okay-but-not-great, do something gentle for yourself. Then have a hot toddy and park yourself in a nice comfy chair. I'll send the cat.


  1. Ill take that hot toddy please!

    And toss back at you the query of 'why is it that good nutrition is so important when we are sick and yet its precisely then that I long for cr*p, errr, stuff I dont normally?"

    (please to see chocolate chip cookies out of the premade tube and cross reference under fresh made *cheap* bakery bread)

    glad youre better now.

  2. This is a great post! Just at the time that everyone is getting sick.
    Huh...I will look into the drinky, drink next time I'm sick instead of the other stuff :)

  3. I like the label "goodness gracious great balls of snot".

    Hope you get better soon!

  4. i love monty python references in the morning... might have to throw my hubby on the cart next time around tho - he's got Lilly's cold now too. Yep. all three of us. fun times.

    If liquor didn't make him sleepwalk, and if i wasn't prego, i'd be alllll over that hot toddy! Maybe i will take a ride to the mall and walk around there today.. 13 degrees is a little too cold for a walk with a sick coughing toddler.

  5. Two things have gotten me through the winter without a cold or the flu. (ok, 3 if you could the regular flu shot)

    1. 1,000 mg. (or whatever the measuring factor) of vit. C a day, split into 500 in the morning, and 500 after dinner

    2. using a paper towel to open doors at work. I started that because of the potential swine flu issue, but have kept it alive. I KNOW it's been a factor in keeping the heeby jeebies at bay this winter.

    Glad you are starting to feel better!

  6. Thank you for reminding me that I need to buy a new hot water bottle. I already have two cats that like to sleep on top of me, so no need to send yours. Filing that hot toddy recipe away though. :)

  7. Miz, there's actually a reason why you crave crap when you're sick: simple carbohydrates, like sugar (cookie dough) and white flour (cheap bakery bread) are easy to break down into glucose.

    Your brain uses glucose for energy. Nothing else. At a time when your belly is inefficient at best and your immune system is ramped up, meaning you probably have a fever--which makes your brain work harder and need more energy--you naturally crave sugars. That allows your brain to get the food it needs without overworking the rest of your system.

    As for the hot toddy, I can tell you this: if you get a buzz off of one, you're doin' it wrong. The most you should get is a lovely warm glow and the desire to sleep.

    Which is what I've got right now, toddy or no.

  8. Love your blog! We have similar writing styles, which means I think you are awesome! Hope you feel better soon...I am also looking into complete sinus removal.

  9. Word Verification: "poker" --goes nicely with the hot toddy.

    Great post, Jo. Something else I do is a nasal wash, simple warm water with 1/2 tsp salt 1-2 times per day when sick.

  10. Good advice.

    It's funny how you don't miss unfettered breathing until you're congested and such.

  11. I'm home sick right now, so I definitely feel your pain!

  12. Great advice!

    I've been lucky (knock wood) about not catching bugs, but I know all I have to do is get too smug about it and I'll be knocked flat on my ass with the next thing that comes around.

    Glad you're feeling better, and looking forward to hearing what new tortures Atilla comes up with!

  13. "I'm not dead yet!" :)

    Great post again Jo! And I'm a huge fan of the hot toddy for head colds. Also of cats for warmth. Although not on my head. And mine both snore as well. Silly buggers.

    (I once had a dream I was being robbed and the bad guy was strangling me. I woke up with a start to find a cat draped across my neck truly strangling me. What is with those silly fur balls?!?)

  14. You forgot one: Sleep! Or am I the only one who feels like death on a stick when she has a cold? In fact, just thinking about this is making me sleepy...

  15. I have bronchitis.
    And now I have a list of things I need to get from the grocery store, and the liquor store.

  16. Excellent ideas for when you get the "Martian Death Flu," or something akin to it.

    We have plenty of cats here, and they are connoisseurs of comfort. They enjoy snuggling up to our warmth as much as we enjoy having them do it.

    A friend of mine used to recommend the hot toddy when you had a teething or colicky baby, too. Not for the baby, for mom. A hot toddy, and the crying just doesn't bother you as much!

  17. Have been battling a cold myself for the last month. I usually get one bad cold a year. I need to move to Florida for the winter.

    Send me money and I will!

    Anyways, I continued to work out although at a much lighter pace.

    Finally getting over the cold and now picking up the pace.

    Florida here I come.


  18. @Not so reluctant Athlete -- don't get a sinus removal!!! They're there for a reason, and very very important for you. If anything, consider a slight turbinate reduction, or having drains put in -- anything more, and your nose and sinuses can very seriously dry out and complicate life much more than you'd care to know.

  19. I agree with all your points especially the hot toddy! My hot water bottle comes in the form of two fat fuzzy kitties.

  20. Did you say hot toddy!!!! :-)

    If I just have a cold, no body fevers or aches, I hit it anyway & usually feel better after. I may being doing less intense but I work it out! Lucy for me, I rarely get sick, physically that is! :-)

    Hope you feel better!

  21. You and I walk hand in hand when it comes to getting sick Jo. I have noticed that the more I move around when I'm sick, the less my nose is stuffed up. I try to do a VERY light workout when I'm ill just to keep my blood circulating because of that.

    Rahim Samuel
    Publisher, Wellnessbymanymeans.com

  22. I also get sick in the worst ways possible. The thing I get the most are allergies that just make me want to die. I find that sunshine and lots of water relieve the symptoms and the crankiness I feel.

  23. I vote for heated mattress pad over hot water bottle, any day. When the stars align just right, it's (to quote a friend) "like sleeping in a jacuzzi!"

    I'm also a big fan of eucalyptus oil to fight congestion. I either shove a Vick's stick up my nose, inhale straight oil fumes, or rub some oil in my hands an inhale the "diluted" fumes, depending on how congested I am.

    Sorry to read that you're leaving - though I respect the decision. I'm a fairly new reader so I look forward to the eventual reorg.


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