Sunday, February 16, 2014

Coping with the Common Cold

Our family just can't seem to get healthy this winter. Colds and coughs and stomach bugs, as soon as one person recovers another one goes down. It seems to be my turn again as I started with my classic symptoms of an upper respiratory infection last night, right as my daughter was finally getting over her most recent stomach bug. Sore throat, achy, that hot feeling in my chest and sinuses that isn't really a fever but sure doesn't feel good... I've had it dozens of times.

For some reason I seem to be susceptible to colds. I can't count how many bouts of laryngitis I've had, which is really a hazard for a psychiatrist. It's been worse since having a child. Anything my daughter brings home from school I'm sure to get. My husband doesn't, for some reason. Maybe he's the unusual one in his resistance to illness? Sadly, cold medicine just doesn't do much to make me feel better. I seem to get side effects without benefits when I take over the counter decongestants, cough suppressants, etc... Ibuprofen for the aches can help but otherwise I pretty much just have to wait it out. So I'm always looking for new tricks to make the suffering less.

Rest, of course, is an obvious one. I definitely notice that when I can sleep a little extra at the time the symptoms start I get better faster. It's not always easy to arrange my life to accommodate that solution, but it is effective. It's even better if I rest in a room with a humidifier, and best of all a humidifier with a vicks vaporizer in it. This is a trick I picked up as an adult that really cuts down on the sore throat that comes with every cold.

Complete rest isn't always good though. I need extra sleep but during the day it seems to be better not to lie on the couch in misery, but rather to be upright and moving around somewhat. I'm not sure if that's physics (better drainage) or distraction (not just focusing on symptoms) but short gentle walks, gently yoga, and generally participating in my family's life does seem to keep me feeling better.

Warm fluids (not too hot though) definitely help. I think there's a comfort factor in addition to improved hydration. I love chicken soup, and my family's recipe involves plenty of vegetables in addition to chicken, broth and rice, so there's plenty of good nutrition to build up my body. I also find that very salty fluids cut down on my sore throat, while tea with honey can soothe any residual aches. Acidic foods like orange juice don't actually make me feel that much better, because my throat ends up feeling pretty raw.

I take Airborne, an over the counter non-FDA approved herbal remedy at the maximum dose when I am sick. It's sold as an immune system booster. It has zinc and vitamin C and echinacea and ginger in it (plus plenty of other herbs and vitamins). I recognize that is very non-scientific of me, since there are no studies stating it will help. But my whole family (except my sister - she's a rebel) swears by it and if it gets me better through a placebo effect I'm okay with that. It really does seem to help, cutting my symptoms down to a more normal 3-4 days instead of the weeks of symptoms I used to get each time I got a cold. I also use nasal rinses, which was recommended to me by a doctor when I had a sinus infection. It's not very pleasant to do but it seems to cut down on the congestion and I think it helps prevent secondary infections.

Other than that it's just a tincture of time until I get better. But if you have any other tricks please let me know!