Monday, 25 February 2019

Surviving a Cold, What Worked and What Didn't!

Head shot of lady with face obscured by large grey polo neck jumperBugs that arrive via our children, or air-conditioned virus-circulating offices, are always at their worst in winter. If I'm going to catch one, it is usually in that depressingly bleak lull between Christmas and Spring, when everything is particularly cold and miserable. This year's offering was especially unpleasant. Flu-maggedon hit our household like a ton of snot and I can genuinely say, it is the worst cold I've ever suffered. So, by way of explanation for my blogging absence and to help anyone else who gets it, here is a run down of how I survived the onslaught, what worked and where you can definitely save your hard-earned cash.

What I always find strange about the cold virus, is how it seems to affect people differently. Everyone has it for different lengths of time and suffers different long term symptoms. It's widely believed that immunity plays a big part in this, but I take vitamins and eat as healthily as I can and I didn't seem to suffer any less than anyone else, but maybe having a chronic illness plays a part. It's a bit of a minefield, really. you try and do all the right things, but you never really know if it's making any difference, because there's no way of knowing if it would be worse if you smoked 30 a day and ate nothing but leftover pizza and Oreos. Although, common sense dictates that that's probably not going to help. 

One thing that did help, probably more than anything else, was steam. It's free, it's really relaxing and it's easy to get hold of, so there's no reason not to try it. Baths are a great idea if you are not feeling great, and if you sit in the bathroom while the water is running, with the window closed and the extractor fan off, it gives the steam a chance to build up and have a positive effect on your sinuses and airways. Better still, I highly recommend filling a bowl with boiling water, adding a little cold for safety, no one wants a burnt nose, and perhaps a few drops of eucalyptus oil. Sit with your face over the bowl and your head covered with a towel to trap the steam and inhale for a few minutes at a time. This really saved me at night, before going to sleep and before a meal, because it revives your senses for a little while as well as helping to clear that blocked feeling that makes colds so miserable. 

Small dropper bottle with eucalyptus leaves in background

Another surprising success, which turned out to be invaluable for getting at least some sleep during the persistent night coughing phase, was the slightly weird VapoRub-on-the-feet method. My daughter and I both tried this out of total desperation and did not expect it to work, but it actually did. Not forever, we eventually woke back up, sounding like a motorbike failing to start, but it got us a lot more sleep than we'd had previously. If you are desperate enough to give it a try, all you have to do is spread the Vapor-rub liberally over the soles of the feet, and put socks on over the top. I know, I know, but seriously, if you get this virus, you will try anything to get some sleep and you can't knock it til you've tried it! 

The coughing was genuinely a nightmare, it was just relentless, to the point where we all had really sore throats, from the constant irritation. So, we naturally turned to throat sweets, but I am really unsure if they actually did anything. I often think sucking any boiled sweets would have a similar effect and I found taking small sips of water more effective for subduing the cough. When I looked at the ingredients of some of the popular brands, such as Lockets, I found they didn't contain any active ingredients, and their main benefit seemed to be honey, which you could just mix with lemon and hot water yourself, with more control over the strength of the ingredients and none of the added sugar. Some brands, such as Strepsils, do contain a mild antiseptic, called 2,4-Dichlorobenzyl alcohol, which might help with some causes of a sore throat, but if you are just trying to get a break from coughing, it's not going to help anymore than honey and lemon water. 

Overlay of honeycomb, honey dropper and jar of honey
Photo by Danika Perkinson on Unsplash

One thing that definitely didn't work for any of us, was cough mixture. I don't know why I spent nearly a fiver on the stuff, I was pretty confident it wouldn't do much, after all the bad press it has had about its effectiveness, but this was before I did the VapoRub-on-the-feet thing, so desperation had addled my brain. It was genuinely useless. In fairness, it was a basic supermarket own brand one, so perhaps there are some that do something, but I found the honey and lemon water and VapoRub far more effective, even if only for a few hours. The money would have been better spent on comfort food, or those posh tissues with the added balm. Which reminds me, you will get through a lot of tissues and you will also get the accompanying sore, red nose. For this you need... nappy cream! Honestly, it's a lifesaver. I used the supermarket own brand Sudocrem-esque tub, which cost about 50p. It is a barrier cream, which means its job is to stop moisture getting through, so it's brilliant at giving your poor nose a chance to recover overnight, giving you one less symptom to worry about. There is nothing worse than being forced to constantly blow your nose, when it is sore to even touch it. Just slap a layer on before you go to bed and let it work its magic. You can also apply it through out the day, as required. 

If you do end up catching a nasty cold this winter, I hope this helps get you over the worst. I always think you might as well hit it with everything you can, in the hopes that something works and don't forget to rest, rest, rest! Your body is in recovery mode while you sleep, but even if you can't sleep, resting in front of the TV is still really good for giving yourself the best chance to get better a bit quicker. Better still, I hope it passes you by completely, like it did with my son, who never got a sniff, the only one in the house who appeared to be completely immune. Colds are so weird. 


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