The Right Coast

May 01, 2004
By Tom Smith

I hate colds. I am sympathetic towards Steve Bainbridge's cold sufferings. The name "cold" sounds so innocuous, when they are anything but. What are colds, really? The diabolical strategy of tiny parasitic creatures -- viruses -- which are only barely alive, and which resemble evil nanobots out a science fiction horror novel. They trigger production of excessive mucus, which causes us to spew it out on others, so they too will get infected. They make us miserable, but not so miserable that we cannot go out and mingle with other prospective hosts. The whole virus lifestyle is disgusting. Ditto for parasites, which all viruses are. Indeed, perfect parasites. You know there is some parasite that lives in the guts of cows, gets dropped out in their droppings, and is then eaten by ants when they munch on grass. Some life stage of the parasite then migrates to what passes for the ant's brain, and reprograms it, causing the ant to want to go perch on the tips of blades of grass, where they get eaten by cows, and the whole merry process begins again. It's the circle, the circle of life.

Anyway, some things worth knowing about colds. First, ibuprophen, your good friend. More effective than asprin or acetomeniphen (Tylenol). You can take up to 4 ibuprophen every six hours -- that's the safe prescription dose. But don't take more or you could end up like that guy on the Seattle Seahawks who blew out his kidneys taking Advil for his knees and ended up on dialysis. The gelcaps are absorbed more quickly into your system. Also, you can take Advil and Tylenol at the same time; their mechanisms are quite different. So if you are in a lot of pain, you can actually take 4 advil and 2 extra strength tylenol. But asprin and advil are substitutes, not complements; don't mix them. Another very useful over the counter med for flu-ish symptoms is benedryl, sold for allergies. It is a potent anti-nausea med, used in chemo-therapy for that purpose. It's also a mild sedative, the active ingredient in many otc sleep aids. Sleep is good when you have a cold.

Another thing I hate about colds is how they lay you open to secondary infections of your sinuses and ears. A lot of lingering head colds are actually sinusitus. If you get it you need an antibiotic. The new Zithromax Z-packs seem to work well, especially for space cadets who can't remember to take a pill ten days in a row. Decongestants are good and help prevent secondary infection. They also suppress appetite and so can be used for diet pills, but increase anxiety and jitteriness if you are prone that way. Mix with caffeine with caution. Sudafed now has a 12 hour pill that helps with the space cadet problem. All the various otc cold and flu meds are just mixtures of the above pain meds, benedryl and sudafed active ingredients.

Alcohol is a sedative but is dehydrating and causes hang overs in excess, which do not mix well with cold symptoms. Steam baths and the like are good for temporary relief. The long hot bath or shower can't hurt. Plenty of fluids is correct, but if you're peeing all the time, you're overhydrated, which does you no good. All the fitness manuals stress hydration, but fail to mention overhydration as a problem, which it can be. Some claim mild exercise is better than complete bed rest. I think sunlight helps some; maybe it's just psychological. TLC from loved ones is good. It tends to be less long lived than the viruses I pick up, however. Maybe a web business is in order: It could send you emails asking you if you are feeling better and telling you how brave you are.