Lunchtime Poll

Lunchtime Poll: Cold Remedies

I am a snotty mess. My ears are plugged, my throat is raw, my body is achy. Persephoneers: I need your help or I don’t think I can survive the week ahead. Give me your best (or most outlandish – I’ll try just about anything) cold remedies.

A bunch of cleenex, water bottles, and empty teacups near a bed
Image Courtesy of Traci Lawson

This upcoming week will be a challenge for me. I have not one, but two manuscripts to turnaround to authors, not to mention 40 hours of work for another contract. Although I love my chiblings (read: children of siblings), they got me sick with their precious germ-infested mucous, and so now I must turn to you. Whatcha got? Garlic up in my nostrils? Gargle green tea? GIVE ME YOUR BEST OR WORST. I HAVE NO DIGNITY.


By Michelle Miller

Michelle Miller is a twenty-something blogger, cook, freelance writer and editor living in Seattle, Washington. She’s a feminist trying ever-so-hard to embrace her spaces, conventional or not. She looks forward to numerous bad hair days, burnt cremes, a soapbox or two, and maybe (just maybe) a yellow polka-dot bikini in the years ahead.

37 replies on “Lunchtime Poll: Cold Remedies”

Grandma’s cold recipe:

Vinegar- preferably cider vinegar, but white vinegar will work.

Garlic- Minced or crushed. I usually just get one of those little jars of minced garlic they sell at the grocery stores.

Honey- If you have organic and don’t have pollen allergies, go for that. But if you must, you can mix in cheap honey from the store too.

If Congested- Cayenne pepper- SPARINGLY. don’t go over board or you’ll burn your mouth.

Throw together in a mason jar/small thoroughly cleaned milk jug. Shake vigorously. it will come out a yellowy cloudy brownish color. Drink constantly throughout the day. (also drink water, as dehydration is going to make everything worse.)

YOu can also make teas, but My brains aren’t in order enough to be crafting herbal recipes.

Like some of the other wise minds here, I favor tea with honey and lemon. I also saw someone above mention those little shower tabs you can get at the drugstore that release vapor into the shower. Those things are amazing, but go with the minty ones rather than the lavender ones- they work better.

Other than that, I find the best thing is just curling up on the couch with a big, cozy blanket and some trashy television when you have the time.

Yucky: Eucalyptus tea – basically, eucalyptus crushed up in boiled water. It is gross. If you happen to be in the posession of a Hatian grandmother, she will have some magical, also gross-tasting tea that you will have to drink as she watches you to make sure you finish it all. Either the tea or her glaring will make the germs go away.

Less gross: Lipton’s as hot as you can take it without burning your tongue off, with as much lemon juice (or fresh lemon) as you can stand. Put some VapoRub on your nose, even though you’re apparently not supposed to do that, and sit over the tea for awhile as you drink it/make sour faces.

For nighttime: I’ve found NyQuil to be the best at knocking me the fuck out, thus ensuring I get a good night’s sleep. The liquid form is disgusting, but is good at soothing your throat and putting you to sleep quickly. You will wake up feeling roofied and a little loopy, but better.

Alcoholic remedies: Morgan’s + ginger ale is yummy and kills germs. I think. For a fever or if you’re feeling particularly warm, wet your forehead and chest with hundred proof rum. Do not drink it.

My husband has had this illness for over a week now, and he’s still miserable, yet I remain completely illness-free so far. My secret is simply apple cider vinegar. I drink a couple of spoonfuls/capfuls most mornings and that’s it. Makes you wince for a second but otherwise it’s great stuff. He keep taking various OTC remedies and teas and stuff and nothing really seems to be kicking in on that end, but he won’t try to ACV. I didn’t take it over the weekend though so hopefully I didn’t sabotage myself :)

double yes for hot whiskey and tea. I also take a hot bath if I’m really congested — the steam feels great on the sinuses and the hot water feels great on your achy muscles. Downside: after the bath you get congested again…

Also for me – salty liquids, soups, broths, even mac and cheese all help soothe my throat and help with congestion. Good luck feeling better!

On top of a round of Emercen-C, I have two silver bullets for when I start to feel sick.

The first is a heavy dose of garlic, ginger, veggies, and lean meats – a stir fty! Start by putting gobs of garlic and ginger into a food processor (or just chopping them finely). Mix corn starch (a heavy spoonful) with water (enough to make it liquid), then add it to the g&g mix and set aside. In a hot pan, cook bite-size chunks of lean beef or chicken breast. Add chopped carrots, green beans, broccoli, or whatever combo of veggies you like. When the veggies are how you like, pour the g&g cornstarch liquid into the hot pan and stir until it’s thickened, fragrant, and everything’s nice and coated with sauce. Everything in here will give your immune system a hand.

The second is a long, hot bath. Heat has been shown to amp up the activity of white blood cells, and a bath is crazy relaxing too. Steam can also open up your sinuses. The trick here is to raise your body temperature to around 101 and hold it there. (Warnings: Do use a thermometer to check that you don’t ever get above 102, and if you ever feel woozy, dizzy, or otherwise awful, get out!!! Always drink plenty of water.) Sit in the empty tub, then fill with water as hot as you can stand. I like to watch an episode of anime or a short TV episode, using the toilet lid as a laptop stand, to time my bath to about twenty minutes. When you’re done, wrap yourself in a towel or robe, then get under the covers to preserve some of the heat.

Feel better soon!!

Zicam, or another zinc supplement works really well for me.  It doesn’t clear anything up, but it does make the cold shorter and less strong.  Be careful though!  DO NOT TAKE IT ON AN EMPTY STOMACH!!!!!   Makes both my roommate and me throw up… otherwise it’s awesome!

I will second the zinc recommendation, but if you don’t start taking it as soon as you start feeling ill, and take it often (every four hours or so), it’s basically too late. Echinacea and Emergen-C can help boost your immunity once you are sick. I take several psych meds, so I am afraid to take cold meds and can’t take traditional Nyquil, which has alcohol in it. For cough medicine, Delsym or another similar generic (Walmart has one called Durant that is meltable lozenges) has 30 mg (highest OTC amount) of the active ingredient, whereas Robitussin has only 10 mg. (I used to date a pharmacist.) I just got over a cold with a cough that lingered for a month.

If you’re trying to stay awake, I like 12 hour Sudafed (the behind the counter stuff) + your over the counter painkiller of choice for the sore throat (tylenol or advil or aleve). The 12 hour version seems to make people less jittery and hyper than the regular. If you’re trying to sleep, Nyquil cold and flu is good, it has tylenol, a cough suppressant, and an antihistamine to make you drowsy. A lot of people like the alka-seltzer formulations, but they are not my favorite because they all have like 4-5 drugs and you probably don’t need them all. If you’re going to mix things, be careful and check the labels for duplications or ask the pharmacist to check for you.

For non-pharmaceutical options, my favorite is ginger tea. Just boil some ginger slivers for 10-20 minutes and strain. It is strong, so if you don’t like ginger it might not be a good option, but I use it when my throat is raw from allergies and it really helps. Honey actually has evidence for helping sore throat, so any kind of tea with honey might help. Hope you feel better soon!

Honey, lemon and ginger tea! It’s brilliant. Also, steaming. If you haven’t got one, try and get one of those facial sauna/steamers. It’s an ace thing to have around and gives lasting relief, I’ve found (especially when sinus pain gets super bad). And, then of course there’s echinacea, garlic and vitamin C (in whichever form you can find). Other than that, I can only recommend a significant other who will bring all of the above to you, along with yummy things.

I wasn’t able to find it the last time I was sick, but Vicks used to make this thing, it was a pressed tablet that you put on the floor of the tub and the hot water of the shower melted it to turn your whole bathroom into a giant vicks-vapo-smelling-humidifier. It was amazing, but they didn’t have it at my usual pharmacy, and I was too sick to shop around. I did grab a vapor inhaler, though. Gosh, I love those things. They also make this honey-based nighttime cough and cold syrup that is glorious. Better than NyQuil, I think.

When I was in middle school, they used to make what I called “magic tissues” which were Puffs Plus with the Vicks menthol stuff on them to soothe your nose and clear you out.

Basically this is a notice to everyone to buy stock in Vicks because I single-handedly keep them in business during cold and flu season.

Also, the Alieve Cold and Sinus tablets from behind the pharmacy counter are the best at clearing out my head. You’ve got to be sure to get the stuff from behind the counter that you have to sign your life away and promise you won’t make meth with, though. The sinus stuff left on the shelves is mostly crap!

I had that bug a month or so ago and finally gave into the NetiPot… it was the best thing ever. Granted, when you’re bunged up with a cold, the relief only lasts 20 minutes or so, but it’s a glorious 20 minutes. And you can pretty much do it as much as you’re comfortable with.

For a sore throat, I swear by camomile tea with copious amounts of honey and lemon juice.

As far as pharmecueticals go, I really like Theraflu and Alka Seltzer Cold Relief… it might be placebo, but they seem to work better than pills for me and encourage me to keep hydrated. If you had what seems to be going around here, though, you may need to go get a ZPak… I was still bunged up for over a week and eventually got those antibiotics from the doctor. It was on its way out already, but the entire duration was a couple of weeks of hell. And that’s from someone with a fairly hearty immune system.

I love my neti pot!  It helps me breath much easier for at least a few minutes, and I find that colds/snot episodes (I get nose-colds sometimes, where I feel perfectly fine but my nose runs for like a week, which is a pain in the butt) last less time when I use a neti pot even two or three times a day (and you can use it as much as you want).  Use either distilled water or boiled water — there was a thing in the news a while back about people who got ameobas in their brain (via their sinuses) after using a neti pot with unboiled water.  Granted, you need to have ameobas in your water in the first place, but still, it seems like something to avoid.

I also swear by ginger tea + honey for all that ails you.

There is some kind of bug going around this year that just will not die. I had it for two and a half weeks, then the doctor gave me a 10-day antibiotic when I finally got in to see her. (Not to mention some cough syrup with codeine in it because nothing else would work. I’d popped blood vessels in my eyes and couldn’t get any sleep, I was coughing so hard.) Not three days after I finished the antibiotic, I was so sick all over again. I gave it a week and a half, called her back, and she put me on 20 days worth of antibiotics. I finished that up last week, and I still find myself coughing phlegm in the mornings, although it clears up after I’ve been moving around for a while. It just will not get out of my system.

I like pudding for sore throats. If you want something longer lasting in the quit coughing department Sucrets make your tongue numb and taste awful, but work.

For nose runnings, I like Day/Ny-Quil. The liquicaps are the easiest way to get both, as they come packed together in one box. Then just keep a box of tissues on hand until the storm blows over (or out, if you will)

Also, a glob of Vicks vapo rub in the bottom of a nice hot shower can help. (Just make sure you hydrate first so you don’t pass out in the steam)

The instructions in my packet advised santizing occassionally by popping it in the microwave. I did that once a day when I was using it a lot for a cold. And the instructions should also say to only use distilled, filtered or previously boiled (obviously you don’t want freshly boiled water), so as long as she’s using it as instructed, she should be okay.

Also if you’re using a salt solution, Wikipedia (heh) says don’t use sea salt as it usually hasn’t been iodised, unlike table salt. But really the risk seems to be very very low and not an issue if the person uses cleaned water.

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