Oh God, y’all, I think I’m gonna die. At the time I’m writing this, I’m on Day 4 of the world’s nastiest cold. I’ve gone through a whole box of tissues and a bag of cough drops, and I’m starting to lose my voice. I am uncomfortable and want nothing more than to crawl under my covers and marathon Buffy, Season 7 until my eyes fall out of my head. Or I fall asleep. Whichever comes first.
I’m pretty self-sufficient when I’m sick. After all, I’ve been living more or less on my own for the last 9 years, so I’ve learned how to cope. I still have to go to work, make sure I have clothes to wear, take care of my pet, feed myself, etc., and I have to do it entirely without assistance from another human being. Because of this, I keep my medicine cabinet stocked with some very specific and helpful OTC items.
- Thermometer. Sometimes it’s just a cold, but sometimes it’s strep throat. Or influenza, which is worse than strep. The easiest way to tell is to take your temperature. If you never show a sign of fever, it’s probably just a cold, so keep drinking fluids and just stay comfortable. If you have a fever, you should probably see a doctor. (Note: The flu does not always come with a fever. I am not a doctor, so if you think you should see one, get in your car. Now.) I typically take it as a rule that if I’m not feverish, then I’m not really in an emergency situation and can at least wait until my primary care physician’s office is open, rather than going to the ER.
- Aleve and Excedrin. I’m a baby about pain. (Which is odd, because I just about sliced my thumb off once and was completely blasé about it.) I tend to get muscle aches in my thighs and lower back pretty easily, and they often keep me from sitting or standing comfortably for more than five minutes. Aleve takes care of that. And while I wouldn’t say my headaches are migraine level, they do feel like someone is enthusiastically drilling into my temple, so I like to nip those in the bud. I typically keep a bottle of each in my desk at work, too.
- Night Time Cold Medicine or Tylenol PM. Sleep is so important. And it’s so hard to get when you’re not feeling well. Pain or sickness can keep you up for hours. I know if I can’t breathe, I can’t sleep either. Rather than toss and turn all night, I prefer to just knock down two tablespoons or caplets of the good stuff and send myself to dreamland. The dreams are weirder, but at least I can survive the next day.
- Antibiotic Ointment and Bandages. I casually injure myself a lot. My legs are generally a mess of bruises from where I’ve fallen or run into things, I slice off bits of myself while cooking, and I tend to bite my fingernails until they bleed. Being able to do first aid quickly and easily is a must, and stopping infection before it starts is important.
- Mucinex. I know that this stuff can be expensive. I work in a place with a clinic that will dispense it for free, but I know not everyone is so lucky. It’s a good thing to have on hand though, since if you start taking it at the beginning of a cold, it will keep it from settling in your chest and prevent a case of pneumonia. (I was advised this by a medical professional. Normally, I don’t take prophylactic OTC meds.) It thins out the mucus in your chest and makes it easier to expel. And while it can be pricey, you don’t take a lot of it, just one or two pills a day for a couple days, so it’s easy to keep around.
Notice that daytime cold meds are not a must for me. In fact, I don’t really like them because they make me loopy as all hell, and I have a hard time being functional on them. Much like “David After Dentist,” daytime cold medicine makes me wonder if this is “real life” a lot, thus getting me in trouble at work and while operating appliances, like the stove.
I recommend getting the basic medication and supplies that you need before you have a problem. That way, when you wake up sick, you can make a plan of action for how you’re going to handle your illness and whether you need to see a professional, just pop a couple pills and lay in bed, or doctor yourself into functionality for a long work day.
Since I have so many fellow Persephoneers who are sick, how do you guys stock your medicine cabinet?