It’s that time of the year again, folks! The summer bliss has ended and the sickness season is well and truly upon us. I myself have had three colds in November and, given that I work in a nursery, are thanking my lucky stars I’ve not had worse! That’s not to say colds aren’t atrocious little things, and I don’t know about you but I always seem to get really mild ones at the beginning (which take a chunk out of my immune system) before a get struck with a big one full force and I forget why I used to have the will to live.
So when I’m busy producing and expelling various forms of body mucus while cursing the heavens for deciding it was high time for a new bout of the fucking plague, I tend to surf the web to see if anyone has developed a miracle cure since the last time I was ill. No such luck on that front but there are a bunch of tips and tricks that can help you feel better. Different things work for different people of course, but I’ve decided to compile a long list of what works for me. Consider it a guide, made with love, for fellow sufferers.
1) What you should be putting into your body
– Fluids! I’m sure we’re all aware how important water is to keep you hydrated and flush out the bacteria and viruses making you feel so ill. Hot drinks are really helpful in loosening the mucus in your throat. Herbal teas are always a good idea, specifically chamomile which can help to soothe a cough and bronchitis and can help put you to sleeps as well. Honey and lemon in hot water is my own personal godsend for a sore throat – honey is an antimicrobial and can help kill the bacteria on the back of your throat. It’s an almost instant soother, not to mention honey makes any shitty herbal drink taste like liquid gold. Add some ginger for a really powerful sore throat remedy!
– Eat, eat, eat! Feed a cold, starve a fever, right? No, that saying is bullshit; you should eat as much as you can when you’re ill, specifically chicken soup. That one isn’t an old wives’ tale; not only does the hot soup break up some congestion, but also a compound found in chicken soup – carnosine – is an antioxidant which helps the body’s immune system fight the early stages of flu. As if that wasn’t enough, chicken is a great source of protein, which you will be needing lots of when fighting
the black death the common cold.
Some say it isn’t a good idea to consume too much sugar while ill as extra sugar hinders white blood cells from fighting infection. Any sugar your body needs should be gained from the usual sources. I, however, am a firm believer that when you’re sick you can eat whatever the hell you want* and I take full advantage of that. One of my favourite things to eat when sick is a can of fruit cocktail. It’s one of those things I never eat, but when I’m ill there is nothing I want more, so I always have to have a can in the pantry. It’s like sex in a tin, it’s so damn good.
Another tip is to eat (really) spicy food which can help to clear your sinuses and eustachian tube. As your taste buds suffer from the fuck-off vindaloo spices from hell, the rest of your body reacts by loosening up the mucus that is clogging your body. Plus, the strong flavours will be easier for you to taste when compared with bland foods. You know what that means? Indian takeaway!
– Aah modern medicine. I’m grateful for it, don’t get me wrong, but there are 1001 remedies for colds and flu and everyone has a different idea of what’s best. Well I can’t speak for everyone, but if you want a helping hand here’s my favourites. First up you’re going to want to get your ass some Sudafed, in particular the mucus relief variety. Sudafed is the best around for clearing congestion and chesty coughs. It’s combined with some paracetamol for some overall pain relief, which is considerate. There’s a bunch of different types of Sudafed which work on the different areas you struggle with as the cold progresses if you fancy something more targeted.
Night Nurse is a bedtime favourite of mine. It’s still got the good old paracetamol locked in there, but instead of the decongestant properties of Sudafed, Night Nurse has Promethazine, an antihistamine which suppresses the urge to cough, and also dries secretions in the nose. The best thing about it is that it causes drowsiness, which is a godsend when you’re having a bad night due to cold symptoms.
Finally, one of my favourite supplements is Vitamin C and Zinc. These babies give your immune system a kick up the backside, and if you take one daily I swear your resistance to illness will noticeably improve. These should be taken everyday when healthy, and when ill they may help to speed up the recovery process. Some people are sceptic about vitamins, but personally I swear by them.
2) Room and Body Maintenance
There is nothing worse than having to go to work or school when you’re feeling like shit, and everyone’s had to do it. If you are lucky enough to be able to stay home when ill then count your blessings. Also, sort out your room! Bed rest is key – try to remain in an upright position when awake and sleeping – and having a bedside table filled with all the essential tools to your survival is very handy when you don’t have anyone to take care of you. Keep yourself wrapped up warm but with a window cracked open during the day to help the air circulate. Impure air will aggravate your lungs and trigger coughing fits, which are not at all fun. Keep a bin near your bed for your pill boxes and snotty tissues, and speaking of tissues: for the love of god invest in a few packs of balsam ones. You’re going to be getting through seven or eight boxes during a bad cold and if you don’t stock up on smooth ones you are going to fuck your nose right up. Try to avoid that, but if you can’t then a little bit of Sudocrem will do the trick, keep some of that on you as well. Lip balm and hand sanitizer are handy to have nearby as well.
A great thing to try if you can muster the energy is to have a nice hot bath. Aside from that happy feeling you get when you’re all squeaky clean, the steam and moisture can loosen your congestion like a boss. I also recommend steaming your face, which sounds like an insult but it’s actually an effective health and beauty treatment. Get a bowl of boiling water, chuck a towel over your head and inhale the steamy goodness. It takes more stamina than I possess to stay under there for more than five minutes, but you’ll walk away feeling better for a while and – bonus! – it’s also really good for your skin.
An unfortunate side effect of regular and sometimes violent coughing is urinary incontinence, the unintentional passing of urine. It is a very common problem and is thought to affect millions of people worldwide hence why I wanted to discuss it. Some people have severe cases which can affect them at any time, but a lot more people have stress incontinence which generally surfaces when ill. Stress incontinence happens when the pelvic floor muscles are too weak to prevent urination, causing urine to leak when your bladder is under pressure, like when you cough. If you do suffer from it, it is important to remember that you are far from the only one. It’s pointless for me to suggest you try not to get embarrassed by it because that’s not that the brain works, but try to take a little comfort from knowing it’s not your fault and other people go through the same thing. Luckily there are things you can do to help with incontinence: exercises, quitting smoking, losing weight. But these obviously take time, so for the time being you’re just going to have to ride out your cold taking as many precautions as you can. You can invest in incontinence briefs, or if that’s too much you can buy some maxi pads (and change them often). Wet wipes are always nice to keep handy too. Sleep on top of a towel if you’re worried.
It’s vital to find things to keep your spirits up when it feels like your body is protesting against existence. Most people have their go-to favourite films, TV shows and books for when they’re poorly. But for anyone still searching, allow me to suggest some of my feel-good favourites.
Film: Some Like It Hot, The Railway Children, anything by Disney, Hitch, Legally Blonde, Wallace and Gromit, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Love Actually and the Grinch if it’s close enough to Christmas (god forbid you watch Christmas films any other time of year; the nation would fall)
TV: I tend to enjoy short format comedy series when I’m ill such as Family Guy, Gavin and Stacey, Red Dwarf, New Girl, How I Met Your Mother and Mrs Brown’s Boys.
Stand-up: The big belly laughs usually aren’t appreciated when ill (ooh they do not feel good), but stand-up raises my spirits more than anything else. Some favourite comedians who are currently out and about are: Reginald D. Hunter, Michael McIntyre, Eddie Izzard, Bill Bailey, Tim Minchin, Lee Evans, Russell Howard, Ross Noble, Jack Whitehall, Chris Rock, Ed Byrne, Jamel Debbouze (French), Jimmy Carr, Daniel Sloss and Rhod Gilbert.
Books: I don’t tend to read a lot when ill as it demands a fair bit more concentration than I can usually muster, hence why audiobooks are my saviours. I favour short, light and easy reads such as The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo, the Georgia Nicholson series by Louise Rennison and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
Here’s an idea if you want to be entertained: write a blog post about your strife. It’ll occupy a couple of hours and maybe you can help out a poor sod with a cold of his own who’s just looking for tips!
* Some exceptions to the “eat anything you want when ill” rule: obviously don’t eat anything you’re allergic to. I tend to stay away from fatty things when ill since these foods are harder to digest and may suppress your immune system. It goes without saying that drinking alcohol is a dumb idea as it suppresses the immune system and dehydrates you something fierce. Also the whole thing of avoiding dairy products is unnecessary; for every study that says you should avoid dairy products when you have a cold, there’s one that says you needn’t bother. I’ve never had a problem with them, and dairy products can be good sources of protein and vitamin D, which can both help fight infections.