Because Twist was being a whiny bi - Because our dear comrade Twist has been imploring others to assist him with the creation of DBD's, I thought I'd take advantage of my present fevered state.
You see, besides all the pooping and screaming, having kids comes with yet another perk - Once your offspring start pre-school or daycare, they get exposed to all manner of bugs which they incubate in their seemingly innocent little bodies and pass on to you. You can try handwashing and sanitizers...You can try training your little plague child to cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze...But sooner or later, something's going to get through. For some reason, your normally robust immune system curls over like a European big man playing post defense when confronted with previously unseen kiddie cold. And while they just get a runny nose or a cough, you get the equivalent of a viral pimp-slap.
So now what? You're sick - do you just lay there and wait to die or recover? There's got to be just tons of stuff that you can take...what the heck are all those darn chemists doing, anyway? (besides finding new ways to get high)
A few disclaimers first. Consider this info to be coming from "some guy." Any attempt to take this as actual medical advice will be strictly ridiculed by the Ohio Wonder Twins and the ensuing costs assessed to Twist. Similarly, keep in mind that for every study finding that X does Y to Z, there are another three saying the exact opposite. (Honestly, it's Z's fault for dressing that way.) It's really, really difficult to separate out the reasonable/useful from the crap studies because so many of them have conflicts of interest due to funding and/or politics...other inexplicable reasons. Most of the research that I have decided is reasonably credible comes either from the UC Berkeley Wellness letter or directly from the source via PubMed or Medline.
From old wive's tales to urban legends there is a ton of get-better-fast advice out there...and most of it is Sanchez. For example, a study from Britain claims that warm air will lessen the extent of an upper respiratory disease, so they recommend breathing from a hair dryer for 20 minutes each day. (Good thing Scootie got out while she was still sane.)
One of the worst offenders out there is Airborne: "Developed by a school teacher." Yeah, so in between eating paste and sniffing markers, this lady also manages to be a nutritionist, MD, and elite researcher. There are absolutely zero credible studies that show this supplement is anything more than a fizzy multi-vitamin. The same goes for Cold-eze, Cold-Rx, and other cool-sounding wonder-pills. Other cougars: zinc, echinacea, garlic, astragalus, goldenseal, elderberry, gingerroot, andrographis, hyssop, wild indigo, myrrh, lemon balm, and peppermint.
Vitamin C gets a partial pass. Most studies don't show that large or small amounts make any difference - however a few showed that it might reduce the duration of a cold by a bout half a day. More importantly, notable Cal luminary Glenn Seaborg was known to take a gram a day, and he was a reasonably intelligent and well-connected man of science. The verdict here is that "it probably won't hurt," but there's no guarantee it will help.
Certain ginseng supplements have shown promise. The problem is that the folks responsible for regulating ginseng are apparently related to the same folks in charge of investigating 'sc's
pro college football team. So, you don't ever really know what you're getting.
What about the drugs? Happy pills and joy juice abound, but are all simply palliative in nature. They lessen symptoms, but don't actually make you better. (Note that you have to be really careful with cold medicines that combine multiple ingredients. It's often better to take medicines with only a single active ingredient so that you can control the effect and side-effects that you're getting.) The usual suspects:
1) Decongestants (pseudoephedrine or phenylephedrine/sudafed) - helps with nasal congestion by narrowing blood vessels
2) Antihistamines (diphenhydramine/benadryl, chlorpheniramine - less histamine = less sneezing and mucous production
3) Anti-fever/Anti-pain (acetaminophen/tylenol) - Lowers fever, makes sore throats/achy joints feel better
4) Expectorants (guanefesin/mucinex) - causes a thinning of mucous which makes it easier to expel
5) Cough suppressants (robutussin) - Sanchez! No OTC cough suppressants are any more effective than a placebo. With a high enough dosage, you can go Robo-tripping...but to help your cough, you need a prescription med with codeine. Or, you can spike your tea with some type of booze because alcohol also lessens sensation which makes you less likely to cough due to hyper-irritated/sensitive lung tissue.
6) Vapor rub (menthol/eucalyptus oil) - Another Sanchez! Menthol smells mediciny and feels all cold and tingly so it must be doing something, right? This is the modern version of wearing a camphor bag around your neck. The only studies here are sketchy ones paid for by the companies who produce vapor rub products or by the natural living tree-hugging crowd.
Oh Noes! We're dooooooomed. Big Pharma has us by the curlies. Does anything actually work? Well, here are the few winners: (besides actually going to the doctor - but that would make far too much sense)
1) Drink plenty of fluids - It doesn't "flush" the disease out of your body or make you recover any faster.
What it does: Prevents dehydration and helps keep your mucous from getting too thick.(which makes it easier to expel)
2) Drink chicken soup - It still seems crazy to me. But there are several apparently credible studies showing that chicken soup actually lessens the amount of neutrophil activity. (which would tend to lessen inflammation in a respiratory disease and make you less congested, less prone to coughing.) One of the studies said that "Chicken soup significantly inhibited neutrophil migration and did so in a concentration-dependent manner. The activity was present in a nonparticulate component of the chicken soup. All of the vegetables present in the soup and the chicken individually had inhibitory activity, although only the chicken lacked cytotoxic activity. Interestingly, the complete soup also lacked cytotoxic activity." 1Translated from geek to English, this essentially means "we don't know how the hell this works, but it works."
3) Exercise - Regular exercise boosts your immune system. It can even help you recover faster from a mild cold because of increased circulation. (not recommended if feverish, achy, or coughing uncontrollably)
4) Nasal saline rinses - Helps to thin out mucous, makes it easier to expectorate. Somewhat gross, but effective.
5) Humidifier - warm moist air is less irritating so you cough less. It'd be nice if it had the same effect on certain people.
6) Meditate (or try not to stress/get upset) - Sounds borderline hippy-ish. But, it's well-established that chronic stress increases cortisol which slows the production of good prostaglandins as well as immune cells. So, if you're always getting upset at Comcast, or Oakland, or baseball, or tomatoes, or OSX, or the iPad, or consoles you might find yourself getting sick more often.
7) Get some zzz's. Seems simple enough, but it's the best way to avoid being sick and the best way to recover. Nothing like the tincture o' time.
But science, schmience. It's not like we let the truth and facts get in the way. To this day, my grandmother still swears by these little home-made packets of unknown Chinese herbs that she boils in a soup. Since we have no idea what we're eating, we affectionately call it "deer gonad soup."
So, fellow sickos, misery loves company. Share your stories of pain, suffering and illness. Do you ever call in sick, or just gut through it? What cures and gimmicks have you tried? Give up that tried n' true family secret!