A Personal Cold War

It starts with a little tickle of dryness back in the throat. You figure it might just be low humidity or dust in the air, but it stays with you throughout the day as you move from one environment to another. Still, it’s not that much of a problem, so you don’t pay that much attention to it. But then you wake up the next day… Whatever glands there are in your throat have swollen to the point where it feels like they’ve clamped it shut. Your sinuses are packed full of…something. Your entire body feels tingly – and not in a good way, either. As you stumble out of bed and try to stand up, your head protests madly at this unconscionable disturbance.

There’s only one possible cause of all this torture.

You are under attack by the Common Cold.


Your entire life is thrown into disorder. You call your job to let them know you’ll not be coming in today – and you dread the piles of work that will await you on your return.

You check your medical supplies, and find to your dismay that it’s been so long since your last war that everything you have is well beyond its expiration date. There’s nothing for it but to collect yourself as best you can and head off to the nearest drugstore.

Somehow, you manage to make it there through the fog of illness. Now you find before you an unimaginable collection of over-the-counter remedies. Drugs for the nighttime. Drugs for the daytime. Liquids. Gel-caps. Lozenges. Name brands. Store brands. Child-safe drugs. “Extra Strength” remedies. Small packages. Large, “economy sized” packages. You try to concentrate on finding something that will best suit your particular collection of symptoms. In the end, you grab something that you hope will be at least minimally effective. On your way home, you realize that if you were that ill on your visit, what are the odds that if you go there when in good health, someone else in the store might be wandering around in a cloud of plague? You think of the people who work there, and shudder. At least they get employee discounts.

On arriving home, you find that you’ve grabbed the nighttime medication. It’s still early in the morning. You know that the stuff has things in it that will (you hope) knock you out. Not wanting to utterly destroy your daily rhythms, you put it away for when you actually do go to bed. For the moment, traditional home remedies will suffice.

Lemon tea. Honey. Menthol throat drops or chest rub. Chicken soup. You wrap yourself in blankets, wondering what the heck you are going to do with yourself for the day. You body is too weak for anything physical like housework, and your mind is in no condition for anything like reading. Even watching a movie seems like an insurmountable effort. Somehow, you make do, puttering around your home at minimal levels of activity. You eat whatever you’ve got that takes the least amount of preparation. You try and recall if it’s “Feed a cold and starve a fever” or “Feed a fever and starve a cold”, and what do you do if you have both?

Finally, it’s bedtime. You take the recommended dosage of your nighttime cold medication, and pray it will work.

The next morning, you wake up feeling significantly better. You make it in to work, and get through the day with only minimal aches, pains, sneezing, and coughing. But alas, that was only a cunning deception! When you get home, you collapse into a feverish exhaustion. All that effort of the day’s labor allowed for the attackers to regain the upper hand!

Another dose of drugs. By this time, you’ve got so many chemicals in you (what with all the home remedies and what not), you feel like an actual battlefield. One of the ones from the Western Front in World War One…

You manage to get a decent night’s sleep, and wake up surrounded by clamminess. That can only mean one thing – your fever has broken! You have won!

Later in the day, however, you realize there’s still a lot of work to be done. You must clean up the dead. Your nose starts running, and you are wracked with coughs as your body tries to eject massive amounts of goo from deep within your lungs. Gallons upon gallons upon gallons of unspeakable ooze are coming out of you. Your coughing is so intense that it feels like you are trying to turn your lungs inside out. Which, you realize, would be a good thing since it would make it so much easier to clean out the glop. You’re rarely sneezing now, but you’ve blown your nose so much that even the most lotion-infused luxury tissues are like sandpaper to your nostrils.

Handkerchiefs aren’t enough. You stuff your pockets with wads and wads of tissues – and toilet paper when the tissues prove useless – and try not to stray far from a sink or toilet, or some other place where you can safely hack up another pint of yeccch and quickly send it down a drain. You find your voice has changed – the crap in your lungs and sinuses has altered the resonances of your vocal apparatus. You start wondering – everyone says to drink more liquids when you have a cold, but doesn’t that mean that you are just helping to create more of that ick?

This goes on for a few days. Trying to be decent, you stay home as much as possible. No need to make others miserable. You start going stir crazy. What did you do to deserve this torment? You’re running out of simple-to-prepare food, and getting really sick of soup anyway.

At some point, an eternity from the initial assault, your head is clear, and you finally really do have your last cough and last blow of the nose. It would be a cause for celebration, if you only could be certain that it really was the last one. You leave the unused medications in a closet or cabinet, idly wondering if they will expire before you next come under attack. You’d rather not waste them, but you don’t want to need them, either….

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