The Common Cold

Posted on March 1, 2014


The common cold is nothing to sneeze at, especially if it sneaks up on you as its older brother, the flu. I am not going to Wikipedia or online doctor sites to make this little column sound scientific and knowledgeable. Suffice it to say that I know viruses cause both and they both make you pretty miserable for a few days, and big brother can kill you.

The last time I got a cold must have been several years ago. Then, a few Sundays ago, a hint of the common cold, kind of like a rattle or noise in the night that you can’t identify, warned me. Gotcha. The next day I woke with sniffles, and by the middle of the day my sinuses were draining, my nose was stopped up, my head was hurting, and I knew I was down for the count.

And I didn’t even have a good book to read, either on my Kindle or the old fashioned way. Luckily I do have my laptop and I can drag it around to entertain myself while honking and sneezing, but it hardly beats a good book that takes you away someplace for a while.

And, of course, when you are an adult, you can’t just hit the bed as you did as a kid, and depend upon mom or dad or the maid, or, even better, all three, to wait on you hand and foot and look to your needs. My wife says some people actually like to be sick so they can receive all that attention. I say their wiring is screwed up, because I don’t like to be sick or hurting, even with all the attention.

But with a cold, and being an adult, you can’t just forget your work or chores. Even with a sympathetic spouse, one can lay in bed only for so long before the suspicion arises that you are a slacker. After all, what can a common cold do to you other than make breathing miserable, stop your nose, water your eyes, sore your throat, hurt your head, and otherwise cause you grief and discomfort, but not enough to put you out of commission.

So, you can go to work, and make everyone around you miserable, or stay home a day or two.

And, invariably, the question, very solicitous and earnest, is posed, “are you feeling better dear?”

And the answer is always not genuine, but not wanting to whine, “yes, a bit better—sneeze—thank you,” as you stuff your dripping handkerchief back into your sweatpants and move around the house snaillike. Zombies move faster. I’ve seen it, in the movies.

Now, I suspect every reader out there has had the common cold. You know of course there is no cure. It has to “run its course.”

Not particularly fond of suffering, I of course take medicines. Who, in their right mind, wouldn’t? But, have you looked at the labels lately of the side effects of even the most reliable of the old bromides on your shelves, like aspirin and Alka-Seltzer?

I favor Alka-Seltzer Plus, which addresses the old maladies associated with a cold–cough, nasal congestion, runny nose, headache. I got them all. What else can happen with Alka-Seltzer, other than gagging a bit on the fizzy stuff when you swallow it?

How about Reye’s syndrome. Reye’s syndrome? I can barely spell it. It is a “rare but serious illness,” but I’ll leave it up to you to read about it. The little fizzy tabs can also cause hives, facial swelling, asthma, wheezing, shock, and severe stomach bleeding if you are 60 or older.

How about my nighttime relief from another old standby, NyQuil for cough and colds. Not only will it help you sleep at night, but may cause liver damage and if you have a severe sore throat that lasts more than two days and is followed by fever, headache, rash, nausea, or vomiting, see a doctor promptly.

 I was scared to look at the possible side effects of my Cold-Eeze which tastes awful, so, in my judgment of medicines, it must be good for me. I take all of the above, and so far no strokes, heart attacks, jaundice, lockjaw, or other rare afflictions have struck me down and taken my mind off my colds.

The cold virus, like fleas on dogs, is a common pest associated with the human condition we call life. That there is no known cure is amazing to me, when one considers how far the frontiers of medicine have moved in the past century. But, like fleas and ticks and roaches, they share the earth with us. There are good viruses and good bugs but the common cold virus is not one of them.

Published on my column The Port Rail in The Tuscaloosa News as The Common Cold Sunday March 2, 2014

Posted in: Life in America