You're doing it wrong: Cold remedies

Last updated 09:29 10/06/2014
Getty Images

OLD SCHOOL REMEDIES: Children of Danygraig nursery school, in Swansea, gargling as a precaution against flu in winter weather in 1938.

Related Links

13 ways to beat a cold or flu Painkillers may allow flu virus to thrive

Relevant offers

Well & Good

Triathlete gives hope to chronic fatigue sufferer Why reducing your carbohydrates will actually limit your ability to lose weight What makes Jude Dobson feel good? Long sleeps linked with death and stroke Why teen girls weep for One Direction OpnLttr: Is this the most passive-aggressive site on the Internet? Menopause is no longer a dirty word thanks to Angelina Jolie The MIND diet helps in fight against Alzheimer's Does losing weight really make you happy? A dying man's words for his daughter

Last week, I was planning to develop a recipe for zabaglione for the latest instalment of You're Doing It Wrong, the Slate recipe series. However, for the last several days I've been suffering from the most severe and stubborn cold of my adult life.

The last thing you want to do when you have a cold is to whip up a custard sauce that vaguely resembles the mucus you've been trying to expel from your head, so zabaglione will have to wait for another day. Instead, I am offering a recipe for surviving the common cold. (I am not a doctor; please do not mistake the following opinions for legitimate medical advice.)

The biggest mistake people make when they're suffering from colds is to take decongestants, like Sudafed. I speak from experience: I began my week of congestion by taking 120 milligrams of pseudoephedrine twice a day. But pseudoephedrine is a false friend: it can temporarily make it easier to breathe, but it doesn't shorten the duration of your cold and causes "an increase in the thickness of lung secretions" in the long run.

Instead of trying to temporarily suppress congestion, I discovered it was better to help the mucus move along by drinking lots of water and taking an expectorant like Mucinex, which, to use a euphemism, "helps make your cough more productive."

Better than any over-the-counter medicine is the neti pot, that little teapot-resembling receptacle used for nasal irrigation. The ritual of using a neti pot is a bit of a pain: you have to boil water to kill off brain-eating amoebae, than you have to wait for the water to cool to a comfortable temperature. Finally, you mix it with salt - about 1/2 teaspoon per cup of water - and use the neti pot to pour it through your nostrils. (Be sure to use plain sea salt or kosher salt, not iodized salt.) If you're not used to pouring liquids into one nostril and watching them trickle out the other, using a neti pot will feel weird at first. Just keep your mouth open and tilt your head around slowly until the water begins to flow steadily.

Finally, when you have a cold it's important to avail yourself of other people's cooking. Seamless is a godsend when you have a cold; do not feel ashamed about ordering delivery for most meals until your symptoms subside. (Or, if you have a particularly compassionate housemate, perhaps you can guilt him or her into cooking for you.) Remember that spicy food can temporarily relieve your sinuses of their mucosal burden: I particularly recommend pho, which provides much-needed micronutrients, calories and fluids, doctored with lots of chilli sauce.

Anything else you do for a cold will be more of a placebo than a functional treatment, but do whatever makes you feel good, whether that's wallowing in your misery or distracting yourself with work. I've had good results with a relatively even mix of wallowing and working. If you do go to the office, be considerate of your coworkers: shut your office door or retreat to someplace out of other people's earshot before you blow your nose and cough. If you go the wallowing route, don't forget to brush your teeth, shower and put on a bra if you normally wear one - these simple steps really will make you feel better.

Ad Feedback

- Slate


Recipe search

Special offers
Opinion poll

Do you believe eating superfoods makes you healthier?

Yes, I feel so much better when I eat them.

No, it's all a con.

I don't know, I can't afford them.

Vote Result

Related story: (See story)

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content