Thursday, September 5, 2013

Just call me Patient Zero

Over the holiday weekend the boyfriend came down with a mystery illness; that was Saturday. I won't lie, when he complains about being sick...I very rarely pay attention. That sounds terrible but the guy has more than one condition (allergies/asthma/job with long hours) that could equal fatigue, or congestion. My home could be considered the allergy pill capital of the world as I keep 3-4 OTC allergy medications on hand, Benadryl (which I buy in BULK), and various other allergy meds (Flonase, anyone?) on hand at all times.  No one takes the allergy meds.  So when someone complains about feeling yucky, I don't take them seriously until it is undeniable.  While I understand those things might not work for everyone, you can't complain about the resilience of your allergies when you don't do anything for them...that is like expecting to win the lottery but never buying a ticket.

So, like the good girlfriend I am I pulled out a big bag of chicken and started boiling water. Is there anything more warm and fuzzy than a bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup?  I don't remember getting homemade soup growing up though I can't remember why, maybe my mom didn't make it because we liked the stuff from a can back then. Perhaps I just didn't like her soup...which is possible as I've come to realize as an adult that my mom and I can have very different opinions of food and perhaps it was just hers that I didn't care for (if you ever read this Mom, I'm sorry). The boyfriend was the one who taught me how to make chicken soup. Though if it were up to him it would just be what I can only describe as Chicken and Super Noodle soup. In our house, I'm the one who adds veggies.

I'm rambling. Sorry. It's the cold makes my head a little swimmy.  As you can probably guess, after taking care of the boyfriend for a few days I caught the bug myself and even though I wasn't the first, it still amuses me to refer to myself as "Patient Zero". Only I seem to be having a tougher time with it and I realized today that it is because I haven't been doing the things I normally do for the particularly nasty common, here are my remedies for dealing with the crud:

SLEEP.  I think adequate sleep is the most important thing when you are least it is when I am.  Go to bed early.  Take a day off to rest and not expose your coworkers further.  Sleep through daytime t.v.  Do whatever you can to get extra sleep while your body is fighting off a bug.

Chicken Noodle Soup. They've done studies and tests and trials...and like just about everything, some say it works and others say it doesn't. Whether there is any kind of real medical proof as to if Chicken Noodle Soup makes you better, I don't know. Here is what I do know about chicken noodle soup:

  • Clears Sinuses. Steam from warm fluids help increase the movement of nasal mucus so you're cracking down on congestion. 
  • It is disinfecting. Chicken soup tends to be kind of salty. At my house, I use sea salt. The warm liquid is soothing to the throat, this is similar to gargling with warm salt water. 
  • H20! I find the warmth of a good chicken broth to be soothing when I'm not feeling well and it is non-dairy. While they have "debunked" the theory, I still choose to subscribe to the idea that dairy increases/messes with mucus and phlegm because I've observed the way my body reacts to the consumption of dairy.  Whether you believe that or not, pushing fluids is important because hydration is a huge part of overall health, AND lots of liquids help thin out gunky mucus. 
  • My chicken soup (when made my way and not the boyfriend's) is chock full of veggies! Onions have anti-oxidants that reduce inflammation and work like an antihistamine. Garlic has antibacterial properties and strengthens both the heart and immune system. Carrots have that good beta-carotene. Celery contains Vitamin C. All things that boost and help your immune system. 
  • Easy to digest. When I'm sick, I don't want to eat. Soup with noodles is easy to get down. 
  • It's cheap, no stressing about finances while you're missing work. 
    So if you're feeling yucky, start there!

Honey. I have a complicated relationship with honey. Meaning that I love it and think it is amazing and use it for everything...I just can't think about where it comes from (and if you REALLY don't know, choose to live in ignorance!). Honey is an amazing is an energy booster, and is tasty with antioxidant and antibacterial properties. The uses for honey are vast and incredible: pain management, treating cuts and burns, alleviating allergy symptoms, treating hangovers. But when faced with the common cold....a spoonful of honey can soothe a sore throat while possibly killing some of the bacteria causing the problem. Add it to your warm cereals, yogurt, teas....or just eat it by the spoonful to get the benefits of honey while you're sick.

The Hot Toddy. I'm not going to lie....Hot Toddies have not worked for me in the past. I've tried recipes I've found or cold, honey or lemon (sometimes both), and I've tried them with just about every kind of liquor known to be used as a Hot Toddy. The ONE time drinking a Hot Toddy helped me was when I gave in and drank one of every recipe my Facebook friends gave me while taking a hot bath. And I only felt better because I couldn't feel anything.

The basic Hot Toddy Recipe:

Liquor (think whiskey, rum, brandy or bourbon) + Honey + Hot water + Lemon (optional)

Onion Tea. I know this sounds strange. But when I was 13-14 I had a big Christmas Choir concert that I HAD to attend or I wouldn't get credit for the class (even though I had been sick for 2 days prior). The day of the concert, my voice was coming in unreliably raspy and I tried practicing in the shower and didn't get anywhere with it. I went online in search of a remedy. A girl I had met online who was a singer gave me this tip and it worked like a charm!!

Cut up and onion an boil with water until soft. Strain the liquid into a cup, stir with honey and sip.

I've also heard of people adding ingredients to herbal tea for better flavor, adding ginger and spring onions, ect.

Ginger. I first heard about Ginger Baths when my mom was attending massage therapy school, apparently her instructor would take a ginger bath and drink ginger tea whenever he felt illness coming on. Sounds crazy, right? But I've tried it and had really good results. I looked into it a little bit and when taken as a hot infusion ginger increases perspiration in what is called diaphoretic action. In fact...ginger seems to be a little bit of a miracle root as it can be used for many different things, including calming nausea, relieving gas and bloating, helping stop diarrhea, assisting in digestion, calming menstrual cramps, relieving headaches, ect. Sweating is one of the best ways to get rid of toxins (especially if you bump up that fever and help knock it out entirely) so you're essentially sweating out toxins and hopefully whatever crud is hanging out in your system:

How I use Ginger to treat oncoming illness:
Grate about a half cup of ginger (I usually do about half to a whole root). Bring to a boil, then let simmer 10-15 minutes. Then let steep for 10 minutes. Strain. Pour a mug of the ginger infusion and add honey and lemon. Pour the rest into a hot bath. Drink tea while soaking for at least 20 minutes. Do not add more water. When you're done soaking, dress or wrap yourself up quickly and go to bed or go somewhere comfortable...the important thing here is to not let your body be exposed to air so long as to get cold.

What to expect: SWEAT. You might even feel like you're running a fever, and you might run a low grade fever (I have in the past, whether it was from the ginger or the hot water I don't know but I was up near 99.8-100.2). What I usually do is skip the tea (I hate it, and every time I try to drink it I just end up dumping it- honey and all-into the bathtub with me) or drinking something warm that I actually enjoy and soak as long as I can. Then I get out and do a quick dry off-which basically means I do a quick pat dry and wrap up mostly wet. Then I wrap myself in a robe and plop down on the couch with a blanket or go to bed and watch a movie and curl up in the covers. I usually end up falling asleep and waking up DRENCHED. Wear something easily washable like sweats or a robe, and don't plan on going anywhere for at least an hour.

Guaifenesin. While I'm trying to be more "green" this is what I use EVERY TIME I get sick. It is an expectorant that thins out the mucus and it is incredible. It is the active ingredient in certain kinds of Robitussin and in Mucinex. I always buy generic and many times I end up taking the generic form with cold medicine that does not contain it. *This is not medical advice, I'm just sharing what I know works for me. As always, please check with your medical practitioner before taking any kind of pharmaceuticals, even over the counter remedies.

Eucalyptus Oil. When I first started going green around the house, this was one thing I fell in love with. As it turns out, Eucalyptus is a natural broncodilator...which works out really great because I live with people who have asthma. I use it in a homemade carpet powder on a weekly basis and I use it as a disinfectant spray on my counter tops. The other way I like to use it is by putting 10 drops in the bottom of the bathtub and then running hot water for a few minutes before getting in. The steam really seems to help.

*Caution: Eucalyptus does not work for all people with asthma, it can make symptoms worse for some people. Also, you should not use the oil near flames or use directly on the skin in concentrated form*

Steam. Speaking of steam, sometimes a really warm shower and breathing in moist air really seems to help move things around.

Humidifiers. Moist (ugh...I hate that word) air is a good thing to have if you're feeling sickly as cold viruses thrive in dry conditions. But be careful to use a clean humidifier and change the water often, do not add anything to the water, and not to run too much or you could make yourself even more sick!

Hydration. Drink your broth, juice, water, tea, Electrolyte Replacement beverages. You want to make sure you are properly hydrated if not only for general health benefits, but to loosen congestion as well. Try to avoid caffeinated beverages which could make dehydration worse.  Concerning Electrolyte Replacing Sports Drinks. The science is still out on these...whether or not they can actually replace electrolytes in the body, and whether or not the body experiences any benefit. I choose to be a believer, if for no other reason than I know that I will drink Gatorade or Powerade (I get the Sugar free or "Diet" versions to avoid the liquid calories) more than I will drink water.

Vitamin C and Echinacea.  I personally do not take Echinacea directly.  It is in my multi Vitamin C that I take.  Whether or not it actually helps is questionable, but the truth can't hurt so why not?

Be clean.  I know it seems like something I shouldn't have to suggest.  But I know when I'm sick, I don't want to shower or change clothes or brush my hair.  But personal hygiene, while it can be relaxed at times like this, should still be important.  Especially if you live with others!!  Be sure to wash your hands more and if at all possible, wipe down the areas you live in with antibacterial wipes!

Vapor Rub.  I might hate the smell when I'm not sick, but when I is the most amazing thing.  I take a bath at night, then rub Vapor Rub on my chest, back (get help if you have to) and slather some on my feet before putting on socks and going to bed.  I don't know what it is, perhaps because my feet feel all nice and warm, but I sleep like a baby and wake up with less congestion than I went to bed with. 

Candy.  I find that sometimes it helps to keep the saliva moving.  Sugar free hard candies are excellent, or Altoids...the curiously strong mint clears my nasal passages like nothing else-plus, last time I checked there was no limit on how many Altoids you can eat and you won't have sicky breath.

I hope something here helps you.  I'll be doing at least a few of these for myself tonight!!!

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  1. This is amazing! I love love LOVE ginger. I started using it for my husband's psoriatic arthritis, he hates the taste and I absolutely LOVE the smell and taste. I always add it to our soups, stir fry, everything. I haven't tried the ginger tea but now I will. I tried to pin this and it gave me different pictures but I want to remember how to do to the ginger part, so I might search for a generic picture of ginger :)

    1. I really like it in food and as a spice. But I cannot do the tea for the life of me!