Saturday, March 16, 2013

My tried&true method to get through a Head Cold

As everyone knows, the subject matter of this blog is my kids. So what am I doing posting about a topic like head colds? First of all, thanks to my two charming and wonderful little boys, the number of head colds I've experienced since giving them life has increased exponentially. I can vividly remember never being sick (ok, maybe "never" is pushing it, but rarely is the truth). And then I had the kids, and sent them off to daycare and preschools. It's true what they say about youngsters. They catch about 10-20 viruses a year. We averaged about that, if not more, in the beginning. Thankfully, it's become less and less the older they get. I think they have better-toned immune systems, and also can understand why washing their hands is so important. That said, we still get sick.

I've had my share of completely miserable colds, and I spend a good deal of energy trying to "beat the system" when I get one. We all know there's no cure. A vaccine would be nice, but unlikely given how many strains of the common cold develop at any given time. I've always thought that I should write down my tried and true tricks for getting through a bad cold, so here we go!

First things first. I'm no medical professional. I'm a Mom who gets every bug my kids bring home, and hates it. I'm a Mom with a high-energy full time job that requires a lot of focus, and I have no time for such things as colds (or the stomach bug for that matter, but I have not figured out how to not catch it, or make it less severe when I do catch it).

Second. This post is all about OTC medicine and using what's available to you at the drug store. There are no alternative medicine approaches here. I will not be recommending taking copious amounts of Vit. C, Zinc, Emergen-C, and any other herbal supplements because in my humble experience, once you've caught or are coming down with a cold, they don't work. They may help your immune system in general, and help you ward off a cold, but once you are in the throws of it, you need good old-fashioned cold medicine. If the concept of Sudafed bothers you, then stop reading now.

Third. This is a routine/list of things that worked for me. It does not mean they will work for everyone, but I've deployed this approach on many colds, and have had good results (meaning less severe colds, and maybe one day out of the five day course of feeling really lousy instead of three). 
Here Goes:

1. At the first sign of a cold...the scratchy throat, slight chilly feeling, very minor congestion...those signs...take a Sudafed (generic name: pseudoephedrine hydrochloride). Do not wait until you've convinced yourself that you really are coming down with a cold, or until the cold is in full swing! Catch it early, and you can get ahead of the congestion that is forming. I'm not saying you won't get congested but if you begin taking the drugs while your cold is developing, it will seem a lot less severe. This is the most critical step, and the one that really makes a difference for me.
The dose of Sudafed I highly recommend is the 12 hour slow-release variety. There are tons of cold medicines, but Sudafed (you have to see the Pharmacist) is the only medicine that really does the trick. You need to ask the pharmacist for it, because it's distribution is regulated. In other words, if you walk down the aisle, it won't be there.  All of the meds that are on the aisle don't work as well as this stuff. This is something I've learned not only from experience, but also from our family physician.

 2. Ibuprofin: Ibuprofin (Advil, Motrin) are anti-inflammatory medicines that help reduce the swelling and inflammation that occur when you have a cold. Inflammation is one of the contributing factors to severe congestion (again, information I received from my Dr., and from Advil's web page). I take 3 Advil every 6 hours during a cold. It's helped me quite a bit. Remember the goal is to reduce the congestion to help make the cold less severe/miserable. Tylenol or Aleve won't do the trick, as they are not NSAID like ibuprofin is.

3. Saline for your nose. Use it frequently to flush out congestion and help control the awful post nasal drip. Saline is also key for helping you to not get a sinus infection or anything else from mucous lingering in your sinuses. Many people swear by the Neti pot. I have not tried this yet. Simple saline mist helps me and it's very inexpensive.

4. Go for a walk. Outside. Sounds like an old-wives tale I know, but taking a walk outside on a chilly morning helps your sinuses to really drain even when you don't have a cold. It's really helpful when you do have a cold. If you're feeling up to it (sometimes a challenge when you're sick), then give it a try. It helps to get the mucous out of your system, instead of staying in and causing secondary things to happen like the impending chest cold or again the sinus infection. I find that as a cold is winding down, I have enough energy to go out for a walk, and this helps flush the cold out for good. Bring a lot of tissues in your pockets, you'll need them as your sinuses drain!

5. Not sick yet, but others in the house are? Here's a few things I do to try to stay healthy once a family member has become ill. I have found that simple things like changing out the hand towels in the bathroom a lot more frequently (daily!) and keeping the bathrooms extra clean helps control the spread of a cold. When the kids brush their teeth, they often times rinse out around the sink or wherever simply because they are not tall enough to get inside the basin. Because of this, I find I'm cleaning the bathroom more often anyway, but especially when the boys are sick. Also, it's very easy to see the tissues pile up wherever the sick kid has planted himself for the day. Discard them quickly and obviously wash your hands afterwards. I make sure to use the dishwasher for everything, and in general, I wash my hands a lot more.

This post sounds OCD, I know. But, this has become a survival thing for me. Being a working parent is hard enough, and when the kids are sick, it's a huge source of anxiety for me.

Hope you found this helpful. If these tricks don't work for you, I'd love to know what you have found to be helpful. Again, I'm not making any claims. None of these links are affiliate links. No one paid me to mention their products. I'm just a mom. A mom who has had too many colds!

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