Sun casts its eye-shattering rays on aggressively-wandering pigeons, disturbing them from trampling down and pecking each other in a desperate attempt to snatch that tiny piece of bread left by an old yet robust lady dressed in Dolce & Gabbana jumpsuit of dubious origin.
Sunburned Ukrainian babooshkas are scattered around metro stations, waiting for a right moment to grab a stray passer and sell her all the bags of fresh vegetables and fruits they’ve saved from this season, and then disappear bluntly until the next summer comes and rewards them with even more crops to sell.
Sultry heat mercilessly melts both cracked grey asphalt on the roads and hairy heads of miserable-looking city residents who are hot-footing to get whole(or in less fortunate case half of) raisin loaves with coffee from a busy bakery and annihilate the high-glycemic snack on their way to work.
Few people may recognise this scenery — but that’s how Kyiv feels and looks in September. Unbearably hot and showing no signs of cooling down soon.
Yet, judging from the happy faces of local folks, they must be thoroughly enjoying this ardent heat.
I could have been enjoying it as well. If only I weren’t drowning in the disgusting sea of snot leaking from my big Slavic nose. It’s enormous, indeed, and so no wonders it has such vast reserves of this yellow matter waiting to break out as soon as its host’s immune system loses its defences.
Yes, you guessed it right — I somehow managed to catch a cold in the warmest time of the year.
Is there anything worse than being sick when it’s 30°C degrees outside?
Well, okay, being sick in winter sucks no less but then at least you’re not sweating from the heat growing both inside and outside of your body.
The first day of my sickness was terrible. It felt like hundred tiny cats were scratching my throat with their tiny yet sharp claws. But now I feel much better. I’ve been using a lot of the nearly scientific but mostly folk remedies to fight off this nasty virus. Maybe this helped, maybe not.
Since I still have little physical or mental capacity to do anything of utility except writing this article, I thought I’ll share some unqualified thoughts on how not to die from a common cold.
I know it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever die from a common cold anyway — but who knew one could even get it in summer?
God works in mysterious ways…
Before we dive in, I’ll mention one effective way to prevent you from getting a cold in summer in the first place.
Are you ready?
Here we go.
AVOID. AIR. CONDITIONING. AT. ANY. COST.
It’s a vicious technology sent by a devil to wipe out our species and repopulate the planet with little sneaky air conditioners which will freeze to death every other living organism.
Let’s move on.
Things you should do
1. Wrap yourself in as much salt as you can find
It shouldn’t come as a surprise for many people, but there is no better way to fight the sea of snot than to flood it with the sea of sea salt. Withal, this folk remedy is one of the most well-researched treatments for a common cold.
What does science say:
In a randomized study published in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2005 gargling with salt water showed to improve symptoms associated with a cold, shorten the duration of illness as well as reduce the chance of contracting an infection in the first place.
A more recent study published in Scientific Reports showed that those subjects who did nasal irrigation and gargling had a shorter cold, were less contagious and had faster viral clearance overall.
So, apparently, making the food I cook slightly less disgusting to consume is not the only magic salt can cast.
What does Anton say:
I use a saline solution to gargle and irrigate my nouse every time I get an upper respiratory infection. The more I do so, the faster my symptoms seem to subside, and the less time it gets to recover.
I usually buy a nasal spray at a pharmacy, but I do make my gargling solution. Just mix a teaspoon of baking soda and sea salt, and rinse all that mess out of your system!
2. Steam a pot of herbal tea, or simply drink plain warm water
We need fluid all the time to rehydrate our bodies anyway, so it’s even more important to keep an eye on your water intake when you’re sick.
Not sure about the rest of the world, but we here pray for herbs and use them to treat a great number of ailments. Folks usually get quite creative and use anything from common chamomile and calendula to something more sophisticated like echinacea and rosehip to speed up their recovery.
What does science say:
By and large, the scientific evidence on the use of herbal remedies for treating a cold is pretty weak. However, at least one study conducted at Cardiff University found a correlation between consumption of hot drink and a decrease in common cold symptoms.
“The hot drink provided immediate and sustained relief from symptoms of runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat, chilliness and tiredness.”
What does Anton say:
You can’t patent herbal remedies, so expecting rigorous studies on their benefits is foolish as they are unlikely to attract significant funding.
Helpful or not, you must drink something anyway. While one can opt for plain warm water, I try to maximise the potential benefit of whatever I consume when I’m sick.
So if you want to be like me — make a nice cup of green, black or herbal tea, throw in some ground rosehip and lemon juice for a boost of vitamin C, and add a bit of honey to make it more palatable.
3. Load up on turmeric and ginger
These two root vegetables are commonly consumed as spices and occupy a deserved place amongst the most well-studied natural ingredients used in folk remedies around the world. Both ginger and turmeric are promoted for their anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects, and, thus, might be useful in preventing many diseases, including arthritis and even cancer.
But how effective are they at treating a common cold?
What does science say:
There’re hardly any studies looking at the effects of ginger and turmeric on the common cold.
This, nevertheless, should not discourage you from adding these spices to your regimen.
Dozens of studies had shown that compounds found in ginger and turmeric, mainly gingerols, shogaols and curcuminoids, have potent anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral effects which are only likely to strengthen your immune system and help it fight off any infections inside your body.
What does Anton say:
I wouldn’t suggest eating tons of ginger and turmeric. They’re quite spicy after all. But there is no reason you should avoid consuming them in safe amounts.
For the last two years, I’ve been taking turmeric supplement whenever I got sick. It didn’t have a substantial effect on the recovery time, but I did feel some benefits when it comes to reducing fever and pain.
Want to give it a try?
One thing I like to make is to brew some black tea, pour in some ginger, cinnamon and turmeric powder, and add half of a teaspoon of coconut oil and a bit of black pepper to make the drink more bioavailable. It might not clean your sore throat immediately, but if you add some honey, it will pass as a nice warm drink.
4. Forget all of the above and follow your gut feeling
There is no need for scientific evidence to prove that your body knows what it needs to fight off whatever it’s dealing with at the moment. And the best thing you can do is to literally follow your gut feeling.
I mean, if you lost your appetite simply stop feeding your body. Just keep your mouth shut until you start craving that oatmeal again.
For one thing, your body might need time to unwind, save energy and focus solely on getting rid of the infection.
Second, fasting induces apoptosis to help your body remove infected cells.
In the end, it does all boil down to your gut feeling — so eat when you want to eat, fast when you want to fast.
Things you shouldn’t do
- Calling an ambulance. They’ll arrive to only find out you have a simple cold, and they’ll kill you for wasting their time.
- Overdosing on NSAIDs. Yes, anti-inflammatory drugs will decrease your fever and reduce any pain you might experience but there is no clear evidence they’re effective in improving respiratory symptoms associated with a common cold. Keep in mind that prolonged and uncontrolled use of NSAIDs can damage the lining of your stomach and lead to the developemnt of gastritis, oesophagal reflux disease, and bleeding ulcers.
- Taking tons of antibiotics. A common cold is caused by viruses, and antibiotics don’t kill viruses because they’re antibiotics. But they’ll for sure distrupt your natural microbiota, which might take up to six months recover from inflicted damage.
- Doing lots of drugs, alcohol, partying and smoking while avoiding water and rest. Self-explanatory.
- Plunging into an ice hole. A popular Eastern European/Russian way to strengthen the immune system which looks more like a definite way to get a heart attack or pneumonia to me.
Okay, that’s all I had to say.
Time to get off to gargle on some saltwater!