PC 148 The Common Cold

Having had the ‘Flu Jab’ (ie influenza injection!) before Christmas I have missed contacting any real nasties, but a few weeks ago I had my first cold for 14 months. It starts innocently enough, doesn’t it? A slight tickle in the nasal passage that requires an itch with one’s finger. Later you feel a little dribble in one nostril and you pull out your handkerchief to wipe it away. It’s the repetition that’s boring, the familiar feeling you have felt so often before …. and despite what you may wish, you know what’s coming. A sense of something at the back of the throat? A slight blocking of the sinuses ….. been here, done that!

The common cold is a feature of our existence; you see it afflicting the young, the old and all those of us in between. I never quite understand how the body can manufacture all this revolting gunk in such a very short time, and continues to do so! You blow your nose, think you have emptied all the little nooks and crannies, put your damp handkerchief back in your pocket and within a minute you are full again, the pressure builds and you sneeze. They call being violently sick ‘projectile vomiting’ well I think ‘projectile sneezing’ should be part of our vocabulary. I am amazed just how many people don’t bother to use anything to block the outward spray. They sneeze into their hands, then wipe those same hands on their jeans/sweater; disgusting!

In the UK there have been some very graphic advertisements to try and educate us as to what happened when we sneeze – to the stuff, that gunk and liquid that exit both nostrils. It seems to get everywhere.

'Is that shredded carrots on the front of your jacket?'

The Government used to run cold trials where paid volunteers were infected with some form of the common cold virus and then various treatments applied. I don’t know if they happen anymore, if not it probably reflects are inability to understand these viruses. I’m often told that the infection ‘will run its course’ irrespective of what I do, so I simply try to relieve the debilitating effects of having a cold.

I look at my pile of used tissues and put them in the bin. Time to go and see the pharmacist; these days these purveyors of medicines are the recommended first port of call – rather than trying to see a doctor. The one we go to is run by a lovely chap called Andrew. Andrew is a real doomsayer, so every conversation I have ever had with him is a negative; the world’s going to end tomorrow, if not today, a real Eeyore, but he’s amusing if nothing else. He is also cross-eyed; this always presents a dilemma, just which eye do you look at? Or do you sort-of focus somewhere in the middle? Added to which Andrew is taller than most so is stooped, the result of talking to customers over the years shorter than himself, so his own gaze is downwards! “Lemsip’s best, Richard ….  time being the healer.”

You walk your aching body home and resist the Paracetamol or other headache relieving pills. Once upon a time, if I had a really bad cold, I used to heat up some milk, mix 50/50 with whisky, get into bed and drink a large tumbler-full. I thought it worked quite well.

Here in England the majority of us poo poo the use of herbal and Chinese medicine for curing physical conditions – part of me is curious but not curious enough to lie for instance in a warm bath infused with kelp, or ginseng, in the hope, for instance, the swelling on my arm will reduce. I was reminded of this, the way western medicine has become so science-based despite the fact that most of us probably benefit from taking supplements or a fad, for example Turmeric, when I watched a television programme.

Julia Bradbury, a UK TV presenter and lover of the outdoors, is currently doing a tour of Australia. Given that continent’s vastness her little 30 minute episodes are mere sound bites – but her’s on Western Australia caught my attention. Not for the brief overview of Perth, the world’s remotest Capital city, or for the footage of horse races at Broome, over 2200 kms north, but for the ten minutes with Neville Polemo an Aboriginal chap and his two children. Their weekend place was out in the sticks, on a river and surrounded, as he said, ‘by our medical needs.’ For instance, he showed Bradbury a particular vine on a tree. ‘Find one that’s young and juicy, scrape the bark off with your fingernail so that the juice starts to ooze out, and wrap the vine around your forehead. It’ll cure a migraine in 90 seconds” Later he suggested that if you weren’t sure whether a fruit in the outback or jungle was edible, put it under your armpit. If there is a reaction on the skin, don’t eat it! It makes for good television and you wonder whether there is really any truth in it. So much stuff I don’t know about, the treasures this earth contains; what we’ve lost and what we haven’t found.

You may recall a joke from many decades ago, about a hospital full of wounded soldiers. A general visits to raise morale and talks to one or two of the patients. Jake sits up as the general approaches.

“So what’s wrong with you?”

“Well I have an open wound around my groin.”

“And what’s the treatment?”

“Well, they have a pot of gentian violet solution which is applied by a brush, Sir!”

“And what’s your goal, lad?”

“To get out of here as soon as possible and get back to the fighting Sir.”

This scene is repeated beside another couple of beds further down the ward. Eventually the general stops at the bed of James.

“And what’s wrong with you, young man?”

“I got hit in the tonsils but it’s healing well.”

“And how do the nurses treat this?”

“It gets a brushing with gentian violet daily.”

“And so what’s your goal son, get back to the fighting huh?”

“No Sir. To get that brush before the chap who needs it on his groin.”

Richard 29th March 2019

Note: Gentian Violet has antibacterial, antifungal and anthelmintic properties and was formerly important as a tropical antiseptic.

2 thoughts on “PC 148 The Common Cold

  1. I hate handkerchiefs!!!!

    keep walking along the front every morning for half an hour and you will never get a cold…. Eddie 


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