An uncommon cold

2007-11-23 00:00

I haven’t be very well lately. In my opinion, I’ve been hovering at death’s door, while in the opinion of my family, I — and they — have been suffering from a “cold”. Since a “cold” doesn’t sound like a near-death experience, let me list the torments I have been through. It began with a tickle in the throat. Nothing too extreme; all it needed for relief was an occasional dry cough and something soothing to drink. Optimist that I am, I just knew that the little tickle would remain just a little tickle and with the assistance of vitamin C, vanish from my throat as swiftly as it had appeared.

I was wrong. The next day the little tickle had become an experience not unlike having one’s throat serviced by a plumber’s friend, which is a giant rubber sucker on the end of a pole that is used to clear blocked drains. The discomfort was relatively intense and required a lot of coughing to clear the bronchia. Coughing is not only disturbing to one’s companions, it also shatters sleep. Rummaging through the alternative muti kit in the bathroom, I found something called valerian which promised me not only wealth and a better sex life, but a good night’s sleep as well. A few drops later found me in dreamland. At times like these, when one is suffering from a “cold” all one wants is simple relief regardless of its origin.

The next morning, feeling rested, I got on with the business of living, working and running lift schemes in all directions. By that evening, the scratchy throat had come back in hyperdrive, my eyes were swollen, my nose was running like the Zambezi in full spate and Oi! My back! The pain!

Since you can’t take every cough to a doctor, I checked my symptoms with the medical encylopaedia we own. After a brief digression through leprosy, multiple sclerosis, dengue fever and richetzia, I came to flu and discovered that what I had was a virus. Not a “cold” — a virus. I reported my health developments to my family.

“It’s a virus,” I said when I could stop coughing. My family, including the dog, gazed at me with their standard dispassion.

“It’s a virus,” I repeated. “And viruses can be very serious.” I referred them to the influenza epidemic of 1916 plus one or two other facts gleaned from the encylopaedia. They, including the paranoid dog who suspected my coughing was some sort of tacit criticism of his barking, maintained their lack of interest in the social history of medicine.

“Just because it’s a virus, doesn’t mean that it’s flu. A cold’s a virus as well. And nobody has died of a cold. Take some vitamin C,” she said.

“I’ve done that,” I replied. “Didn’t do anything. Took some valerian too,” I added meaningfully.

“That’s the dog’s valerian,” she said. “The new homeopathic vet prescribed it for his endless scratching and restlessness.”

There was no alternative. It was time to phone the chemist. I told him of my symptoms. A polite man, he listened carefully and told me his diagnosis.

“You have a cold,” he said. There was a short silence from my side of the phone. “Colds are quite common in summer,” he added. “I’ll send something over later in the morning.”

When the muti arrived I ripped open the package and read the dosage. But the “side effects and special precautions” caught my eye. Chemical number one threatened me with headache, blurred vision, peptic ulcers and renal failure, while miracle ingredient number two menaced with vomiting, irritability, thirst and psychosis. Balancing the discomforts of a “cold” with a blocked nose, cough and back ache against never peeing again and going crazy, I decided to stay with the “cold”. Chucking the muti in the bin, I reached for the valerian and sprinkled a few soothing drops into my double espresso. So far it hasn’t done much for my cold symptoms, but it sure as hell has stopped me scratching.

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