06 December 2007

Cold "Remedies"

A few things having to do with the common cold, said cold afflicting yours truly, for which he expects much sympathy and guidance, &c., &c.

Do any of you have a preferred way of dealing with or shortening the duration of a cold?

Maybe I'm just a wuss, but over the past couple of years (toddler germ-sharing perhaps?) I've gotten a few colds that've plain knocked me over and out of commission. Frequent business travel really cuts into one's resistance, so with those colds I've been trying a bunch of things other than Vitamin C (which is better for pre-cold health than intra-cold cure).

  • Airborne.
  • Cold-EEZE, an awful-tasting sucking candy with plenty of zinc gluconate, has been shown in a few reputable-sounding clinical studies (e.g. Cleveland Clinic) to reduce the duration of a cold. I've convinced myself that they work. One study (McElroy and Miller, 2003) explained in their abstract of a trial involving school-aged children that: "A total of 178 children, ages 12 to 18 years, was enrolled, of which 134 met criteria for efficacy analysis. The average cold duration with therapeutic lozenge use was 6.9 +/- 3.1 days, significantly shorter than the 9.0 +/- 3.5 days found in the control group..."
  • By the way, here's what a search for medical data looks like if you're a researcher [Go to PubMed and enter, say, Cold-eeze in the search field.]
  • This week, though, I went particularly hog-wild and bought two additional remedies to try. The first is ZICAM, a bunch of single-dose swabs-in-a-tube-of-zinc-liquid-for-your-nose. I think this woman's blog post describes it well.
  • Second, I picked up homeopathic oscillococcinum, a product that is evidently popular in France. Oscillococcinum comes in a bunch of tube-doses, each tube containing plenty of tiny little sugary dots laced with extract of something-or-other from wild duck heart and liver. You're supposed to let them dissolve in your mouth every 6 hours. A little odd, maybe, and my reading on homeopathy suggests that the dilutive process results in one or zero molecules of the desired substance per dose, anyhow. Placebo? I don't know. Actually, this stuff is for treating the flu, not the cold. (Vickers and Smith, 2004).
  • Water and tea.
  • Fatty foods. I crave Chinese food when I'm sick. Then again, I always crave Chinese food.

A few other things having nothing to do with my cold

A lengthy piece about Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh. (Yes, he composed much of the music for "Rushmore.")

A short essay by MIT's Gilbert Strang, "Too Much Calculus," extolling the virtues of teaching linear algebra early on.

The New York Times: "The 10 Best Books of 2007."

One of my favorite arcade games: Marble Madness.

Groan! Is Europe a country? You've probably seen this gameshow clip regarding Budapest.

Attention font nerds! T-Shirts for you from Wire & Twine.



RLM said...

I had a cold over Thanksgiving and my mom gave me ZICAM to try, but it wasn't nose swabs, it was in the form of "quick-dissolve" cherry-flavored tablets. They taste revolting, but I did feel like the cold didn't last as long as I would have thought, so maybe there's something to them. I'd certainly try them again next time I get a cold... Anyway, hope you feel better soon.

Matthias said...

As in most things, I'm a skeptic when it comes to cold remedies. I recommend lots and lots of sleep. Of course I don't have a company or a toddler; you may not have that luxury, in which case, what the hell, zinc yourself silly, it probably won't hurt. (I like TheraFlu, the old fashioned hot lemony kind, but mostly because it's yummy.)

Bartleby said...


I Understand that if you make a large glass full of a solution of 10 percent hydrogen peroxide in water and then take a mouthful, hold it in your mouth as long as you can, then spit it out and repeat until the glass is empty, you will kill billions of the rhinoviri hiding in your gums. In fact that is the main hiding place of the rhinovirus. Killing off billions of the pathogen in this way makes it more difficult for the survivors to mutate and outflank your immune system thus shortening the duration off the illness.

G-Fav said...

You know, I carpet-bombed the cold by: rising and gargling with Listerine (not H2O2), Cold-EEZE zinc "candies," ZICOM nose things, and that weird oscillo-whatnow. I feel quite a bit better a day later. Probably no reason behind that, but...

Matt, I didn't know you read this!! I need to throw in some Antonio Gramsci humor.


sheryl k said...

Greg - I love Zicam but recently read that people are losing their sense of smell because of it!! That hasn't made me stop using it but it's made me more nervous about it.