Two cold tips for 2014

I used to take a fatalist view of cold prevention and treatment: you can’t stop getting them without becoming a hermit, and the drugs usually make you feel worse, so why bother doing anything about them other than settling down to watch a lot of Netflix?

Two things happened to change my mind: I started traveling internationally again, and I got a cold three days before some important major surgery that would have been hell to reschedule. I had never in my entire life gotten over a cold in only three days, but I gave it a shot and did ALL THE THINGS – and had my surgery as scheduled.

Here are the two biggest things I learned about colds this year, one for prevention and one for treatment:

Prevention: Before flying, coat the insides of your nostrils with petroleum jelly (I use a q-tip, other people use their pinky). I have not caught a cold on a flight since I started doing this in July, based on the advice of a CEO friend who travels extensively. Viruses like to get into your body by landing on the mucus membranes just inside your nostrils. I don’t think you even need an antibacterial petroleum jelly as Daniel Pink recommends, I suspect the physical barrier is sufficient.

Treatment: If you get a cold, use an oxymetazoline nasal spray with menthol and/or eucalyptus (like Zicam or Afrin). Not only does it clear up your sinuses and prevent secondary infections, it also FEELS GOOD OMG => no pain => sleep better => get well sooner. Just be sure not to use it more than the recommended number of days because you’ll become dependent.

I just picked out the two most effective things I changed in cold management this year, but here are all the things I did in my panic to get over that cold I got before surgery:

  • Oxymetazoline nasal spray with menthol and eucalyptus (decongestant, pain relief)
  • Zinc tablets every few hours (ends cold sooner, read the directions carefully)
  • Acetaminophen (wow, really works for pain and therefore sleep)
  • Pseudoephedrine (decongestant, I hate it, makes me wired, probably unnecessary with oxymetazoline)
  • Guafenesin (expectorant)
  • Azithromycin (prophylactic antiobiotics because I didn’t want to miss the surgery – would normally never do this)
  • Zolpidem (for sleep)
  • Occasional nasal saline rinses (evidence is not good for this as a long-term practice but feels nice in the mornings)
  • Humidifier (reduce pain, speed healing of nasal passages)
  • Many hot baths
  • Vitamin C (evidence for this is not good but Emergen-C tastes yummy)
  • Lots of herbal tea

And now I’m going to remember to look at this blog entry every time I get a cold so I don’t forget to do all the things.

I’m turning comments off but leaving pingbacks on because this is the worst kind of blog post for comments (but good for follow-up blog posts).

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