How to Beat a Cold

I had not yet fully recovered from a serious case of diverticulitis, when that most hated of all maladies, the common cold, came calling.  This happened to be a very virulent bug, and my immune system is in the pits, so I actually was incapacitated by it for several days.  For me, with colds, this is the exception.  I would rather have a tooth pulled than come down with a cold.  So, over the years, I have developed an arsenal of remedies to help me avoid a cold, or experience only very mild symptoms lasting less than the fabled week it normally takes to get over one.  As we get older, getting a cold seems to become more bothersome and even vaguely frightening.  It could “take hold.”  There’s a very real chance of feeling lousy for a month or longer.  I’d like to share with you some of the things I do to keep the dreaded rhino virus at bay.  Standard to say:  I am not an M.D., there is no known cure for the cold, and these suggestions are meant to help you stay more comfortable, if they do work as well for you as they have for me.  I also don’t mean to promote any given product.  I am passing on information and ideas, as friends do.

The best thing to do for a cold, obviously, is not get one.  There are some things you can do about this.  Two of them I learned from a former boyfriend:  Be rude and obsessive.  It may seem quite rude to tell someone not to bother coming over for a visit, but if your friend has a cold, it may be the best thing to do.  The problem is, people are most contagious just before they know for sure they do have a cold.  You know, it’s during that “Is this a cold or an allergy?” period. Or you might never even see the person who has the cold.  The germs are on the ATM machine or grocery cart handle.  This calls for is the obsessive part.  Especially during cold season, keep washing your hands.  Germs are not so likely to fly through the air and land in your mouth.  More likely, you get the germs on your hands and transfer them to your own nose, mouth, or eyes.  There has been a lot of publicity about this lately, so no more need be said.

As significant as the spread of germs may be, it also seems true that if I am happy, unstressed, and at the peak of health;  someone with a cold can sneeze in my face and I won’t get sick.  Some people “never get sick” and others catch everything that goes around.  This is the mysterious factor of the immune system.  Some people just have good genes, immune-wise, and others don’t; but there are also a lot of things you can do to boost your immune system, both on a regular basis and as needed.  If your diet includes more than five servings of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables per day and no sugar, alcohol, processed or junk food (unlike mine), you may not need to do anything else to boost the immune system.  The rest of us need at least a multi-vitamin.  Most people also need extra Vitamin D and Vitamin C, especially during cold season.  In years past, I have also taken Astragalus supplements during cold season, and it seems to have helped.  You can also take Astragalus daily, starting when you think you have been exposed to a cold, as I did this time.

I was introduced to Airborne by a relative who is a school teacher.  There are also other, less widely distributed, preparations meant to give a jolt to the immune system.  You can get them at a health food or vitamin store.  Airborne is widely available.  It may not be the best, but it has been working for me.  It has vitamins and minerals as well as a few herbal ingredients.  You can take it as soon as you think you’ve been exposed to a cold.  I’ve remembered to do that on several occasions, and didn’t get a cold those times.  Or, you can take it when you start to get a cold, and if the immune gods are with you, you may be able to beat the cold.  I always take Astragalus, Goldenseal, and Echinacea along with it.  Then I gargle with salt water, clean out my nose with a slightly less saline solution, and go to bed.  Often, I wake up without a cold.  That’s what I call “beating” a cold.

It doesn’t always work.  It does work often enough that others have taken note.  “What happened to that cold you said you were getting?”

Well, I didn’t get it.  But sometimes I do.  It’s still possible to have milder symptoms and a shorter period of illness by continuing the same regimen.  If the nose starts to run and I start sneezing, I wash out my nose (There is a proper way to do this, with a neti pot, but I just snuffle up some slightly salty water from my hand and blow it out again, on each side) and gargle with salt water twice a day.  I drink Airborne two or three times a day.  I take Astragalus once a day, and Vitamin C, Goldenseal, and Echinacea three times a day.  As a last resort, I put diluted hydrogen peroxide in my ears.  A friend told me about this and I swear, I’ve had cold symptoms disappear as soon as I do it.  There are a number of herbal teas that bring relief to cold symptoms as well.  My favorite is called “Gypsy Cold Care.”  Put a lot of honey in it and you’ll feel just fine.


Dinner for One

Getting adequate and proper nutrition is a problem for many seniors, for a number of reasons.  Financial difficulties are significant, and in today’s economy no doubt a widening concern.  Some people are not well-informed about nutrition and some don’t know how to cook.  Flagging appetites also have an impact.  If you can’t afford the groceries and you don’t feel like eating, why bother?  Make no mistake, cooking is a bother.  These days, on a limited budget, eating out is not a likely solution, at least not very often. Most often, what is convenient and affordable is a nutrition disaster.  The only restaurants within walking distance of my apartment are Wendy’s and Denny’s.

But, what is important to older people is our health.  Feeling good makes each day a precious, magical gift and feeling lousy physically makes life a complete drag.  I suppose this has always been the case, but it is just more obvious now, the great days being rarer and more precious.  When young, we also waste more time feeling bad psychologically although perfectly healthy physically.  School, jobs, and relationships can have that effect.  At any rate, to optimize the good days it makes sense, among other things, to eat our fruits and vegetables.

At one time I was quite a good cook.  More recently, I’ve enjoyed it less and lost the knack, somewhat.  But never, in all this long, food-filled lifetime have I prepared three meals a day, and for only one person – myself!  I have always cooked for an audience.  I did my best work for a table full of guests, but I whipped up a pretty mean candle-lit dinner for two as well.  If forced to eat alone, I would eat out at a nice lunch spot or, if worse came to worst, heat up a frozen dinner.  Now I set the table, cut up the greens, saute the fish, sit down and enjoy the meal solo.  Then I clean up the dishes and a few hours later I do it again.  Awkward at first, I am starting to get the swing of it.

When I was younger and cooking for a household, the meals I turned out, especially dinner, were square.  They included something from each of the basic food groups.  For example; fish, rice, squash, and salad.  Possibly dessert.  But I’ll be darned if I will cook four or five little portions of each thing for myself every evening.  Some people like to cook larger portions and reheat, but I have never been great with that.  The same meal every night for a week is quite a bore.  I find myself throwing away moldy bits of this and that and munching on a cookie.  Instead, I decided you don’t really need each of the food groups in one meal, it’s fine to have them in one day, thus, a salad for lunch and a turkey sandwich for dinner, or vice-versa.  This way, I need only cook one dish at any one time, and I can put time and attention into making it delicious.

Omelet with Goat Cheese and Chives

1 egg

1/2 c. milk

salt to taste

1/4 – 1/2 c. creamy goat cheese

1/4 cup chives, chopped

Beat the egg, milk, and salt together with a fork.  Set aside.  Heat the pan on high until hot, then lower the heat and pour in the egg mixture.  Sprinkle the chives and dollops of cheese on top of the egg.  When cooked solid on the bottom, fold the omelet in half.  Cook a little longer, then flip and cook the other side for about a minute.  Remove and serve.