I'd like to make an appointment for my cold, please. Anything this week would be fine.
January 10, 2011 7:35 AM   Subscribe

Any ideas on how to 'schedule' my cold? I feel one coming on, but I really, really want to feel good next week. I could deal with being miserable now though, If I had to.

I realize I'm asking a lot, but I figure it couldn't hurt to try...

I'm going to a beautiful, all inclusive resort for my brothers wedding next week - it'll be 7 days of alcohol, food, sun and surf with 29 of the bride and grooms closest friends and family. Short of being on my death bed, I'm going. However, I'd really, really rather not be sick!

I can feel a cold coming on. The last two days I woke up with a stuffed up nose, and I can feel the pressure in my sinuses. I have a sore throat. It's not bad yet (I could deal with this level of discomfort), but experience tells me it's going to get worse before it gets better.

Any idea how I can either a) make this cold completely materialize now, so I'll be feeling better by this time next week, or b) postpone the worst of the symptoms for two weeks? Should I go around touching snotty people, or would that just make the situation worse?

I know - if this were possible, millions would be had to the person (and/or pharmaceutical company) that bottles it up and sells it, but at this point I'm willing to try, just in case... Even summoning the old placebo affect would be ok!

Any ideas?
posted by cgg to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
When I feel a sinus cold coming on, I hydrate like mad, especially since I always feel dehydrated when sick. I also sleep whenever my body will let me. I was about half-way to a cold last week and slept about 18 hours one day and 14 the next and that seemed to give my body some time to kick the cold's butt.

I also took some Musinex, go for the stuff behind the pharmacy counter, it works much better. Use a neti pot twice a day, or if you're like many and freaked out by the idea, sinus saline sprays. But really, my neti pot was the best thing I ever did for my sinuses.

Basically, do what you'd do if you were totally sick, only earlier, and sometimes that helps ward off the worst of it.
posted by gilsonal at 7:41 AM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

Lifehacker had a good article on this recently. I stick to gargling salt water and getting plenty of rest, personally.
posted by emilyd22222 at 7:45 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think you can really 'postpone' your cold for two weeks. But how have you been treating your cold? When I feel a cold coming on, I make getting rid of it my #1 priority. I usually just take a Tylenol. I don't bother with Dayquil or Zicam. Drink orange juice constantly. Gargle with salt water several times a day and brush your teeth and tongue. NAP!

I'm sure lots of people will say to take Airborne or EmergenC or whatever. But I've never taken it and my method always works!
posted by lovelygirl at 7:45 AM on January 10, 2011

Cold-eze (zinc) is supposed to help you get over colds quicker, and make them milder, if you start taking it at the first sign of a cold. I've used it in a situation where I really couldn't afford to have a cold, and I managed to avoid having much in the way of symptoms, but I didn't have a control group, so who knows.
posted by adamrice at 7:47 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you've got a week, I'd recommend hunkering down and fighting it head on. The trick is to keep your immune system undistracted and well fed.

At two days in it is to late for zinc to be effective. However you can drink lots of water, eat soup and things that are easy to digest, and take it easy. Hot tea will get water in you and may help your sinuses feel better.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:48 AM on January 10, 2011

(just a quick side note to gilsonal's rec - my ENT restricts my neti to once a day. more than that means sinuses won't dry, creating a nice swampy breeding ground for infection.)
posted by crankyrogalsky at 7:48 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Keep your sinuses clear, and the rest will follow. Post nasal drip from your sinuses could lead to a cough, so be diligant in keeping them clear now.

I'm a huge fan of sterile saline nasal rinse. It flushes everything out of there, and gives your immune system a chance to fight off a reduced number of bugs. You can buy saline at the drug store for around $3-$5. Maybe stock up on a few bottles.

Tilt your head back and squirt it up your nose. Can you taste saline? If not blow gently.
Repeat: Tilt your head to the side and squirt. Blow. Tilt to the other side. Blow. Keep squirting until you can taste saline in your mouth. (Gross, I know, but doesn't your head feel much clearer?)

repeat the whole process when ever you start to become congested.

I'm also a huge fan of pseudoephedrine as a decongestant, so you may want to use that if you are open to pharmacological interventions. If you want a decongestant, get real pseudoephedrine, even if you have to show a drive's license to get it. Phenylephrine, the stuff in the new formulations, is total garbage.
posted by ladypants at 7:49 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Colostrum tablets are also good if taken at the first sign of a cold. But the biggest thing for me is sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep. When you're sleeping, your brain, and immune system, can focus on killing the germs, not keeping you upright and stuff like that.
posted by Melismata at 7:51 AM on January 10, 2011

Also, gargelling with warm salt water is great. Tea and soup to stay hydrated are fantastic. And sleep as much as your body tells you to. When I feel a cold coming on, I like to treat myself to soup with extra garlic, lime juice, ginger, and a sliced jalapeƱo in it. When I eat the soup I usually feel pretty terriffic soon after, but it may be that when I'm together enough to make soup, I'm taking better care of myself in general.
posted by ladypants at 7:54 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I seem to have sped up the onset of a cold by going out and drinking a lot. Woke up feeling terrible combination hangover and cold. Two days later, viola!
posted by AugustWest at 7:55 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

1) SLEEP. 9+ hours a night. This is your #1 priority if everything else faiLs.
2) Eat well, lots of veggies and little sugar in the next week.
3) Drink water as if you are a camel. You should be peeing so often it is annoying. Aim for a gallon a day.
4) Try megadosing with Vitamin C for the next week, like taking a week's worth every day for the next week. You'll pee out the extra, anyway.
5) Take one (just one) megadose of Vitamin D3, 50,000-70,000 IU. Few people are not chronically low on Vitamin D and the recommended dosage of 600 IU does shit. Vitamin D3 has a ridiculous number of benefits (immune defense being a major one) and you should be aiming for at least 2,000 IU a day anyway. It's a fat insoluble vitamin so all of the extra you take in that one megadose will be stored and may help to boost your levels a little bit to help your immune system. Get the gel capsules, they're better.
posted by Anonymous at 8:14 AM on January 10, 2011

(Megadosing with Vitamin D3 works for general health. Megadosing with Vitamin C is on shaky ground on effectiveness but you may as well give it a shot)
posted by Anonymous at 8:15 AM on January 10, 2011

Lots of good advice here. I always take 24 hours off of work, drink half a gallon of grapefruit juice, and down nighttime Theraflus. Then I sleep for that day, waking only to drink Emergen-C and more Theraflu. The trick is to keep yourself asleep.

It's worked twice this year.
posted by functionequalsform at 8:23 AM on January 10, 2011

So Airborne and Emergen-C have very little scientific evidence behind them, but they always work for me. Always. If I feel like I'm getting sick and I take one of those, I don't get sick. If I don't take either one, I do. It might be a placebo thing, I don't know, but it's worth a try.

Other than that, water and lots of sleep. You probably can't postpone your cold, but you might be able to make it shorter.
posted by geegollygosh at 8:28 AM on January 10, 2011

Studies have shown that taking echinacea at the onset of a cold can help you fight it off and last less time if you do catch it. I find the same is true of large amounts of vitamin C, which I usually get by drinking 6-10 packets of Emergen-C per day. Taking the day off and really coddling myself before it fully sets in, drinking lots of water and miso soup, and making sure I get enough sleep and stay toasty warm.

Basically, I want to be sure that all my body's energy is spent fighting off the cold, rather than trying to keep me warm or deal with lack of hydration or whatnot.

The above is largely anecdotal, of course, other than the echinacea and vitamin C, but I haven't gotten a cold in more than a year.
posted by rosa at 8:34 AM on January 10, 2011

In addition to the TONS of sleep, water, zinc, and once-daily sinus rinsing, I'd like to state the obvious, just in case: no drinking at all this week!

anecdotal, but sleep + water I have found especially helpful in my own attempts to head a cold off at the pass.
posted by smirkette at 8:40 AM on January 10, 2011

Like ladypants said... sterile saline sinus rinses! At first I was skeeved out my squirting saltwater up my nose, but once I got over how weird it feels, I was sold. It's been my cut-a-cold-short lifesaver!

I use the Neil Med brand stuff, but there are others out there.

So yeah... sinus flushes, lots of clear liquids to drink and sleep, sleep, sleep! Usually if I follow this regimen, I feel back to normal in just a couple days.

I skip the zinc (Cold-eze) because zince upsets my stomach and makes me feel even worse.
posted by MorningPerson at 8:44 AM on January 10, 2011

Take a sick day, even if you don't feel all-the-way sick. Use it to catch up on sleep and rest. If you're taking it tomorrow, stock up on juice, soup, fizzy drinks, etc. on the way home today, so you don't have to leave the house.

If you're not into the idea of a neti pot/sinus rinse, blowing your nose during a hot shower will clear things out really well.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:44 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I too have had good luck with Airborne and Emergen-C for preventing colds and for when I'm almost-sick.

People have told me to be careful about drinking too much orange juice when sick because it can increase mucus, but I haven't been sick yet this year so I haven't tried out that advice. Pop a bunch of vitamin C tablets instead and stick with other juices instead.
posted by lilac girl at 8:57 AM on January 10, 2011

Response by poster: So much good advice - thanks all. While I'm stuck here at work today I'll drink ridiculous amounts of water and chew on some Vit C tablets (which apparently my office stocks up on in giant Costco-sized bottles...), and I'll stop at the drugstore on my way home for some saline and other implements of sinus mucous destruction. Guess I'm also going to bed early this week as well!
posted by cgg at 9:07 AM on January 10, 2011

I hardly ever get colds, even when everyone around me does (including my husband, who apparently never met a germ that didn't consider him an excellent host.) Here are things I do that my husband generally doesn't:

1) At the very first sign of a cold, I start downing EmergenC. Tastes much better than Airborne and seems to work better for me. I'll drink 3 or 4 packets a day if necessary... usually doesn't take more than two days for the budding cold symptoms to piss off.

2) I take a fairly large dose of vitamin D on a daily basis.

3) I take guafenesin (an expectorant which thins mucus) on a daily basis for a chronic sinus issue. I also try to drink a lot of water to keep mucus thin. I'm not sure but I suspect that not having thick mucus hanging around in my respiratory tract helps keep germs from settling in and producing hordes of offspring.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:22 AM on January 10, 2011

My massage therapist always said that massage *before* you have a cold can boost your immune response, but once you're coming down with it, massage can make it come on faster. (Something about lymph nodes blah.) Couldn't hurt; might help.
posted by cyndigo at 9:34 AM on January 10, 2011

I had a similar situation - I had to travel and do an art installation and felt a cold coming on. Although I never go to a doctor, I went to one so that I could still do my exhibit. The GP suggested I try Umcka, which is available at health food stores and has shown results in clinical trials. It thins mucus and makes a cold faster and less severe. I had to blow my nose a fair amount like I had an allergy, but my energy level stayed fine and I was able to install my work.
posted by Slothrop at 9:49 AM on January 10, 2011

If you want to bring on your cold now, go out for a night of drinking. Bonus points if it's cold out or the weather is particularly nasty.
posted by Sara C. at 10:19 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Call in sick tomorrow if at all possible. You need the rest and your coworkers will thank you. Luckily I work where coming in sick is really frowned upon but if you have to - make sure people at work know you are coming down with something & hopefully they won't want you there!
posted by pointystick at 12:29 PM on January 10, 2011

If you're feeling experimental, I would recommend cardio exercise. The one time I have ever been able to quickly and effectively get over a cold is when I participated in an insane hour-and-half cycling regiment at my local gym. I was dead by the end of it (pack-a-day smoker), but I wasn't congested, drowsy, or otherwise out-of-sorts.

I was with my paramedic buddy, who explained it would make sense since you are raising your core temperature above it's normal level (and possibly killing the virus internally). It sounds plausible, but I couldn't attest to the legitimacy of the statement.
posted by DanOms at 1:05 PM on January 10, 2011

You might be able to waken your immune response and make the full-blown cold start sooner, but I REALLY don't think you can make it end sooner by doing so. Agree with everyone else that you should rest and hydrate and do whatever you can to be in as good physical shape as possible.
posted by J. Wilson at 1:36 PM on January 10, 2011

When I feel like I'm coming down with a cold I do three things:

1) Go to bed: stay in bed all day (or two days if necessary) sleeping, watching DVDs and reading. Sleep (or doze) as much as possible.

2) Raise my body temperature: the optimal reproductive temperature for the cold virus is (apparently - I don't have a citation, I'm afraid!) just below normal human body temperature. Basically the cold virus hates the heat, so I tend to put on a hoodie, a beanie, a blanket and then eat either bowls of pho heavily spiked with sriracha, or steamed veggies with garlic and chilli. I tend to try to sweat it out, which seems to work for me.

3) Stay away from cold and flu medications for as long as possible: there is some evidence that taking cold and flu meds can increase the duration of a cold, so I tend to keep them in reserve until I need them to sleep.

Good luck!
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 1:54 PM on January 10, 2011

I also like to eat spicy food. Gets the sinuses running and clears me out brilliantly.
posted by kjs4 at 4:35 PM on January 10, 2011

For years I've done the "pre-emptive sick day" - when I feel like you describe, I take a day off and act like I have a cold: sleep, hydration (esp orange juice & soup), and bad TV. :) It usually works, especially if I get out ahead of it quickly enough.

(and because it usually works, and keeps things from spreading in the office, my various bosses have always been strongly in favor.)
posted by epersonae at 4:44 PM on January 10, 2011

Have you got a hair dryer?
posted by paulsc at 6:02 PM on January 10, 2011

You don't need to buy the saline rinses... you can make your own. 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp baking soda per 1 cup of water. You can use this with a neti pot, or I use a waterpik... it tickles like crazy but it works. There's a study I've linked to before on Mefi that shows that the pulsations of the waterpik are good for the cilia in the nose.
posted by IndigoRain at 9:35 PM on January 10, 2011

Response by poster: Just a random update - I didn't have to wait for the cold materialize at all, because it came on full force Tuesday. I slept a ridiculous amount, ate Vitamin C like it was candy, drank a ton of water and used a saline spray for my sinuses. (Holy crap does that stuff do wonders! Next time I gotta try a neti pot!). I had to go back to work yesterday, but it was okay with a little pseudoephedrine. Today I'm feeling fine; still a touch of a runny nose, but that's it. Thanks guys - you totally just helped make my week not nearly as miserable as it normally would have been!
posted by cgg at 8:02 AM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

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