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October 17, 2012 4:30 PM   Subscribe

This cold is making me crazy. Help me feel better!

I work in early childhood special ed, and therefore get coughed on quite often. Today is Day 10 of a darned bad cold. It started as a very sore throat and very tender, swollen glands and moved to a nose full of gunk and a tickly chest cough (sometimes dry and sometimes quite congested). The cough has woken me up a few times during the night.

On Sunday, I visited a clinic and was told I had a cold. I have asthma, and have experienced bronchitis and pneumonia in the past. This feels bronchitis-y to me, but the PA checked my lungs and all sounded good in there. I am on the highest dose of Alvesco, a long term inhaler.

I have not had a fever during this time, but I have felt clammy.

Things I've done: used Emergen-C, drank tons and tons of water, OJ, and hot ginger/honey concoction, used vaporiser, slept with elevated head, used Nyquil and Nighttime Alka Seltzer on different nights (neither had much of an effect but the Alka Seltzer made me super groggy the next morning), used Mucinex daily (the one with just the expectorant), used my rescue inhaler regularly, taken ibuprofen, taken melatonin to sleep.

This is a long question for a measly cold, but I feel awful. My abs ache from coughing! Basically, I never knew a cold could be this bad, because I tend to get something worse than a cold. I will head back to the clinic in the next few days to get a second opinion, if I don't improve.

Any ideas on how I can feel better?
posted by sucre to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If your biggest problem is a cough - my magic bullet has been Buckleys' Mixture. It may be hard to find in the US, but here's where to get it or order it.

It tastes completely awful -- think, like, "this may be what yeti semen tastes like" - but holy shit that stuff works really fast.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:37 PM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you're dealing with nose/sinus issues at all, I would highly recommend a neti pot. You can buy the salt mixes at the drug store, or make them at home (some sea salt and a bit of baking soda for buffering), but in either case, use distilled water. There are various videos and whatnot on the web that can walk you through how to use them.

After you get over the initial bit of grossness (water going in one nostril and coming out the other), you may be rewarded by a gloriously clear head. Do it over the sink, and close the bathroom door or you'll look like an outtake from a Cronenberg fim.
posted by jquinby at 4:43 PM on October 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

...oh, and if you have the means - a bit of time in a sauna might feel wonderful, too.
posted by jquinby at 4:45 PM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

If it makes you feel better, you have company in your misery. A teacher I know has also been unable to shake what is called a cold. Teachers have become immune to so may illnesses that
I worry this whatever-it-is-that-is-going-around will be worse than flu.
posted by Cranberry at 4:49 PM on October 17, 2012

I second the neti pot. I used to get racking, disgusting weeks-long colds, and now I just don't. As soon as I feel a cold coming on, I rinse out thoroughly twice a day with a very mild baking soda and salt solution (just enough to act as a mild ph buffer) and take I take a mild decongestant at night. Colds last two or three days, and are much, much milder than they use to be.
posted by mhoye at 4:52 PM on October 17, 2012

I also have asthma and when I have a cold with a cough that isn't helped by using my inhaler my doctor takes it pretty seriously (I guess? She seems to have a heightened interest in any cough-related scenarios I present at least) and I get the prescription cough syrup. It helps immediately and I find just getting rid of the damn cough makes the rest of it slightly more bearable (because: sleep). I realize that's hard to actually ask for though since it's seen as drug-seeking in some cases.

Otherwise: wallowing, complaining, manicure-salon style tabloids, peanut butter cups and tons of water is the only other things I've found help. I'm sorry you're so sick.
posted by marylynn at 5:03 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been dealing with an asthma-related cough since January, and it's severely affected my sleep. The two best tips I can give you are : MucinexDM (extra strength) and when you get that tickle in your throat, get up and sip a glass of hot water. And asthmatic coworker told me about the hot water. I didn't believe her, but now it's the ace up my sleeve.
posted by mudpuppie at 5:22 PM on October 17, 2012

For effing real, GET A NETI POT. I have horrible sinus issues and I used to work in a building that kept me sick with sinus issues. My life changed when I realized that plowing water and a salty solution through my nose could fix that up.

Granted, you're already sick and the secret of the neti pot is that you use it as soon as you feel sick but it'll still help. A kit, at Walmart or a pharmacy, should run about $15 but at the very least, you'll be able to sleep better. When I'm horrible sick with the congestion, I save my two runs at it for right before bed and then in the middle of the night when I'm stuffed up again and wake. IANAD but personally, I use mine more than twice a day when I need it. I couple that with some Alka Seltzer Cold and I feel better almost immediately. It'll take a while to clear all that gunk out of your head and move what you've got in your lungs out but it will put you on the road to recovery. AND! If you get one now, next time you start to feel ill you can kill before it gets on top of you...
posted by youandiandaflame at 5:42 PM on October 17, 2012

Am I the only person who hates sinus irrigation? My sinus infections never got better when I used one, and usually got much, much, disgustingly worse.

My Irish-American stepfather's Hot Toddy recipe:
one shot of a good whiskey, Irish, Scotch, bourbon, whatever
one shot of lemon juice
one shot of honey
warm in microwave oven until not too hot to drink
mix well with a spoon
drink, enjoy, and get right to bed!
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:49 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the good tips! I forgot to mention that I have a Neti that I've used on and off for a few years (and one of those squeeze bottle versions, too). I should have been Neti-ing every day but I tried last night and my nose was so clogged, even after blowing, that the water would not go through. Ha! I've got some boiled water cooling now to try again.

I'd love more suggestions, too!
posted by sucre at 6:21 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been treating my chronic nasal stuffiness with Afrin at least once a day. It restores airflow through the nose almost immediately, and since I've started doing this I have not developed any of my all-too-frequent sinus infections.

You're not supposed to use it for more than 3 consecutive days (people report increased congestion after coming off of it), but when being totally stuffed up is your baseline state that's not really a concern.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:02 PM on October 17, 2012

I have two kids, one aged 10, one aged 3. When our eldest was younger and attending preschool and kindergarten, I would get sick from early October until December.

Our youngest just started preschool, and it's starting all over again - I caught a cold last week that left me with a runny nose and a bit of a chest cold. I also have asthma, especially when I have hay fever or a cold.

Things I do to try to lessen the chances of catching a cold:

Change toothbrush
- After I get sick, and after the latency phase, I change toothbrushes in order to avoid picking up something once I get better

Change clothes
- When our youngest comes home from school, we change him out of his clothes immediately, and wash his hands. Also, no shoes in the house ever. So you could change your clothes immediately after getting home.

Gargle 3 or 4 times a day
- In Japan, gargling is widely considered a way to fend off colds. Studies have been done that show that gargling does help, although it may be a placebo effect. But it is supposed to work. You can gargle with water, tea, or mouthwash.

I'm sure gargling has the same placebo effect as a Neti Pot.

Wash hands, avoid touching face
- Self explanatory, really
posted by KokuRyu at 7:18 PM on October 17, 2012

Sudafed Cold and Sinus or something equivalent. Seriously, go get it ASAP. It's a whole different animal from any of the suggestions mentioned above. You have to ask for it at the counter. You will feel like a new person, I guarantee.
posted by halogen at 7:55 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sudafed, Sudafed, Sudafed. I just went through this and not a thing from the OTC roster even budged it.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:42 PM on October 17, 2012

Eeeeuk, I just coughed up a little gunk and there was a tiny bit of blood there. A wee wee bit. That kind of thing freaks me out! May be time to go back in...
posted by sucre at 9:00 PM on October 17, 2012

Oh man, colds are the worst! The main things that help me with diminishing a cold are...

1. Sleep.
2. Echinacea, Golden Seal, and Buffered Vitamin C (not EmergenC).
3. Dayquil.
4. Nyqil.
5. More Sleep.

I am not a doctor, but chances are the blood's from a broken capillary if you've been coughing roughly lately.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:45 PM on October 17, 2012

This is how I kill my colds:

- Otrivine spray - this type of thing is an absolute miracle nose and sinus deblocker. IMO, it takes away 80% of the feeling of being ill and it works in two minutes! Don't use for more than 5 days though.
- Really hot bath.
- Two pints of water, one with an aspirin, a multi-vitamin and an Iso-Star sport energy tablet dissolved in. If I'm feeling achy, I swap the aspirin with a ibuprofen, but you shouldn't mix the two.
- A shot of schnapps
- Straight to bed with thick socks, winter cycling leggings and a fleece.
- Sweat that cold out.

Works for me...

I would love to find an effective cough medicine that you inhale. Oral syrups never do much and feel non-targeted as it goes to your stomach. But that's for another ask metafilter thread....
posted by guy72277 at 11:52 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Along with all of the other very very good advice, I'm going to recommend taking copious amounts of vitamin C and B's (like 2z daily) and taking a good multivitamin in the morning, every damn day, for as long as you work with children.

You can not underestimate how much this will improve your immune system long-term and hopefully head off this sort of thing in the future. I swear by this now.


Gargling salt water for your throat and cough?
posted by jbenben at 12:02 AM on October 18, 2012

Again, IANAD and I can't even be bothered to google about it, but I frequently get blood in my...snot. Sorry, couldn't think of a better word. If I remember correctly, this is just a by-product of the sinus infection -- the lining in your nose gets all sad and worn out and bleeds. Going back to the doctor certainly wouldn't hurt but I wouldn't worry too much about it, so long as it's not copious amounts.
posted by youandiandaflame at 4:58 AM on October 18, 2012

It's unclear to me whether you have taken some sick days, but is that an option? Whenever I need to keep working through a cold, it ends up lasting about a month, where if I can stay home i get over it in 2 days.
posted by WeekendJen at 5:33 AM on October 18, 2012

> Eeeeuk, I just coughed up a little gunk and there was a tiny bit of blood there. A wee wee bit. That kind of thing freaks me out!

It's gross but it doesn't necessarily mean you're about to die of consumption in a garret. It's totally normal to get a bit of blood in your snot when you're snuffly, and that could be what you're coughing up.

Not to say you shouldn't go to the doctor. But don't panic.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:27 AM on October 18, 2012

You say that you are taking an expectorant. If your coughs are mucous producing, continuing with the expectorant is a good idea, especially if you have a history of bronchitis/pneumonia. If however, your coughs are dry and nagging, quit it with the expectorant, and use a cough suppressant instead.

Gargle with salt water. Buy some Ayr saline nasal spray and start snorting it up those nostrils as needed.

Do you still have your tonsils? If you do, are they very inflamed? Colds used to last for a month's time for me, until I had my tonsils removed. It was as if the tonsils were holding onto the infection and just re-infecting me every time I'd start to get a bit better. If you get sick frequently and it lasts for long stretches, and your tonsils are frequently swollen, I'd consider seeing an ear nose and throat doc.
posted by Gonestarfishing at 1:36 PM on October 18, 2012

I am feeling so much better today! Still coughing some and a bit stuffy, but much better mentally and less lethargic.

I do still have my tonsils. I'll look into that. The coughs are producing gunk, for sure, so I'll keep on with the expectorant.

I took 3 sick days, plus went home early on a couple days when we didn't have students. That's why I was so confused about why I wasn't feeling better- so many days just lying in bed! But I hadn't slept well, which I think was the culprit.

Thanks again, everyone!
posted by sucre at 7:45 PM on October 18, 2012

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