Winter is Coughing (planning ahead for illness)
September 12, 2016 9:11 PM   Subscribe

I usually get a cold or two each winter, and as a single person try to plan ahead for keeping myself comfortable when ill. What do you do?

In addition to trying extra-hard to keep the flat clean (nothing grosser than being sick in filth), I make and freeze portions of favorite chicken soups, and have a pantry shelf dedicated to meds, lotion tissues, ginger ale (best comfort drink) and teas. Also an extra set of bedding for nice fresh sheets, and a few favorite movies purchased for streaming.

What things do you do for yourself in advance of (or while) having a cold or flu? Always happy to up my game. Thanks!
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet to Grab Bag (27 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Neti pot or NeilMed nasal irrigation bottle, sterilized, and lots of packets of saline crystals to fill it with

Garlic, ginger, and cayenne to put in brothy soups

Naturopathic cold remedy teas like from Yogi Tea or Traditional Medicinals, specifically anything with licorice, cinnamon, and cayenne which get things moving in the respiratory system and warm your body up a bit more for germ fighting purposes

And an anti-preparation: I do NOT take Advil or any other fever reducer unless it is truly dire because it seems like letting my body be ferverish helps the germs die sooner.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:23 PM on September 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

I keep those breathing strips around so that when I'm all congested I can still breath and get a good night's sleep.
posted by Automocar at 9:28 PM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I use a humidifier because otherwise my colds turn into instant bronchitis.
posted by jbenben at 9:47 PM on September 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

I am not as good a planner as you are! But I will typically make a run for the following when I start feeling sick: nyquil/dayquil/ibuprofen if I'm out, soda (without caffeine, like sprite or ginger ale) or Vitamin Water (I don't believe it's actually good for you but I crave it when I'm sick), honey and lemons for tea (sometimes I will actually just boil sliced lemons and honey in water and drink that), and my go-to sick comfort foods.

I also have a pretty good roster of emergency dog-sitters just in case. If I just have a cold, I don't need to call on them. But if I've got something debilitating, it's nice not to have to deal with walking him.

Oh, and delivery services are the best when you're sick. I got swine flu (worst I've ever felt) when I was in a new city with no car, and had nothing stocked since I had just moved. Postmates saved me by delivering many of the above from CVS. So I guess have some delivery services sorted?
posted by lunasol at 9:58 PM on September 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

Wow, that's next-level self-care. I'm never without Advil, keep it in four places, reup when one source is out. Otherwise, I try to remember to put hot water bottles back in their rightful place after use, so I can find them when I need them again, and I try to stay on top of towels. +1 delivery services. I did buy a small, shallow plastic tub specifically to receive sickness-related fluids I'd prefer to isolate from my general living space (just because my mom used to have one like that, for that). Without anyone else around to actually get it in time, though, I've ended up using whatever receptacle was nearby.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:13 PM on September 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

I use zinc gluconate when the first symptoms show up. ZiCam is one brand name, but I get the store brand instead. Of course there's no way to do a controlled study on a population of one, but I believe it reduces the intensity and duration of a cold.
posted by Bruce H. at 10:15 PM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

This might be overkill, but last winter, I bought a kettle to keep beside my bed, and a 2L pitcher to keep water in. When I'm sick, I can stay in bed and have cup after cup of tea, and I have to admit that it's glorious. (I will also admit that I don't limit its use to when I'm sick, either, and that, too, is pretty great.)

Gatorade and Pedialyte are good to keep around in case of stomach bugs or similar. Popsicles for when you've got a sore throat. Instant Breakfast (the kind that comes in a tin) or similar for when you know you have to eat something, but the idea of prepping anything or even chewing is just Too Much.

Also, lozenges. A bunch of different kinds--the kind that are numbing, and the kind that are just pectin, and multiple flavors of each. Every winter I find myself wishing that I had more damn lozenges.
posted by mishafletch at 10:15 PM on September 12, 2016 [7 favorites]

Get a humidifier if you don't have one.
posted by bleep at 11:44 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Rum or whisky for when hot honey and lemon without booze is just not cutting it.

Menulog or other food delivery service to bring comfort food to your door (For me it's tom yum soup).

posted by kinddieserzeit at 3:03 AM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Riffing off of mishafletch's idea, do you have a nice big hot thermos? That way you could make a bunch of tea at once and keep it next to the bed. Tea on demand!

Also, Vick's Vape-o-Rub. I'm sure it's totally a placebo, but I put some under my nose before I try to sleep with a stuffed up nose (and after applying the aforementioned Breathe Right Strips), and it helps. Probably just because the smell is strong that I can actually smell something?
posted by chocotaco at 3:22 AM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

When I have a cold, the best feeling is taking a hot shower to clear my sinuses. I like to make sure I have shower caps on hand so that I can take a quick shower a couple times a day to help feel better without getting my hair wet.

I also like to pre-make and have on hand these sinus-clearing shower tablets, made with baking soda, water, and essential oils. Directions are here:
posted by shortyJBot at 3:27 AM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Vick's Vape-o-Rub is a miracle product. While it technically has a shelf life, it's a couple of years and I used a slightly expired tub last winter and it still worked.

I'm usually pretty exhausted anyway, when I'm sick, so mostly I just want to sleep, but I do feel Sleepytime Tea will sometimes just push me enough over the edge that I'll just fall asleep.

I also, strangely, like a nightlight in my room when I'm sick. Last time, I just used my tablet's "clock" function for dark rooms, but any low, dim light would do. I think it just helps keep me oriented when I wake up in the middle of the night.

If you're someone who's comforted by listening to things while you sleep, sleep headphones are a wonder (I like the headband style).
posted by darksong at 3:44 AM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

I bed rest immediately when I start to feel sick, and recover much more quickly.

I sterilize or replace my toothbrush and wash my face, hands and mouth much more than usual.

Both strategies are noticeably helpful to recovery.
posted by effluvia at 5:50 AM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

My sense of taste goes to pot when I've got a cold and I need something that's warm and salty so I always keep instant noodles on hand (Shin Ramyun FTW).

The last time I got sick, I could barely keep my eyes open to read or watch TV so had to listen to audiobooks and podcasts instead. I wasn't necessarily tired, I just...couldn't keep my eyes open. At the time I wished I'd had some ready to listen instead of downloading/transferring while sick.
posted by pianissimo at 6:18 AM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Humidifier and eucalyptus and other essential oils. I don't know if they help or not but the nice smells when sick make me feel better.
posted by wwax at 6:42 AM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

I collect a stash of large paper grocery bags, and use them as trash stations by the couch, the bed, and my desk. This prevents me from quickly accumulating a gross pile of used tissues around me (during a bad cold, I can easily overwhelm a small bathroom trash can in an hour or less), and instead I can throw them away easily, without needing to get up.

Also stock up on petroleum jelly or Aquaphor - something mild you can use on chapped lips and a nose that is sore from constant nose-blowing.

Do an audit of your pajamas/lounge clothing - it is nice to have an extra pair or two of clean, fresh pajamas to change into. It makes you feel worse if your only options are ragged t-shirts that have holes in the armpits. Nice thick socks are essential.
posted by castlebravo at 6:46 AM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

We keep coconut water on hand, for electrolyte replenishment.

There are lots of recipes for apple cider vinegar with honey and cayenne or lemon as either a preventative or a cure for common viruses. I tried taking a shot of ACV every day one winter and while I didn't get sick, you have to train yourself to be able to drink vinegar and I just couldn't get past it for the long term.

When I feel the first inkling of illness coming on I take zinc and massive doses of vitamin C.

When my husband gets sick he gets massive anxiety about being stuck in bed and not being able to get everything done, and then he gets insomnia. So I started keeping a bottle of Costco's Sleep Aid in the house too.
posted by vignettist at 7:40 AM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Lozenges with the benzocaine for sore throats. (Cepacol makes some, some stores have other brands too, I try to look around for the sort with the highest amount per lozenge.) Better living through chemistry! For a long time I used "cough drops" with menthol or whatever, but for a sore throat, an actual anesthetic is magic.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:54 AM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, flu shot!
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:01 AM on September 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

This may be tea sacrilege, but when a cold settles in my chest, I find it really convenient to have bottled lemonade on hand to pour into my tea to soothe my throat. Yes, fresh lemon and honey is the classic remedy, but when I'm sick and tired I tend to be very lazy. (In the US the lemonade wouldn't be carbonated.)
posted by puddledork at 8:21 AM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

I keep a cheesy pulp novel or two, just for when I get sick. I can only watch so much TV.
posted by workerant at 8:25 AM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

(vignettist and other readers, ACV every day is great, but take it in a little bit of water, as the straight stuff can damage the lining of your esophagus and is not great for your teeth, either.)
posted by Riverine at 12:00 PM on September 13, 2016

(No comments on ACV being good or bad but if you're letting vinegar touch your teeth I'd suggest rinsing your mouth with a baking soda solution afterwards to neutralize the acid so it doesn't eat away at your teeth--acid is what causes tooth decay.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:06 PM on September 13, 2016

I'm in awe of your illness prep!

When I'm sick, one of the hardest things is finding motivation to feed myself. It sounds like you are well-stocked with soups, but having some crackers or ginger cookies on hand may be helpful if you get hit with a stomach flu and need something to nibble slowly.

Since colds can make you achy, and since many pain relievers are also fever reducers (which you may not want, unless your fever is very high), a hot water bottle to drape across your aching head/shoulders/back might be a nice idea.
posted by Owlcat at 6:03 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

These are all excellent ideas; thank you so much!

I don't own a car, so planning ahead is key. May we all a: not be sick but b: be as comfortable as possible if we are.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 5:52 PM on September 14, 2016

I always have a loaf of sliced bread in the freezer, for hot buttered toast as needed. Frozen bread makes perfectly good toast straight from the freezer, and you can separate off a couple of slices surprisingly easily for toast on demand without risking the loaf going mouldy before you're back on your feet. Also, if you're in the UK, a jar of Marmite or Bovril keeps forever, and is a useful fallback to accompany the toast.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 12:01 AM on September 15, 2016

I keep a couple of bottles of my favorite "I'm sick" juice in the pantry in the winter, alongside the Coldeeze I've stocked up on while it was on sale.

Stay well!
posted by missmobtown at 5:28 PM on September 15, 2016

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