How to deal with a bad cold on vacation abroad
October 5, 2006 1:33 AM   Subscribe

I'm doomed. Doomed! Coming down with a bad cold and going on vacation tomorrow. How to avoid spoiling things for everyone?

My girl chum and I are flying to Spain tomorrow for a chilled week in her parents' posh timeshare apartment. We booked this as a "reward" for ourselves for working so hard this year. So very much looking forward to it.

Meanwhile, I am coming down with my boyfriend's cold. A comment from him about me going on vacation without him? Maybe. But he has had body aches, blocked nose, sore throat, thick head, the lot (but no fever), for about 4 days now. And I'm starting to feel coldy myself...

I should add that I'm one of those people who gets a cold if someone sneezes in the next town, and I normally get them *bad*. Also, I have asthma.

1) There's lots of anti-cold advice on AskMe, but do you know of anything about warding off a cold at the beginning, or lessening the effects/duration of a cold? I can live with feeling crappy over the weekend, then entering into the spirit of things come Monday...

2) Any advice on handling a cold abroad/on the move? I live in the UK, flying to Spain, then driving to the mountains to stay.

3) How to NOT spoil the vacation for my girl chum, who is one of those amazingly considerate, "have-the-shirt-off-my-back-to-my-own-detriment" people. But she's equally stressed and very deserving of a vacation where she doesn't have to run round a sick person...

4) Oh yeah, and any tips on enjoying my vacation through a steenkeeng cold?
posted by unmusic to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
In the beginning, it's all about garlic. Yeah! Garlic. 3-4 cloves raw: chewed or chopped, but RAW. It's kept me healthy(when I eat it quickly enough) for years. Yeah, you'll say I'm insane, but 95% of people say that. The other 5% wonder why I get sick if I know this. It's a miracle of people-plant synergy and it *works*! Eat it even if you are already past the point where it can prevent anything, it will still kill whatever you have gestating inside you. I can't handle it on an empty stomach so I will "pad" myself with bread and/or other starchy foods, sometimes chopping it and putting the raw, chopped garlic on an already heated quesodilla(cheese on a tortilla, yes?). Don't cook it or it will mostly(nutrients, but no virus-killing) give you bad breath :)

After it starts to set in, I will usually try to mitigate it in a few ways:
a) Fluids: a.k.a. pure water(not tap)
b) Cooling foods; fruits, salads, etc. Basically feed yourself properly for your own body type, those foods work for me. Tofu, potatoes, etc...I avoid meat if I can, it just feels "wrong" when I'm sick even if I feel I "need" it.
c) I am prone to lung issues myself, so I do steams(from a crockpot/slow-cooker) of tea-tree oil(5-6 drops per 'dose'). It really helps to clean out my lungs. It's one of those amazing nature-remedies that post-modern civ. has conveniently forgotten in favor of fabricated medicines. Use whatever steaming mechanism you can devise, even if it's stovetop.

Best wishes to you. I know how it can be to want the best out of a situation but not be able to provide the energy. Be flexible and push things a little, but also pay attention to your body and know when to take a pause, even if it means taking a chill on the more active stuff so you can be 'alive' for the more important aspects of the trip, whatever those may be for you.
posted by a_green_man at 2:05 AM on October 5, 2006 [3 favorites]

Sleep sleep sleep. If you sleep 12+ hours a day, it should be gone in 2 days.
posted by knave at 2:15 AM on October 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

Echinacea seems to be popular - there's uncertainty about it's efficacy but a number of clinical experiments claim to have shown that it can reduce the effects. I think it's fairly clear that it doesn't make a cold worse. The other two supplements often mentioned are vitamin C and Zinc. If I were you, I'd dose up on these three. For symptomatic relief, I am a big fan of boiling water with fresh root ginger, honey, and lemon slices in it. And never underestimate the healing power of hot ribena.
posted by handee at 2:27 AM on October 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

Water + the voodoo of large doses of vitamin C. And rest. Also, depending on your familiarity with Spain and the availbility there of anything you might want to take to ease your way down the pathway of colds, medicine-wise, might want to get those at home before traveling. Or is it just us mountain-of-meds Americans who take this stuff? Having had to twice deal with colds in Italy and needing some headache stuff in Oxford, navigating the local OTC mores is kind of sketchy, especially when you are forced to sink into The Sedaris Effect in translation to describe your symptoms.

Don't be afraid to acknowledge you are feeling run down and perhaps should take a day or two easy in the name of a better trip overall. Its hard when there's neat stuff to see, but far better to get over the cold and enjoy it than to slug out days on end feeling crap.

Best of luck on a good (and healthy) trip. Being stuffed up at altitude is not always A Good Time...
posted by Ogre Lawless at 2:31 AM on October 5, 2006

Vick's First Defence - use it at the first signs of a cold. It's available at corner shops, off-licenses and pharmacies.

Otherwise, make a pot of garlic, ginger and chili broth - chop lots of each of fresh garlic, ginger and chili, in a pot with water (and a bouillon cube for flavour if you want) and simmer for 15 mins, then drink three or four bowls. It should be as chili-hot as you can stand it. Then lots of vitamin C (2000mg) and plenty of water - if you have any, two Berocca tablets in a big glass of water with lots of ice, and then more water.

Good luck! This happened to my boyfriend the last time we went to Amsterdam. It was a quiet trip.
posted by goo at 2:32 AM on October 5, 2006 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Or is it just us mountain-of-meds Americans who take this stuff? Having had to twice deal with colds in Italy and needing some headache stuff in Oxford, navigating the local OTC mores is kind of sketchy, especially when you are forced to sink into The Sedaris Effect in translation to describe your symptoms.

I used to live in the US, and I ofen miss the aisles and aisles of pseudephedrine-enhanced medicinal cold goodies. We don't have much of that stuff over here. It's mostly paracetamol (Tylenol) and decongestant products.

At lunchtime I'm heading to our local pharmacy to see what they have in the way of Vicks First Defence, Echinacea tincture and zinc. Then I'm stocking up on orange juice, garlic and ginger. And then I'm going to nap. Ooh, and drink lots of watre...

Another Q: decongestant products + asthma = bad?
posted by unmusic at 3:15 AM on October 5, 2006

Response by poster: ... Which of course, is British for "water". Ahem.
posted by unmusic at 3:16 AM on October 5, 2006

You're in luck. Got a hair dryer?

Paulsc suggested this a few hrs ago.

And drink lots of watre.
posted by Phred182 at 3:20 AM on October 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

BTW, it's a sign you need a vacation that the body gives in when you take one.
posted by Phred182 at 3:22 AM on October 5, 2006

1 gram of C every three hours, after nine hours you'll notice a change in symptoms. Any less won't really help much.
posted by ewkpates at 4:15 AM on October 5, 2006

1. rest. Let your body fight it. Take the day off from work.

2. warmth. I often take a long, very hot bath at the start of a cold; I'm convinced that it helps shorten the duration of the cold. Also, a hot bath is a great precursor to #1, above.

3. If you put a damp washcloth into a ziploc bag, and take it onto the plane with you, it can be a handy thing to breathe through in case the dry plane air aggravates your sinuses (I find it painful, sometimes, myself)

4. Please consider whether there's any way for you to avoid sharing your virus with all those other plane passengers, who will be trapped in a small space with you for several hours, with continuously recirculated air your collective source of oxygen...
posted by amtho at 4:59 AM on October 5, 2006

Response by poster: Please consider whether there's any way for you to avoid sharing your virus with all those other plane passengers, who will be trapped in a small space with you for several hours, with continuously recirculated air your collective source of oxygen...

I am going to feel horribly guilty on the plane. I have tried to explore this. I have suggested not going or not breathing, but one is unfavourable and the other impossible.

I am open to suggestions!
posted by unmusic at 5:15 AM on October 5, 2006

You could get a face mask and go Michael Jackson style. I'm sure if you explain the reasoning, people will be appreciative.

I would suggest Zinc Lozenges, when I take them at the first signs of getting sick, it seems to lessen the severity. Also I'll second Vitamin C and Water, these tend to flush toxins out of your body, which makes it easier to fight off the infection.

There's also a product called Airborne (warning: the site has a REALLY obnoxious sound file play when you load it), which claims to help with colds, I bought some of this stuff, and haven't used it yet, so I can't speak with any personal experience, but you may want to give it a try. Not sure if you'll be able to get it on that side of the ocean, though.

Finally I know that when I'm sick I ALWAYS feel better after taking a nice long hot shower. This is probably because when you're sick you don't really feel like taking care of yourself and you tend to get dirty and oily (I do, YMMV) and washing that all off is a nice way to feel normal again. I'm sure there some toxin elimination reasoning for why this is.

And upon reading your follow up in thread, I'm pretty much repeating everything you're going to do, so good luck.
posted by gregschoen at 5:30 AM on October 5, 2006

I know people who swear by Airborne.

My mom swears by Zicam, especially the nasal swabs.

I took oscillococcinum while I was in Amsterdam, when I woke up with all the icky symptoms you described. It's technically for the flu, but taking that and sleeping all day had me feeling better by the next day. I've seen it in drugstores in the US.
posted by kimdog at 6:25 AM on October 5, 2006

My doctor once told me to avoid taking things which reduce bodily output, so anything that dries up your nose. He said that your body is dumping virus with the mucous, and you should let it out, drink lots of water etc.

Maybe not handy when you're on a plane.

Eat lots of fresh fruit, sleep as much as you can. Not contaminating other people is a problem. Don't sneeze or cough without covering your mouth, and don't touch anything you will be sharing with other people without washing your hands. Maybe some sterilizing hand gel?
posted by tomble at 6:55 AM on October 5, 2006

Let me just say thanks for asking this question. I'm in the exact same position. Flying out tomorrow to see the GF and I came down with a cold just a couple days ago. And thanks to all the answers. ;)
posted by Atreides at 7:06 AM on October 5, 2006

I use Airborne now (which is nothing more than massive doses of Vitamin C along with a few other vitamins and herbs) at the beginning of every cold and it has been fairly consistent in reducing the amount of time I'm full-blown sick. Without Airborne, my colds would always leave me miserable for 4-7 days. With Airborne, I'm mildly miserable still the first full day after symptoms start, but after that, I only feel a little yucky for a few days.

I think a lot of sleep, water and vitamin C would probably accomplish the same thing, though. Airborne is expensive.
posted by lynda at 7:46 AM on October 5, 2006

+1 for Zicam. It really does work, especially if you start using it when you're just "starting to feel coldy."
posted by somanyamys at 7:47 AM on October 5, 2006

Not sure if you have Emergen-C where you are, but that's what I've been drinking when I feel this way and it's worked thus far. It's got 1000 Mg of Vitamin C plus lots of other good stuff.

Also, my friend would have me second oscillococcinum. She swore she didn't get sick all through grad school because of it.
posted by jdl at 7:47 AM on October 5, 2006

Yes, Vitamin C regularly, like medicine--every three or four hours, with lots of water. (And I used to be prone to regular and nasty asthma/cold combinations, as well, which have decreased dramatically since I started taking 1g of C every day.) As for asthma/decongestant combos, I've never noticed ill effects. But pay attention to whatever the package insert tells you.

Finally, for the scratchy throat that sometimes presages the chest congestion: hot, herbal tea laced with honey.
posted by paleography at 8:05 AM on October 5, 2006

I came down with a cold two days before I was supposed to leave for a fantabulous trip. My process halted the progress of the cold:

1 Airborne Tablet every 2 hours*
1 Zicam Squirt every 4 hours
1 Dose DayQuil/NyQuil as recommended

When I arrived at the airport two days later I found I could breathe clearly, my symptoms had resolved themselves.


*High doses of Vitamin C can cause diahrrea (sp?) and constipation. Weird that it can cause both, but it can. And does.
posted by Not in my backyard at 8:51 AM on October 5, 2006

Airborne, Airborne, Airborne. Buy it, drink it, love it. And sleep lots.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:58 AM on October 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

go to a store that sells herbal supplements and get yerself some yin chiao. also take some airborne or emergen-c daily.
posted by gnutron at 10:41 AM on October 5, 2006

4) Oh yeah, and any tips on enjoying my vacation through a steenkeeng cold?

If everyone else's advice doesn't help you in time, I recommend heavy drinking on the vacation. It won't cure you, but it will make you feel better.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:41 AM on October 5, 2006

I second all the Airborne recommendations. If not that, Emergen-C (comes in little packets, often in convenience-store -like places). Several times a day.

Also -- keeping your sinuses as clear as possible can help keep bacteria from building. Consider saline sprays like Ocean (I don't recommend the generic version unless that's all you can find) or Simply Saline. Take 24-hour Claritin-D (or generic equivalent), even if you have to wait in a long pharmacy line for it. The D (for decongestant) is probably the most important part. And if you're beyond the point-of-no-return in terms of congestion, you might consider Afrin. I hate to recommend it because I think it does more harm to the sinus tissues in the long run (if you use it for long enough, that is), but it can keep you clear like absolutely nothing else can.
posted by treepour at 11:22 AM on October 5, 2006

Response by poster: Okay!

So I spent £40 ($75) at the pharmacy today, on:

Vicks First Defence
Echinacea tincture
Vit C (1500mg)
Zinc (one a day)
Lemsip Max Strength

I've been chewing on raw garlic (ouch! that stuff burns), drinking lots of water and taking my asthma preventer inhaler. The cold hasn't taken hold yet, but it's on its way. watching my boyfriend suffer and sniffle on the sofa is like a magic, crappy mirror into the future. 4 days from now, say.

Sadly I can't take the day off work (I even have to go into work tomorrow before I go to the airport, even) and we don't have/I can't find Airborne, Emergen-thingy or Wellness Formula, so that's out of the question.

I *will* be drinking when I'm on vacation. Very seriously.

Thank you so much for your advice. Any final words?
posted by unmusic at 12:20 PM on October 5, 2006

"... Any final words?"
posted by unmusic at 3:20 PM EST on October 5

Try the hair dryer thing. Really.
posted by paulsc at 4:26 PM on October 5, 2006

Response by poster: Just a quick note to say thanks -- I am back from my cold-free vacation and I'm SURE that it's down to your advice. The Boyfriend's "cold" turned into the fricken FLU while I was gone, so I got away easy.

When I posted this, I was already getting that 'coldy' feeling and over the next day or so started to get bad headaches, blocked nose and nausea.

- Ate 2 raw garlic cloves (ouch)
- Drank 30 drops of Echinacea tincture in grapefruit juice every 2 hours
- Took 1.5mg of Vitamin C every 4 hours (WARNING: I did get a squiffy stomach with this)
- Took 1mg of Zinc twice a day
- Took Berocca PLUS one multivitamin per day, before bed

I also drank a lot of water and had more sleep than I normally get (about 9 hours per night; I usually get 6).

By the time I touched down in Spain I was tickety boo. I did drink a lot of alcohol there, too, but that was incidental.

Thank you, internet people, for saving my vacation!
posted by unmusic at 8:41 AM on October 16, 2006

« Older CameraFilter: Ever fix a broken retractable...   |   Are there any open-source language detection algos... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.