The problem with having a cold is that people don’t generally feel sorry for you. In fact, they tend to feel rather annoyed. Your anti-social symptoms don’t help matters – snivelling in the library or coughing through lectures are never going to win friends, but your depressed demeanour and tendency to whinge about your illness will probably make things worse. However, if you are unlucky enough to have a genuinely bad cold, it can make you feel really washed out. As a true object of our sympathy therefore, Cherwell 24 presents you with a guide to some of the alternative remedies available.
My absolute hands-down favourite cure for a sore throat is blackberry vinegar. It’s acidic yet sweet and though it sounds disgusting, it’s actually divine. A perfect winter warmer, it sooths your throat and tastes surprisingly good. I think of it as a grown-up’s version of hot Ribena. However, it’s not that easy to get hold of. My mum conjures it up using some ancient recipe she has, but I’ve yet to find any in Oxford.
Instead you can always go for the traditional honey and lemon. Simply squeeze half a lemon into a mug along with some hot water and two teaspoons of honey. The honey actually works not only to sweeten the drink, but also to draw water out of the inflamed tissue in the throat, which reduces the swelling. And you can add a glug or two of brandy or whisky, which will have a mildly numbing effect on your throat.
This week however, I branched out and tried ginger tea. Very tasty and very simple. Grate about ½ a teaspoon of ginger into a mug and pour in some hot water. Voila. Add honey too if you want it sweet, although to be honest, once the ginger has been in a while it gets quite sweet anyway. This seemed to work quite well for me and apparently there is science behind it – I’m told that ginger contains things called ‘gingernols’ which are natural cough suppressants.
My favourite suggestion was to use a hair-dryer to kill the cold virus. The idea is to point the hair-dryer at your face, turn it to a medium setting and inhale the warm air for about 5 minutes to allow the heated air to get up your nose and kill the virus. I tried it, felt a bit silly, and stopped. Maybe other people will have greater success.
I’ve always found that putting a few drops of olbas oil on my pillow or on a handkerchief works quite well to ease a congested nose, but it’s no use for a runny nose. Alas, I have yet to find a better remedy for that than the simple tissue. However, there are other exciting suggestions to help ease your nasal problems. Anything with a bit of a kick in it should help – so try adding Tabasco or chilli flakes to your food, and apparently wearing damp socks to bed with warm woolly ones over the top works wonders. I wasn’t convinced by this one. I stuck to the warm woolly ones.
If in doubt though, there are three basic maxims which are worth sticking to. Firstly: “Make sure you drink plenty of fluids”. This is what my mum always says and she’s a nurse, so she should know. The next one is a piece of general folk-wisdom which says “feed the cold, starve the fever”. So eat more when you have a cold. And the last one is “a little bit of what you fancy does you good”. That is from my great-grandma. A wise woman indeed.