Bleh. I woke up Monday morning with a scratchy throat and the sniffles. I had really hoped that it was an allergy, but by Tuesday morning, I knew. I had a cold.
Colds are like the paper cuts of illnesses; trifling on the large scale but a real pain if you're suffering from one. No one likes to complain when they have a cold because there's always going to be someone with a "real" illness, like the flu, suffering, and a cold sounds like a walk in the park in comparison. However, I have a cold, and I don't feel good, and I'm giving all us cold sufferers out there permission to feel sorry for ourselves for one full minute...
Now that we have that out of our systems, I'll move right along to the gist of this post, how we treat our common ailments. Now before I begin, I'm going to assume that you are all sensible people who go to the doctor when you're really sick. What I'm referring to are the homespun ways our moms and grandmothers (and dads and papas too!) used to make us feel better when we were sick.
Chicken soup is the gold standard of homespun remedies. I read an article once on how it actually does have healing properties, but I can't remember where that article was. I'm not sure of the science behind chicken soup, but whether it's homemade or from a can, sipping on it always makes you feel better. In our house we actually had turkey soup more than chicken soup, but the magic was still there. My theory is that we have it in our heads that the soup will make us feel better and that once we begin ingesting it, something is being done and wellness cannot be far behind!
Ginger ale for upset tummies. I still send my husband for ginger ale when I am sick to my stomach. Ginger, of course, is well known for its tummy taming abilities. Anyone who's ever nibbled candied ginger or sipped ginger tea on an airplane or on a long car ride can attest to that. But ginger ale (and for some it must be flat) seems to have a power all its own. When one thinks about it, ginger ale is soda, and soda is made of water, sugars, and salt. When we are sick to our stomachs, we are generally depleted of these elements so ginger ale would replace them. In the days before sports drinks and electrolyte replacement products, ginger ale would be an affordable and practical way to rehydrate and replenish. I can remember drinking hot jello (basically jello that hasn't set) as a child when I was sick; which would follow the same principal.
Ice cream and popsicles for sore throats. Can you remember as a child sitting home sick waiting for your mom or dad to get home with your special supply of sick popsicles? And how the minute you took that first lick you felt better? More often than not, I think the real magic of these "remedies" lay in the fact that you felt comforted knowing that someone else had taken over and that you were being cared for.
The real medicine is, of course, love. It sounds quaint, but I really think there's something to it. When we are sick we feel weak, and vulnerable, and that makes us touchy. A bowl of soup from a loved one makes us feel like we are worthy of care and less of a pain.
It's hard, the first time you are sick on your own. I can remember getting a terrible flu while living in residence in Halifax during university and having to get myself up and out to the pharmacy. As I scanned the shelves looking for my favorite hot lemon remedy, I saw that there was a chicken soup flavoured version. Ug, not the same at all!! I did, however, pick up a few tins of chunky chicken noodle soup. While it was not quite the same as homemade, I did feel a bit better once I ate it.
As an adult, you develop your "sick day" routine. This is once you've past the point in life where you feel lost and alone because your mommy isn't there for you, and you realize that you can get yourself through a cold, flu, throat infection, or tummy bug. For me, it's sleeping as long as I can, and once I'm up, snuggling on the sofa with a blanket and my fur babies. I drink lots of tea and generally just take it easy. I also indulge in daytime TV; we don't usually turn the TV on during the day so it's like a little sick day "treat" to watch Oprah and her other daytime pals.
As adults, we also find ourselves taking on the role of caretaker to other sick folk. Obviously we care for our spouses and children, but there's our friends and extended family, too. Often its just a "thinking of you" gift and the offer of help, but it means so much. I've had friends bring me flowers, candy, and trashy magazines. Last year, when my husband was away it was Mom who once again came to my aid during a migraine with, you guessed it, a jar of turkey soup (it heals headaches too, you know!) And here's a little "random act of kindness tip"; if you really want to do something nice for someone with the sniffles and sneezes, buy them a box of premium tissues, like the ones with menthol or lotion infused in them.
At the end of the day, no matter what your age, and whether you are caring for someone, being cared for, or even caring for yourself, these rituals have one basic purpose. They let the patient know that, at least to one person, even your cold is worthy of their time and caring.