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Stuff for the Stuffed Up: A Few Tricks for Cold Symptoms

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No matter how much you ignore people on the subway in New York, it’s hard not to notice the people wearing surgical masks. And while part of me giggles, another part of me totally understands the precaution. Nothing breeds germs quite like enclosed spaces and people rubbing their hands all over safety rails. Now I occasionally make fake claims that I’m a scientist, but I make no such statements about being a doctor. I’m just a person who always got bronchitis as a kid, and still catches a yearly cold with a deep hacking cough as an adult. If you’re having severe symptoms, go to a doctor. But if you’ve just got the sniffles, here are a few tips beyond the usual vitamin C and decongestants. Let me know what your favorite cold cures are, too.

Zinc Cough Drops

I’m not going to lie, they do taste like you’re sucking on fruit-flavored metal. But they are more effective at making your cough go away than the ones with mentho-lyptus action, no medication, etc. The zinc drops are also less likely to make feel like you’re drunk if you pop too many of them (I consider this a pro; others might say it’s a con).Whatever cough drops you get, make sure they’re sugar free. You don’t want to rack up dental bills because you’ve been letting sugar dissove in your mouth all day.

Wash your hands

Hand soap! (photo from gizmodo)

Even if you cough into your sleeve like the subway posters suggest, your hands are little germ cesspools when you’re sick. You don’t want to spread all microscopic (or visible) contents of your snot rag after you blow you nose. Remember basic hygiene, and you’ll get better faster. If you’re all about the anti-septic hand gel, carry some moisturizer. That stuff sucks your hands dry.

Peppermint Oil

Get the oil, don't crush these up.

I totally didn’t believe my roommate when she suggested this, but it totally works. Get a little bottle of peppermint oil (not extract. Just straight up oil). Dip a Q tip into the bottle, and place a few drops on the back of your throat. Then drink lots of water. You’re gonna gag a bit, even if you’re used to objects hitting your throat, but the oil helps stop severe coughing and throat pain and cleans shit out of your nose.

Get a humidifier

This remedy requires a bit of an investment, but could be worth it your  heat makes your apartment is super or you get sore throats a lot. They’re rpetty simple: you put water in, push a button, and moist air comes out. The moisture helps get rid of sore throats. Set it up on the floor next to your bed, and you’ll sleep with less coughing.

Sleep! and Eat Well

A lot of koalas have chlamydia, so they need to sleep a lot.

A lot of koalas have chlamydia, so they need to sleep a lot.

Germs will flee your body faster if you get enough rest and eat food with nutritional value. If you’re phlegmy, cut back on dairy for a bit.

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Kiley E - Ragamuffin Researcher

Kiley E - Ragamuffin Researcher

After years of denial, Kiley has finally admitted to baring a striking resemblance to Velma from Scooby Doo. Instead of traveling in a van hunting ghosts, she prefers wandering on foot in search of tacos, cheap beer, and fake birds. Growing up in Portland, Kiley enjoyed the balance of urban and green spaces. Then she spent her four years at Ithaca College, and found herself craving more sprawling asphalt in her life. So she moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where most of the buildings look like they're about to collapse. Kiley's favorite activities include: getting lost, crafting, sewing, biking, and geeking out at museums. Her love of taxidermy probably makes her a terrible vegetarian, but she doesn't care.


  1. January 9, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    the peppermint oil is also good to prevent nausea.

  2. Kiley E - Ragamuffin Researcher
    January 15, 2010 at 12:37 am

    Totally! Peppermint tea is good for that too.

  3. […] already know how to avoid getting sick and/or to keep your cold from getting worse, but let’s suppose you fuck up and don’t wash your hands (gross!), stay out late […]