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January 5, 2005

Posted by Teresa at 02:42 PM * 162 comments

Patrick and I both have the flu. He’s starting to get better. I’m about two days behind him.

I’ve never had what you’d call a robust immune system. Normally I’d have gotten my regular flu shot last fall. We all know what happened there. This isn’t the first time I’ve had the flu, but it’s the first time I’ve known who to blame.

Comments on Influenza:
#1 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 05:29 PM:

Oh, snakes, Teresa. Hot lemonade. Blankies. Stupid movies. Lots of rest. Feel better (you and Patrick both).

#2 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 05:36 PM:

Rx: Chicken soup, with mazoh balls. Fortunately, high quality is available in your neighborhood. Much sympathy!

#3 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 05:40 PM:

My sympathies. My parents, my sister, her husband, and I spent the holidays with the flu. This particular strain seems to attack the bronchial passages with ferocity, and causes coughing fits of spectacular duration--my father, who has emphysema, ended up in the hospital over Christmas Eve because of it.
Incredibly bad tasting but effective cure for the coughing fits: load up a tablespoon with sugar and soak it in bourbon. Chew and swallow the resulting paste. Works great!

#4 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 05:47 PM:

Teresa wrote:
This isn’t the first time I’ve had the flu, but it’s the first time I’ve known who to blame.

John Edwards? >8-> (Kidding, kidding -- that ridiculous chain letter kept bouncing around on my church's list, even after I Snoped it.)

I hope you feel better soon. My wife is in misery now too, because a cold she caught from me escalated into a sinus infection, and being pregnant she's not allowed to take any of the good drugs. The only decongestant on her list is Sudafed, and she can't take that because it makes her heart race.

Rest up!

#5 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 05:52 PM:

Kim chee. The korean picked cabbage. The strongest and hottest you can find. Followed by a steamy shower.

Madeline: *Tsk!* How would snakes help?

#6 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 06:14 PM:

breathing steam with tea tree oil in it.

#7 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 06:16 PM:

Bright blessings for a speedy recovery, both.

(Myself for anything involving chest, I just eat tons of garlic. Soupy garlic stuff better than solid. Also, if your chest is congested and you can't take drugs for it, having someone pound on your back -- or rather on their hand which is on your back -- is actually surprisingly helpful IME.)

#8 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 08:07 PM:

I just got over the flu myself, and my wife and son have it now. I wouldn't have minded quite so much except that it followed directly on the heels of a colonoscopy and the prep thereof, so I felt lousy for rather longer at a stretch than strictly necessary. Oh well.

Hope y'all feel better shortly.

#9 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 08:14 PM:

Our bettermost local Chinese takeout does a good spicy pork and cabbage soup. Also, when you order their eggrolls, they send a little plastic container of their own special mustard. The first bite of that stuff always makes me wonder for a moment whether it's actually meant to be eaten by human beings. Then I swab up even more of it on my next bite of eggroll. It can break a fever and clear out your stuffed-up ears all by itself.

I'm so feeble it's ridiculous. I brought my hamster and his cage up out of the basement because I was having trouble negotiating the stairs, and I was afraid he'd be neglected if I got any worse. Besides, he's a consoling little beast.

(I now have a hamster. Long story. His name is Arthur. He looks a lot like this, only cuter. He loves leftover Chinese-takeout rice, and is currently teaching himself to run on top of his exercise wheel.)

It has taken me forever to write this much. I'm going back to bed now.

#10 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 08:21 PM:

My usual sovereign remedy is a good hot bowl of hot & sour soup (Royal East or Mary Chung's, as available, in Cambridge; I hear NYC has a Chinese restaurant or two).

Get well soon, both of you.

#11 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 08:25 PM:

(The previous comment was written before I reloaded and saw Teresa's Chinese takeout comment, or it would have been worded somewhat differently.)

Mustard, or in extreme cases wasabi, also work to clear out sinuses...but do you really want it all out at once?

Again, I hope you feel better soon.

#12 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 08:30 PM:

Kim Chee satisfies the garlic requirement; that mustard works for me. Get better soon.

#13 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 08:56 PM:

Urgh. Feel better soon, the two of you.

I'm home nursing my son, who has some sort of nasty stomach bug. I'm doing my best not to catch it from him, but doubt that it will work.

My "home remedy" takes a totally different approach from the others mentioned: a very stiff Rusty Nail (fill a Scotch glass with shaved ice. Put in 1/3 Drambuie and 2/3 cheap Scotch -- no point wasting the good stuff when you can't taste the difference). Doesn't help with the syptoms, but helps you forget them. Also puts me to sleep really quickly.

I haven't suggested this to my son yet. He's still a tad youngish for it. So chicken soup, crackers and ginger ale for him.

#14 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 09:14 PM:

Call me kooky, but my "home remedy" tends to involve such natural goodness as acetominophen, pseudoephedrine, chlorpheniramine, and guaifenesin instead of touchy feely stuff like tree oil or soup.

Seems to work.

FWIW, I am just now getting over a terrible bout of the flu. Influenza almost never goes after my stomach as well as my respiratory passages, but this one did. With a vengeance. "Uncommon" in adults my !$@*!#%.

#15 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 09:14 PM:

That hamster (which is, I think, a Teddy Bear), looks as if it is on a leash.

This cannot be true. Simply cannot.

I tend to find that if I can just sleep through most of the flu, it's for the best. Except, work kind of makes that difficult.

#16 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 09:16 PM:

Similar to Emma's sugar-and-bourbon is my dad's mix of whiskey, lemon juice, and honey, with a dash of hot water to thin it out. Adjust proportions to taste.

#17 ::: Kristin ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 09:29 PM:

West Indies Cold Cure and Chicken Soup

Cold Cure
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp. grated ginger
1 dash of cayenne

Mix thoroughly and slug it down. Take every 2 to 4 hours until either you or the cold gives up.

This was published in Prevention Magazine. The recipe was recommended by Dr. Ben Kligler; Medical Director of Beth-Israel Center for Health and Healing in New York City. He was given this recipe by several of his West Indian patients.

Since Chicken Soup is also a traditional cold cure, I make my standard homemade chicken soup recipe (stock, carrots, parsnips, onions, etc.) and add the west indies cold cure in place of the normal soup spices. It adds a nice kick. Salt and pepper to taste.

#18 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 09:50 PM:

David --

acetaminophen - does absolutely nothing in the recomendded dosages, so far as I can tell. Don't want to mess with the dosage and die horribly of liver failure.

pseudoephedrine - does clear my sinuses, but since I also wind up unable to sleep for extended periods, I get twitchy; in large doses -- as in, twice in succession -- the urge to have totally disproportionate responses to minor irritants becomes pronounced.

chlorpheniramine -- reactions to antihistamines include utter torpor for 12 hours plus (non-drowsy sudafed the first time I tried it), the backs of my eyeballs itching like there are fire ants back there, and being totally, utterly, walk into the operating jet engine, spaced.

guaifenesin -- don't think I've ever used this.

There are few things that work -- ibuprofen -- but mostly I'm stuck with lots of sleep and fluids, and hoping I don't get sick enough that it's worthwhile for someone to figure out what does work.

I have this suspicion that the fondness for 'home remedies' has more to do with wanting something that works better than a preference for avoiding nasty drugs.

#19 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 10:09 PM:

Graydon -- guaifenesin is the main ingredient in all cough syrups that say "expectorant". (Some used to have a dash of chloroform, but that was barred some years ago.) It thins out the mucus in your lungs so you can actually cough it out instead of hacking forever. It's getting harder to find by itself; the last time I went looking it was available only in combination with ?dextromorphan? (allegedly non-torporifying cough suppressant). It tastes awful even in strong-flavored syrups but seems to help without side effects. (I'm not a frail flower but I'm not habituated to most medicines; YMMV.)

#20 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 10:15 PM:

The best cough med I ever had was creosote-based. No kidding. It works wonders! I can't remember what it was called, but Kroger carried it, and it started with "creo" or maybe "kreo" -- but it was, yep, telephone pole coating in a bottle. And stopped the cough. Probably took a year off my life, but as long as the cough stopped, I didn't care much.

Since moving down here to Puerto Rico, my cureall for everything is to go up on the roof terrace and do t'ai chi in the sun until my entire body warms up thoroughly. And sleep and fluids and a good movie.

#21 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 10:35 PM:

If Arthur looks like that, he's a handsome looking little guy. In the meantime, I wish you and Patrick good health. Use whatever remedy works for you and take care.

Would you like something to read? Just kidding. I know you probably have tons of good and bad stuff to read. ;)

#22 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 10:39 PM:

What is going on with that hamster? It looks like it has an electrical cord.

I'm ready to believe anything after my daughter's oral surgeon walked into the consulting room and calmly and without comment plugged his head into the ceiling.

#23 ::: Anna ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 11:22 PM:

Eek, many sympathies to you both about the flu!

And the hamster picture is adorable, even if it brings to mind very strange and conflicting visions of Hamtaro and the "Ultra-Peepy" episode of Invader Zim. ;)

#24 ::: Merav ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 11:35 PM:

Our household has had both varieties of 'flu. Head and stomach. I'm very glad that there isn't one for the lower third of the body, otherwise we might be obliged to have the whole set.

Feel better soon. And Patrick too.

#25 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 11:47 PM:

Feel better soon, both of you.

And by the way— that's no ordinary hamster. Thats the most foul, cruel, bad-tempered chipmunk-samoyed hybrid you ever set eyes on. It'll nibble your bum.

#26 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 01:33 AM:

Teresa and Patrick: get well soon, both of you!

My dad also used to use the whiskey, lemon juice, and honey cure. He gave it to me once when I was sick, when I was about nine or so. (Turned me off alcohol for about ten years, by which time I was in college.)

Lots of sleep and fluids. Soft facial tissues! Books, for when your eyes insist on being open. Amusing TV shows (videos or DVDS included), nothing depressing. (Ignore the news.) Good music.

If you start to run a fever call the doctor! I had pneumonia or something a year ago (the week between my birthday and Thanksgiving) -- I never did see the doctor, just called him, so I'm not sure of the exact diagnosis -- the symptoms of which were a very bad (and very "productive") cough, a fever of over 100 degrees (F; about 38 Celsius), though never higher than 104 (40C) *and* total loss of the senses of taste and smell. I could feel the texture of things in my mouth, fat in milk and soup or the fizziness of Coke, for example, but could not taste the sweetness of the Coke* or the chocolate in the chocolate milk. The doc prescribed an antibiotic and some codeine-based cough syrup (cherry flavored but I couldn't taste that either). It took the usual three days for the antibiotic to take effect, but by Thursday I was feeling a bit better. (Not well enough to go to Thanksgiving dinner and cough all over my family, though, of course.) Friday my temperature was normal, but I only lasted a half-day at work because I was still weak.

Meanwhile, I think your hamster has had a bad shock. Better check the wiring in his wheel when you get well. :-)

*At one point I decided that getting up to get something to drink was too much work, so I carried a twelve-pack of Coke into the bedroom so I wouldn't get dehydrated by not drinking anything. When I told my sister the nurse this later, she said I was probably already starting to feel better when I came up with that idea.

#27 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 02:11 AM:

My own personal cure is hot lemonade (preferably made by some other person while you lie on your bed of pain, cuddling your hamster): fresh lemon juice, sugar to taste, hot water, and a healthy slug of the spirit of your choice (I usually use vodka, as it doesn't quarrel with the lemon flavor, but in extremis have used brandy or even, memorably, tequila). Has all the building blocks of life: Vitamin C, sugar, and alcohol. Plus it is warming and grateful to a raw throat.

Arthur looks adorable. Have you knit him a hamster cozy yet? Better, have you taught him to knit yet?

Stefan: "snakes"=shit. It is what you say when you have children for whom you are striving to be a good example.

#28 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 02:32 AM:

And I just spent New Year's weekend down for the count too, with the stomach variant going around. New Year's Day was essentially wiped off the calendar, virtually all of it in bed and asleep/unconscious, and my internal clock is still trying to adjust for that missing day.

A hamster-driven turbine would explain why the pictured hamster appears to be wired for electricity. Producing, not using.

#29 ::: Maureen Kincaid Speller ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 04:29 AM:

My sympathies. Flu, I've dodged, but only because I've been engaged with an ongoing something or other that turned into a lovely ongoing bronchial infection with added extras. I really should have gone to the doctor with this one, and put up with all the nagging about my failure to avail myself of all their other facilities, just to get the antibiotis ... but I didn't. My body is a temple, but a sick one. We can learn from this. Three and a half months is too long to have a low-grade illness!

Meanwhile, take good care of yourselves, both of you, and get well soon. And my best to the hamster.

#30 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 04:48 AM:

Oh, you poor things. I am one of those annoying people for whom "flu" means a couple of days of light fever and lots of whining, but I still sympathize with the real thing. This year, I weathered my light laryngitis by lapping up all three hours and some of ROTK, but I guess you'll have done that already.

And Arthur! You have custody of Arthur! I'm thrilled.

#31 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 06:18 AM:

Maureen--I'll see your three months low grade infection and raise you six. I have had a nasal infection since June, a flu shot, and a lost voice the entire time. (I know it's around here somewhere.)

T&P I salute you and all the mustard/ cabbage/ whisky solutions in the world. But I am now on a Z pack of antibiotics and had the best night sleep without coughing in ages.


#32 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 08:30 AM:

Poor babies! Hope you're both better soon. I've had a cold but nothing too serious thank ghu because I'm having my knee replaced today. I have to be at the hospital in half an hour so I suppose I should call the cab. (Jordin got stranded in DC yesterday when snow in Chicago cancelled his flight to Seattle.)

At the first sign of cold/flu/whatever I begin comsuming lemons, oranges, peppers, tomatoes and whatever else I can find with vitamin C. And lots of fluids. I often take a long hot bath with tea tree oil, thyme oil, lemon oil, and o damn the other one has been eaten by my occasional nominal aphasia.

Anyway, get better soon. Hugs to you both.


#33 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 08:51 AM:

Get well soon, both of you.

#34 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 09:05 AM:


Please feel better soon. The flu always feels more like punishment than illness.


The thing about 'home remedies' is that they often have basis for working.

Garlic is an immune system booster; vitamin c the same. Soups and juices contain garlic or vitamin c AND are liquids, which are always recommended. Exercise is also a good immune booster, but is more helpful before the fact, than after.

As far as painkillers, which are helpful because they reduce fever and joint ache, when I was really, really sick, the doctor had me alternating tylenol and advil (or their generic formulas) as a wya to get around the max daily dosage for each individual medicine. HOWEVER I would not recommend such a course of action without a consulting a doctor.

And for anyone else who has so far managed to avoid the flu, what I recommend most is near and dear to my OCD heart: Wash your hands. Frequently. I've gotten good at unobtrusively using my shirt tail or sleeve to open doors, but then I already have so many other quirks, people hardly notice.

If you feel silly about it, think about all those people who cough into their plams and wipe their noses on the backs of their fingers, grabbing door handles and touching surfaces.

#35 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 09:11 AM:

I hope you both feel better soon.
That West Indies cure sounds good. It's got the one thing I swear by -- ginger. Fresh ginger in any soup is good.

Guafinesin is plain Robitussin. My dr recomends it because it's got no serious side-effects, plus it tends to make you thirtsy and you need the liquids. The doc also prescribes it, in mega-doses, as something for her female patients with secondary infertility to try.

#36 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 09:50 AM:

Neti Pots are good for clearing out sinuses and speading up recovery of colds, flu and infections.

I've been using one for the last few months and I've never breathed better. Also, it nipped a cold in three days, where everyone else I knew had it for a week or two.

#37 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 09:57 AM:

Good health to you soon. Take care of selves.

#38 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 10:57 AM:

I was going to say something about the flu, but--

Hamster! Lookit him!

Pets are wonderful things.

(And now that I've got that out of my system, feel better, both of you!)

#39 ::: Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 11:03 AM:

Oh, ick. Feel better, you too. Like Graydon, I can't take anything with pseudephedrine in it as it keeps me awake for days and days. Sadly, that's the only OTC oral decongestant in the US these days.

Thankfully, I stocked up on Lemsip the last few time I was in the UK; it contains a different decongestant.

Hot liquids work; I'd suggest big steaming mugs of jasmine green tea for the both of you. And, if you have a tub, a nice hot bath with eucalyptus oil in it.

#40 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 11:15 AM:

Horrible to be unwell. However, nice to have fuzzy creatures when you have the ick. Hope you are better very soon.

#41 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 11:17 AM:

Madeleine: Hamster cozy? That hamster is a cozy! Next question: is his fur spinnable?

Teresa: I hope you feel better soon. Sleep well!

#42 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 11:32 AM:

Do hamsters catch human colds? I know ferrets can -- and as with cats, it's hard not to laugh at the poor things when they're sneezing.

Echinacea tea seems to help, but it may be mostly because it's a nice hot drink. And zinc cough drops, though foul tasting, will dry up the drips for a while.

#43 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 11:40 AM:

I've found that a nice, cooked hamster with hot Chinese mustard sauce and 24 ounces of Mad Dog 20/20 will usually do the trick for whatever trips me up.

Make sure to get rid of the fur before you cook it or you'll be picking it out of your teeth for weeks.

#44 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 11:45 AM:

The lemon and soup recommendations (in additions to the various actual medications) sound good to me. For nastier respiratory symptoms, however, and the inability to sleep, I recommend:

Boil water. Add a good bit of (preferably fresh) sage. Boil for about 1 minute more, then begin to inhale the steam deeply. After you've done that a bit, drink the infusion. Sage is a good anti-microbial, and also an astringent that will clear out your system, plus it's a bit of a narcotic that will make you sleep very well. And think the situation is funnier than it is.

#45 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 12:50 PM:

Pseudoephedrine may be effective, but don't expect it to be on the shelves much longer now that the crystal meth epidemic has finally reached the East Coast. The feds will probably ban the stuff soon.

#46 ::: Elric ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 01:05 PM:

Sorry to hear about the bug that has zapped you. Feel better soon!

For readers who haven't had the flu yet, and who wanted flu shots but couldn't get them in October, try checking with your doctor now. Nancy and I were able to get shots at our PCP's office a couple of days before Christmas. Someone there said that they not only have the shots, but because so few people are thinking to ask for it, they're afraid much of their supply may have to be disposed of when it reaches the expiration date.

For readers who have the flu, a couple of suggestions. Nancy likes to take a British cold remedy called Lem-Sips, fortified with a nice single-malt scotch, every four to six hours until she is feeling better. A friend has what he calls the sombrero cure: sit down, cross your legs, and put a sombero over the upper foot; drink tequila until the sombrero falls off; go to bed and sleep it all off. I can't vouch for either of these myself, but maybe someone will be able to make use of them.

Best wishes to all for improved health!

#47 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 01:27 PM:

We're a little better today, but still fragile. Patrick heroically walked two blocks to the convenience store to bring back orange juice.

I've already done self-indulgent movie therapy, which in my case consisted of sitting propped up on the sofa with a blanket around me and re-watching the entire Ken Burns Civil War series. A strange side-effect of doing that while I was half off my head with fever was that I'd keep thinking I'd missed some favorite bit I remembered from earlier viewings of the documentaries. Then I'd realize that I'd transformed some remembered chunk of text into a false memory of that same passage filmed in Ken Burns' documentary style.

I find I still miss those ghostly bits -- James McPherson on "Greasy Mudsills for A. Lincoln," for instance, and Shelby Foote on the song the Army of Tennessee sang after Franklin and Nashville, and Bruce Catton's "the old Army of the Potomac was dying" passage from his account of the Forty Days. I can't see and hear them quite as clearly as I could when my temperature was 101 F., but the recollections are still there. I may be stuck with them permanently.

Hot and sour soup is made on a chicken-stock base, and so is scarcely to be improved upon for curing viruses. My own version of the throat-soothing stuff is honey dosed with Jameson's and lemon, but still thick enough to coat your throat. It makes the hurt stop hurting for a little while, and you can't overdose on it the way you can with OTC syrups. I keep a periodically-renewed bottle of it in the fridge, with a label that says Aunt Sophronia's Soothing Syrup./Good for what ails you, and plenty that don't.

Greg Ioannou, one of the odder "doesn't help with the symptoms, but lets you forget them" tricks is one I learned from Ted White. Patrick and Tom Weber and I went down to Falls Church to visit Ted between Christmas and New Year's one year, but literally while we were on the train down, we started coming down with the worst strain of flu I have yet to see. This is how we discovered that Ted is one of the world's great sickroom nurses.

Tom collapsed first. Ted not only got him tucked up in a guestroom with all the usual palliatives, but telepathically divined Tom's perfect books for comfort reading, which he stacked next to the bed, and an equally appropriate set of music CDs, which he set up on the headboard along with a player and headphones. No one could have been kinder. Also, he taught me this trick.

You know that utterly miserable stage of a really bad flu-plus-bronchitis where you ache all over and your lungs just feel raw? A good long hit off a balloon full of nitrous oxide makes the hurt stop hurting for a while, and the patient happier and more relaxed for rather longer than that. It's great. For a little while nothing hurts, and you can get your bearings back.

David Bilek, I assumed that ibuprofen, pseudoephedrine, and guaifenesin were assumed. At some point early on I dumped a big loose handful of ibuprofen onto the bedside table so we'd neither have to open bottles, nor walk all the way to the bathroom medicine cabinet to renew the dose.

Kate, the hamster in the photo is not on a leash. I can't imagine what feats of ingenuity it would take to leash a hamster, and they'd still escape from it anyway. I think he-or-she has wandered near the fastening of someone's backpack or laundry bag.

Kristin, I like your West Indies Cold Cure, especially if added to hot chicken soup; but if you also add shrimp, lemongrass, and a little unsweetened coconut milk, don't you have one of the basic Thai soups? Those really can stop a cold in its tracks.

Michael -- creosote cough syrup? Wow. I mean, mesquite-and-creosote smoke is the perfect flavoring for a campfire-grilled hotdog, but I have trouble imagining creosote taken internally in greater than trace amounts.

Andy, hamsters are born believing that all the world is their friend. I figure that's why, in spite of their talent for escape, they've never gone native in North America.

BTW, I was recently amused to learn that the desert rodent Rommel's troops were referring to when they named themselves "desert rats" is what we would call a gerbil. "Rommel and his gerbils" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Mad, how well you know me. Arthur already has two hamster cozies -- one that's just the cut-off ankle ribbing of an old sock, and another that's more elaborate. Things got very silly the day he found out that his sock-cozy was a tube. I'm not sure he actually needed rescuing, but I rescued him anyway.

Anna, my family has the same relationship with chicken pox that you have with the flu: we don't get anywhere near as bad a case of it as most others do. Of course, that's only useful once. Skipping the worst of the flu is useful year after year.

Arthur is indeed the same hamster that came to Viable Paradise, so he's collecting quite a literary CV. After Jim's mother's house in Bedford was sold, there was no place for him to go, since the Doyle Macdonalds have cats (and an occasional ermine). He came to live in my basement office, and seems happy. If we're ever going to be away for any length of time, I suppose I'll have to leave him at Tor, where he can improve his professional connections still further.

Jane, the idea of you without a voice for that long is simply unnatural. Do please feel better.

You too, Mary Kay. Suddenly all these people I know are getting their knees replaced. Make sure they give you the good natural-grown oak kind -- they're much more durable, particularly if you're doing a lot of sailing in the tropics.

Mayakda, should I ask why guaifenesin helps with secondary infertility? And Keith, I thank you, but this is not the moment for me to be stuffing what looks like a miniature watering-pot up my nose. Not feeling that adventurous with my mucosal membranes. I'm sticking with the "hot towel on your face" trick.

Eric: Pseudoephedrine? Crystal meth? What?

They can't take Sudafed off the market! I'm a narcoleptic! What other decongestant am I going to take?

I've been screwed over too many times already by the Feds' abysmally stupid War on Speed. Please tell me they're not going to do it again.

#48 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 01:54 PM:

Boy Teresa, you must be feeling better to be able to compose a response that long.

Pseudoephedrine can be used as an ingredient in the synthesis of crystal methamphetamine. The process is relatively inexpensive and not that hard to do if you don't care about health and safety precautions. As a result, illegal meth labs can be found almost anywhere: people's apartments, houses, warehouses, barns, etc. The solvent smells are a giveaway, so the cooks usually try to find out-of-the-way places where neighbors won't get suspicious and complain. (Remember what I said about ignoring safety? Lab fires are also a pretty common side-effect.)

In response, in some jurisdictions over-the-counter drugs such as Sudafed are kept on the back shelves and must be requested, rather than being freely available on the regular shelves. I've also seen stores place limits on the maximum number of packages you can purchase at once (usually 5). Crystal meth got its start in Asia in the 1990s, and has been working its way eastward through the USA ever since. Recently it's started showing up in East Coast states and even in the rural heartland. All I'm saying is that when it starts having a big enough effect on enough people, especially in the Red states, the feds will probably be moved to clamp down harder on it than ever before. Since the meth cooks need an FDA-regulated product (pseudoephedrine) as a key ingredient, it seems straightforward to expect that the feds will want to do something about that ingredient. I have heard that a non-pseudoephedrine decongestant formulation is available, but the pharmaceutical companies of course don't want to pull a lucrative product off the market, if they don't have to. It'll be a battle between the FDA and the DEA.

#49 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 01:57 PM:

Pseudoephedrine is one of the precursors for making crystal meth. They already note you down if you buy a lot of it at once.

AFAIK all decongestants are stimulants. For cardiac reasons, I can't take ANY of them, especially pseudoephedrine. That's why a) sinus headaches are crippling for me, and b) I know so many home remedies for them.

#50 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 02:03 PM:

WRT neti pots: Yes, they look silly. Yes, they sound gross. But in my experience, they really help clear out a sinus infection quickly and gently. For that, I'm willing to pour water up my nose. Believe me, I wouldn't do it otherwise.

WRT flu shots: For people who need to be vaccinated but aren't set on an injection, there was no shortage of intranasal flu vaccine the last time I checked.

(No one may believe me, but I really don't have a thing for putting stuff up my nose.)

#51 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 02:20 PM:

I had this flu back in November on a trip to Denver, and it was horrible. (You're not the only one to have had more than the respiratory symptoms, David Bilek.) Hope you're feeling better soon.

Eric said: Remember what I said about ignoring safety? Lab fires are also a pretty common side-effect.

They're also, oddly enough, a source of environmental contamination. In some areas -- CA comes to mind -- "Clandestine Drug Lab" will show up as a listing on a database of contaminated sites, with no location given.

I once got carded for buying pseudoephedrine and Afrin. The store's computer flagged the purchase as requiring me to prove I was over 18. I'd never heard of it before. (Neither had the clerk.) I'm another major fan of guafenasine as a decongestant, but then I'm another one of those who has very nasty reactions to pseudoephedrine.

#52 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 02:45 PM:

I'm glad you're feeling better, Teresa --

I had the crud de-luxe last week (while on vacation, of course) and like Xopher, I have to avoid decongestants. Unfortunately I also have to avoid sugar, especially in solution, so most of the other home remedies are out of bounds as well. My one remaining remedy is the Magic Blue Jar of Vapo-Rub.

My wife has a blue glass Vicks jar that she inherited from her father, so we really aren't sure how old it is. She carefully refills it from the plastic jars you get now, and it is on the short "must be retrived in case of fire" list. The stuff lets me sleep when my head would otherwise be solid with mucus. Of course it does not help the week or so of coughing as my lungs clear afterwards. The blue glass really shouldn't make the Vicks more effective, but we both feel that it does. If nothing else, it feels good in your hand when the rest of you feels vile.

I dread what my wife would do if I ever broke that jar.

#53 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 02:53 PM:

Fortunately, the gigantic hardcover Lab Safety catalog just arrived (it is not quite an 800-pound gorilla, but a Mexican Death cage match between the two of them would be interesting).

They have loads of OTCs, brand name and cheapo, usually in boxes of one-dose packs for your employees, even if those employees are purely hypothetical. They're a good bit more expensive than drugstores, but an industrial supply house would be less likely to look funny when you ordered ten thousand of them. And just imagine the street value of fifty keys of bismuth subsalicylate.*


I don't need to tell Teresa about the sometimes interesting times those of us who can't survive (in an entirely non-figurative sense) without Controlled Substances sometimes have in legitimately acquiring same from lawful sources. They're like any other war stories; you get the joke if you live through it.

*Generic for Pepto-Bismol. Just in case you ever wondered why it had such an ugly name (with apologies to Matter-Eater Lad's homeworld).

#54 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 03:02 PM:

"The Oregonian" ran a big story on pseudoephedrine / meth link a month or two back. It resulted in the cold pills becoming a show-your-ID product, and drug companies rushing gelcap versions of their products to market.

Until recently, some small convenience stores (the type associated with rural gas stations) were selling thousands of dollars worth of Sudafed & friends a month. Shell companies were set up to supply them with private label brands.

The meth thing is really bad in Oregon. Blue collar crack. Lots of burglaries and identity theft has been traced to addicts, and to people trying to fund their labs.

"God created Meth Labs to smite trailer parks he couldn't reach with his tornadoes."

#55 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 03:04 PM:

Stefan, why gelcaps? Are they less amenable to having their active ingredients extracted?

#56 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 03:08 PM:

Mayakda, should I ask why guaifenesin helps with secondary infertility?

There's two theories. One is that some women get thick mucus which blocks sperm, and guaifenesin thins it. Iirc, my doc's explanation though, is that it's also because guaifenesin stimulates the wave-like movement of cilia, and fallopian tubes happen to lined with cilia, hence they will help the cilia move the egg. Something like that. Bottomline being that it helps some women get pregnant.

#57 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 03:18 PM:



The Oregonian article showed the whole process. Really nasty solvents and such are involved. I'm guessing that extracting from a liquid would mess up the procedure, and we're not talking about chemists here.

#58 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 03:30 PM:

Use Google News to search for pseudoephedrine and see an astonishing array of stories about localities looking to ban it, move it to back shelves, require a prescription, or otherwise make it harder to obtain.

Sudafed will no longer contain pseudoephedrine: the new product, labeled Sudafed PE, will have phenylephrine as the replacement active ingredient. News article coverage.

#59 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 03:54 PM:

Sorry, a correction: it seems that the original Sudafed is not coming off the market after all, at least not right away. They're just adding the non-pseudoephedrine version.

#60 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 04:03 PM:

Tracina -

Just a friendly nitpick in case anyone is unaware of the differences between types of flu vaccines. People who very much "need" a flu vaccine are unlikely to be able to make use of the inhaled FluMist variant. Injected flu vaccine, the kind we had a shortage of, is a dead virus vaccine. It is perfectly safe for everyone.

The inhaled vaccine is a *live* virus variant. The people who most need flu vaccine... the elderly or those with compromised immune systems... are at risk of becoming ill from live virus vaccines. FluMist is a good thing but mostly of use to young healthy people. Like those in the armed forces where I believe it is commonly used.

#61 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 04:08 PM:

I'm a big fan of the Alka-Seltzer fizzy cold & flu tablets. The meds in it seem to kick in quickly, and drinking it warm is satisfying, like I'm quaffing a magic healing brew.

The formulation was changed a while back, after one of the ingredients was found to increase the incidence of strokes in older woman.

Being male, and young at heart at least, I leapt at the opportunity when the office manager tossed out a boxfull of the stuff from the break-room remedy cabinet. It was also past its expiration date. I finished it off during one particularly bad cold season.

#62 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 04:12 PM:

You have to get Sudafed and Theraflu at the counter at some places near me and other places require an ID or cap amounts (usually only 2). Our local Target sells a shockingly limited amount of pill/powder decongestent products; they have lots and lots of the liquids and gel caps though. Meth labs are a big cottage industry here in the heartland, according to our local news.

#63 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 04:17 PM:

Best wishes for speedy recovery to you and to Patrick, Teresa.

I spent my entire vacation feeling like the Technicolour Phlegm Thing that Ate Medicine Hat. I'm still coughing, sniffling, and expectorating. It's vile. And I fall firmly into the camp of people who can't take pseudoephedrine. There's nothing quite like lying in bed at 03h00 feeling jittery, exhausted, and sick even while your nasal passages are clearer than they were before.

#64 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 04:29 PM:

Marginally related to the pseudoephedrine question: a while ago, the police raided my downstairs neighbors' place looking for a meth lab-- waving a rubber-stamped warrant resulting from the reclassification of meth as a weapon of mass destruction under the Patriot Act. Just to give TNH a frisson: it happened that the woman who lived there was also a narcoleptic.

It turned out there was a name collision between her and a local meth queenpin. So the police raided... and found the antique store she was running out of her living room.

No happy ending, sadly; fearing a repeat of the incident, they left the City. (Not an irrational fear-- once any large organization gets an idea into its collective head, getting it out again is not easy.) Irritatingly, I'm still having to explain to people that they were categorically innocent-- I lived right over them, and got my first gig in a lab when I was 13. I could no more fail to detect a nearby organic synthesis lab by smell than I could fail to notice an elephant dancing on my atlas singing The Piano Has Been Drinking. Hell, on the other side of them lived a PhD biochemist; between the two of us, we would have noticed if they had ever so much as spilled a bottle of nail polish remover. (We'd have been down there dragging them out by the hair and phoning HazMat just from force of habit.)

#65 ::: Kate ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 04:29 PM:

Yeah, my brother had a hamster when I was younger, and I remember several times waking up with the utterly weightless hamster wandering across my chest. Given as my brother and I had different rooms, this was, at least the first time, a very startling event.

Therefore, hamster leashes were... improbable.

Though given as they have leashes for ferrets, I figured, maybe miracles of engineering have happened since we had a hamster.

But, no.

Glad you're feeling somewhat better.

#66 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 04:42 PM:

Sympathies, folks.

#67 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 04:50 PM:

I've heard news reports that the pseudephedrine purchase controls instituted here in Oklahoma have really helped cut down the number of meth labs in the state -- but not as much as expected, because people are just driving over the border into neighboring states without purchase limits. There's now some pressure on these states to adopt the same controls. To purchase the stuff, I have to be a client (i.e., in their database) of the drugstore chain where I want to purchase the Sudafed-equivalent; I have to show ID; I have to sign for it; and there's a limit to how many tablets I can buy in a month. It's a pain in the butt, and Walgreens handles it better than Walmart, but having an employee whose son's life has been destroyed by meth, I think I can put up with it.

#68 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 04:53 PM:

Stupid Sudafed Tricks:

About 19 years ago, I'm in my apartment at college, suffering from a cold and playing Ultima III on my IBM PC.

I'm sneezing and have a runny nose, so pop a sudafed.


A while later, I find myself feeling all sorts of weird. Spacey. The cyan - magenta - white color scheme of the game is looking really trippy. Whoa, like, you know?

I blow my nose.


Lots of red. Vivid red.

"Whoa!" I think, "Guess I'm hemmoraging or something."

I save the game . . . and keep playing. Gotta find the Mark of Fire. Even impending death will not keep me from ridding Lord British's lands of the menace of Exodus.

A bit later I blow my nose again.

Still red, but now there's a thoroughly beaten-up looking Sudafed tablet amidst the scarlet.

I had sneezed the sucker way up into my sinuses, where it shed its red outer coating and transferred its brain-scroggling goodness directly through my mucous membranes.

#69 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 05:02 PM:

Mr. Bilek: The people who most need flu vaccine... the elderly or those with compromised immune systems... are at risk of becoming ill from live virus vaccines

An entirely justified nitpick.

I hope you will allow me one of my own: Injected flu vaccine, the kind we had a shortage of, is a dead virus vaccine. It is perfectly safe for everyone.

That is, the dead virus part of it is. The medium (at least, the last one I checked) can cause problems for people who have reactions to albumin.

#70 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 05:20 PM:

Keith, I just looked over that Neti Pots site. It is amazing how the NP manages to make even that conventionally attractive model look like a total dork.

I'm trying to imagine the reactions I'd get to integrating one of those things into my life. The ... looks ... I'd get as I sat at my desk (in our totally open concept office) Neti Potting my nostrils.

Even worse would be the reaction on the home from. The howls of laughter from my son. The long-suffering eye-rolling and moan of "Daaaaaaaa-dyyyyyy" from my 9-year-old daughter. And of course there would a curt, "Oh god what now?" from my wife.

The cat would react as he does to anything unexpected. He'd hide under the bed until the next meal time.

#71 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 05:27 PM:

Teresa, one of the happiest times of my life was the period I was off work with mono. I slept a lot, read a whole pile of books, listened to favourite music, and watched old movies and lots of baseball games. And was pampered. Purrrr. Too bad you only get it once.

#72 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 05:30 PM:

P&T - I hope you're both feeling better soon. I think I've got a mild variant of the flu, which is lingering as a sore throat, minor cough, chills and minor aches. I wouldn't want to have the full-blown version, even with the services of a fluffy hamster such as yours.

The amusing bit about my minor flu is that I had the most violent symptoms last week, on the second day of my new job. I was supposed to go out to dinner with my supervisor and the group's GM, but instead I was in my hotel room with the heat cranked as high as it would go, scooting back and forth to the head and hallucinating, unsure of whether the time on my watch was AM or PM. Very auspicious way to kick things off! I even spent my own $$$ to upgrade my flight home to first class to improve the passenger/lav ratio in my favor.

I was only that sick for one day, and wouldn't have wanted to have been for a moment more so you have my sympathies.

As for the pseudephedrine, I'm one of the legion of highly sensitive types - I can take one pill every 48 hours and not be messed up by it but I try not to take any at all. I'm also with Stefan Jones in missing the old formula of Alka Seltzer Cold tablets - they were one of the few things that worked reliably without making me feel almost as bad as my ailment. But, if it saves a few lives... (Couldn't they have made it a cheap Rx, though?)

#73 ::: Simbelmyne ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 05:30 PM:

FluMist might use a "live" virus, but I bet in this case "live" means "attenuated". It's metabolically active, but it's been weakened so that your immune system can deal with it without having a symptomatic reaction.

Well wishes to everyone bitten by the influenza bug.

#74 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 05:50 PM:

[wood-knocking continues throughout]So far this season I have successfully avoided the flu, without getting my usual flu shot. I have asthma, so this is a Good Thing. [/wood-knocking]

#75 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 06:03 PM:

Very ill in Britain in 1994, I bought a pack of creosote-based cough drops, mark problem in the absence of any ability to smell or to taste. They didn't do much, though.

Practical tip:
Lemon oil is irritating, to my throat at least, but sourness is good against a sore throat, therefore using citric acid to flavour drinks is recommended (available in many kosher and E. Eur. groceries as "sour salt", or "lemon salt" in Arab or Armenian onces).

To hack an old Laurie Anderson quote, just take a look at what giant food-related programme activities places do, and scale it down.

#76 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 06:08 PM:

Anecdotally: I started getting the flu vaccine a few years ago and I have been healthier in all ways ever since. I asked, and several nurses and doctors have confirmed my impression that my immune system, no longer having to battle those new strains of the flu (most winters I am very exposed, since I usually teach), is just that much more effectove with respect to the rest.

This year I had given up on it (I'm not old enough and my "conditions" are too mild to get into the desperation queue) and then the vaccines arrived and I got mine.

#77 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 06:36 PM:

I'm sure the bulk of this politically hotwired crowd knows this, but just in case (perhaps for our foreign correspondents who look upon Red White and Blue Fang Going Dingo with be-adverbal-infixing-musement): the main reason for such legal infarcts as reclassifying Evil Drugs as terrorist implements is to suck money from the taps opened wide for the War on Terror and the Allied Arts to apply it to plain ol' local policing, which in most places is suffering from a financial crisis caused by . . . oh, you know that part already.

It's interesting that the Partnership for a Freedom-Free America has quit hustling the idea that all terrorist income came from a cut (you'll pardon the term) of Smack 'n' Blow. Which some does, but certain other sources are countries that concentrate on terrorizing their own citizens, which is swell with Our Lads at the Top, and some of it is oil money, which would make for some very awkward commercials.

After one of the Goofus and Gallant, Having Reached Late Middle Age and Moderate Affluence, Conduct a Dialogue on the Economic Foundations of Purchasing Semtex adverts, I really wanted to see an editorial reply from "Bubba X" of the American Federation of Independent Hemp Producers, arguing that not a goldurn dime of their profit went for anything stronger than corn squeezin's.

Arrr. Ye topic be driftin' into ye shoal bitstream. Tell ye oarsmen, 56k, dead slow. Arrr.

#78 ::: Lisajulie ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 06:39 PM:

When they stopped selling sudaphed in 96 tablet bottles, I hied myself off to the local herb shop and bought several ounces of cut and dried ephedra.

Now, when I am congested in the sinuses, I brew a cup of ephedra tea and drink it _slowly_. This lets me regulate dosage, as at the first sign of significant drippage I stop ingesting it. And it doesn't taste bad at all.

Of course, we don't have to let people know that several of the Ephedra species native to North America, are known as Mormon Tea, do we?

Personally, I plan on planting some around here as I suspect my access to the herb will soon be curtailed.

#79 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 07:08 PM:

Janet's description here:

To purchase the stuff, I have to be a client (i.e., in their database) of the drugstore chain where I want to purchase the Sudafed-equivalent; I have to show ID; I have to sign for it; and there's a limit to how many tablets I can buy in a month.

makes me think of the Victorian (and, indeed, present day) British laws about "poisons books", which had to be signed when certain specified poisons were purchased.

Get well soon, guys. I'd second the recommendation of Lemsip, but there's not much point across the Pond, is there?

#80 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 07:19 PM:

Teresa, did you know a recent study says chocolate is better at combating cough than codeine? I got my shot and haven't been sick, but then I don't go out that often. I've had toddlers here twice this week, which is very unusual.

I hope you guys feel better soon.

#81 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 07:27 PM:

Jules: AFAIK, guaifenesin (spelling per the house-brand bottle in my medicine cabinet) is not a decongestant; it helps clean up sticky lungs but not stuffy heads.

mayakda: are you sure plain Robitussin(TM) (if you can find it) is just guaifenesin? I recall having to look for something that was expectorant without suppressant or decongestant (and not succeeding the last time I looked).

TNH: glad to see you sounding coherent.

#82 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 07:37 PM:

Robitussin's "DM" version (possibly the most common kind - I know it's what we always had in the cupboard growing up) is an expectorant/suppressant, but it appears that the regular Robitussin is just guaifenesin.

#83 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 07:39 PM:

CHip, plain Robitussin (not DM or any other letters) is definitely just guaifenisin - I'm holding a bottle in my hands right now. The real trick is finding plain guaifenesin in gel capsules, thus avoiding the bad-tasting syrup issue entirely. I've managed to special order them at my local pharmacy in the past, but no joy this year.

#84 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 08:01 PM:

Upstream some way Teresa remarked on Rommel's Desert Gerbils that weren't. But they weren't the only ones who weren't gerbils. The British 7th Armoured, same theatre, were also non-gerbils. And our own Onebat are still officially not gerbils, according to the battalion colours.

I'm going back to bed now. Flu? I ain't got flu. I always sound like Daffy Duck riding on the footplate of a steam engine.

#85 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 08:25 PM:

I've found OTC guaifenesin pills in my local Walgreen's, under the names Humibid and Mucinex. My local CVS doesn't carry them.
I feel about cough syrup the way Gollum does about lembas, and since I frequently get bacterial bronchitis after a chest cold, this has been a godsend. That and Zithromax.

#86 ::: Mary ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 08:26 PM:

Shoppers Drug Mart here in Canada makes good, cheap cough syrups for just about every combo of sympoms imaginable, but they also make a dry cough version (pure cough suppressant -- dextromethorphan hrydrobromide) and a chest congestion version (guaifenisin as expectorant).

As far as I'm concerned, it's a waste of time to take the common combo cough medicines. If you've got crud in your lungs, it needs to be thinned and you need to leave your cough reflex alone. And if you've got a dry cough, why take an expectorant your body doesn't need? I keep a wee bottle of each pure type around the house at all times and switch between them as needed when I get ill.

#87 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 09:34 PM:

CHip wrote: Jules: AFAIK, guaifenesin (spelling per the house-brand bottle in my medicine cabinet) is not a decongestant; it helps clean up sticky lungs but not stuffy heads.

Well -- partly. It's not a decongestant like pseudoephedrine, certainly, but the way it works to ease coughs and clear the chest is by loosening mucus -- thinning it out (cf also the above comment about the theory of it thinning sperm-blocking mucus). I'm sinus infection prone, but can't take the good stuff, so a doctor recommended the guaifenesin to me a few years ago to break up and clear out the mucus in my sinuses during colds and stop them from turning into sinus infections. The same mucus-busting powers that let it clear up a chest cold also help clear out other forms of mucus and get your nose running.

It's certainly not as immediately effective as the little red pills, but then those leave me with skyrocketing blood pressure and an inability to focus my eyes properly, so for me, at least, it's a significant improvement overall. And I have noticed fewer sinus infections since I started taking it, although of course YMMV.

The problem, I find, is finding a product that's *just* guaifenesin in pill form. I mostly seem to end up with the bottled syrup form, which is just nasty.

#88 ::: Lisa Padol ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 09:55 PM:

Sudafed? For some reason, it never did anything for me. I mean, zilch. Boggles my father, who finds it helpful.

#89 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 10:50 PM:

Pseudoephedrine definitely does have some sort of effect on me. Once I accidentally overdosed on a cough syrup I was using to try and "soldier on" at work. It left me feeling very strange and light-headed, which probably didn't help the work either.

But that was probably a cold or like lesser viral infection that doesn't lay you out like the "proper" 'flu does.

Best wishes to T & P for speedy & happy recoveries (and anyone else here affected, just to not make them feel even worse by being left out).

#90 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2005, 12:04 AM:

I'm down with a bad cold myself this week, so my sympathies.

I've always been able to take pseudoephedrine in the past successfully, but this time around I was overwhelmed by the side effects - spacey, tired, yet unable to sleep (up until 5am one night, woke up every two hours another). I can breathe now, although my sinuses are still congested and I have a cough, so I've sworn off of cold meds and am down to ibuprofen and the whiskey-lemon-honey concoction. For the latter, my preferred proportions are equal volumes of lemon and honey, twice as much whiskey as lemon, and three times as much hot water as whiskey. Good whiskey helps a lot, too.

#91 ::: Jeffrey D. Smith ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2005, 02:45 AM:

Sudafed makes me very jittery, so I don't take that. My PA suggested a nasal spray, something more localized than systemic, and he was right; I can use Afrin.

This year is my first non-flu-shot year in quite a while, and I've been very nervous when people around me seem sick. So far, so good, though. One night, ten o'clock or so, I suddenly felt bad, feverish and all. I was sitting on the living room floor and just put my head down on the carpet and went to sleep. Stayed home from work the next day, felt fine around four pm. What the hell was that? The 18-hour flu? That was just ridiculous.

10-15 years ago I had a bad flu. Make that a Bad Flu, one of those every-square-inch-of-your-body-hurts flus. One day I stared at one spot on the bedroom wall for 6-8 hours. One spot! You can't do that for 6-8 minutes when you're healthy. I hope I never feel that bad again.

Or that any of you do, either.

#92 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2005, 09:16 AM:

The problem, I find, is finding a product that's *just* guaifenesin in pill form.

If you have a sympathetic doctor, prescription strength guaifenesin pills do exist.

My head hurts in a sinusy kind of way today -- have viruses already found a way to propagate over internet lines?
Hopefully it's just time of the month body falling apart stuff.

#93 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2005, 01:20 PM:

Pseudoephedrine is not the only problem -- consider one of the most common ingredients in cough syrup (or the best home remedies), ethanol.

The driver, Karli Ann Bobus, was stopped in November 2002 by a Highway Patrol officer, who said her car was weaving on the freeway. The officer said her eyes were bloodshot and her speech was slurred. Her blood-alcohol level measured 0.022 percent.

Her license was immediately suspended under a state "zero-tolerance'' law that makes it illegal for anyone under 21 to drive with a blood-alcohol content of 0.01 percent or higher, compared with 0.08 percent for an adult. Those under 21 caught driving with 0.05 percent blood alcohol or above can be cited and fined, in addition to the license suspension.

At a hearing to challenge her suspension, Bobus said she had been at a party where friends were drinking but she had taken only a capful of cough syrup. The appeals court said that she may not have been telling the truth, in light of the officer's testimony about her appearance and behavior, but all that mattered was her alcohol level, not its source.

"Yes officer, the one over there hacking away is our designated driver . . ."

#94 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2005, 02:56 PM:

Sorry to hear about the flu. I'd suggest hot & sour soup but it seems you've already twigged to that one. Congrats on the hamster as well; there's something so inherently benign about hamsters that they can't help but cheer you up.

#95 ::: Chloe ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2005, 06:02 PM:

Yuck! Sorry to hear of anyone being sick!
Hope everyone feels better soon!

In recent years, I usually do not get very severe cases of the flu or colds.
But this winter has been particularly bad for me. A few months ago I had VERTIGO for several weeks from the flu! And it seems not a week goes by that at least one day I feel like I'm getting the flu again. Don't know if it's relapses or what.
And this week I have a terrible cold. Terrible miserable cold.

My beverages/remedies... sitting next to me at my desk here right now:

A mix of ice, water, orange juice, and a splash of carrot juice. Yes, I love this.
And a mix of hot mandarin orange herbal green tea mixed with Theraflu Severe Cold formula. Yes, Theraflu is more palatable to me this way. And Theraflu is the only cold medicine I have found effective that I can take without annoying or even scary side-effects. And I have seen no lessened effectiveness of Theraflu by mixing it with hot tea, though I have no idea if this would be medically recommended.

I also find that alternating cold & hot beverages seems to be soothing to my throat. (I have no idea if there's any medical scientific basis for this personal preference.)

I also intermittantly take vitamin C & vitamin E. My uncle and my mother swear by both. (My 80 year old uncle has only gotten a cold once or twice in the past decade!) I really need to make it more of a habit I guess.

Anyway, good luck!

#96 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2005, 06:56 PM:

Eek. Get well soon. And if any small determined Korean women show up with vile-smelling daikon/honey-syrup for the flu, AVOID IT LIKE THE PLAGUE; it tastes horrific and doesn't appreciably help. :-]

#97 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2005, 07:33 PM:

My own version of the throat-soothing stuff is honey dosed with Jameson's and lemon, but still thick enough to coat your throat. It makes the hurt stop hurting for a little while, and you can't overdose on it the way you can with OTC syrups. I keep a periodically-renewed bottle of it in the fridge, with a label that says Aunt Sophronia's Soothing Syrup./Good for what ails you, and plenty that don't.

but... but... I thought Aunt Sophronia's medicine is supposed to taste bad...

(thanks for reminding me of that story, though!)

#98 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2005, 07:42 PM:

Hope you both are feeling better soon...

#99 ::: Alice Bentley ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2005, 08:52 PM:

The home remedy of choice here, for both sore throats and bronchial spasms (The Dreaded Cough) is thin slices of fresh ginger-root boiled for about 10 minutes, then strained.

I hate it, but have to admit it works. My husband thinks it's quite tasty, so YMMV.

#100 ::: Evil Genius ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2005, 09:41 PM:

Are you certain that you both didn't get exposed to the flu at the same time? You might have had more resistance so the flu bugs had to mutate into a stronger varient in order to get you which is why it took two days for you to actually feel ill. ;)

#101 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2005, 08:22 AM:

Back about fifteen years ago, our then housemate Paul owned several rental properties in town. It turned out that one of the renters started running a meth lab in the house. Running a large one. And run badly.

Badly enough that the escaping ether fumes were strong enough to be worrisome at the neighbor's about 200 feet away. And the reason the neighbor was worried, rather than just annoyed, by a strong smell of ether was that he ran a welding shop out of his garage. Phone call to police, major raid on the house, film at eleven on local news programs.

The house had been so heavily contaminated by ether and other chemicals that it was unlivable and required major cleanup and rehab. Besides the chemical reek, every metal surface in the house, including pipes in the walls, was discolored and corroded by the fumes.

Problem: The house insurance was promptly cancelled, making the house unrentable, until the property was cleaned up to proper standards.

Bigger problems: There WEREN'T any standards. No insurance company could or would tell Paul what needed to be done to consider the house safe again. The police likewise could provide no guideines. Paul's attorney could find nothing that would get the insurance companies to restore coverage.

The house sat vacant, costing money and earning none, for nearly two years while all this went on. Finally, through sheer dumb luck, a friend's sister came visiting from out of town. She worked for the state of Washington's environmental department. And they had had enough problems with contaminated meth lab properties that they'd prepared a manual specifically on decontaminating such properties. Since it was an official governmental publication, the insurance companies were finally willing to accept its guidelines and restore coverage after all the work had been done.

Big job. Tear out all carpeting, scrape off any ceiling popcorn or other absorbent materials. Any exposed raw material (drywall or wood) had to be cleaned, twice, with a strong solution and then painted over, twice; this even included every square inch of the attic. Every metal fixture in the house (window frames, faucets, electrical sockets, curtain rods, cabinet hinges, etc.) had to be replaced. Took months and a truckload of money. I think after fifteen years, Paul -may- have recovered what the experience cost him, between lost income and restoration expenses.

#102 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2005, 12:47 PM:

Stephen notes "... and got my first gig in a lab when I was 13. I could no more fail to detect a nearby organic synthesis lab by smell than I could fail to notice an elephant dancing on my atlas singing The Piano Has Been Drinking."

You're lucky(?) you can still recognize such smells; most brains filter them out after a while. The first time I walked into the chemistry department's central building I almost walked right out again because of the stench; after a few months I didn't notice it. I was told later it was the result of decades of concrete soaking up chlorinated-hydrocarbon fumes.

#103 ::: Gigi Rose ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2005, 04:02 PM:

I hope everyone gets better quickly. The hamster pictured is adorable. Esther Friesner initiated me into Hamster Fandom a few years ago, but I am currently without animal.

A flu epidemic is the reason some of my English ancestors came to the U.S. In the 1890's 8 of my gggrandmother's 13 children died of the flu. They decided to get a fresh start in the U.S. At least we have the vaccine, even though I wasn’t able to get one this year.

I knew a guy back in college who would pop 8-10 Sudafed’s at a time. It’s rather like all the kids today who take Dextromethorphan, just a cheap high. When they outlawed the 100 tablet generics I had to switch to Loratadine and next it will be cough syrup. More maddening examples of stupid laws made because of ridiculous people that inconvenience everyone.

Marilee, I must get hold of that study. Any excuse to eat chocolate sounds good to me. I am sick now too, but I'm not sure what it is. I have no fever, so I guess it isn't the flu and just a cold. The problem is my chest is full of gunk (which means Albuterol every 4 hours) and I cannot talk. Since I cannot talk, I am staying home. Besides, what if I'm contagious? It would be very irresponsible of me to give my acquaintances a bug. Since everyone else is gone and left me with a mess, I'll guess I'll alternate between resting and cleaning house. Someone has to do it. (But why does it always have to be me?)

#104 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2005, 07:21 PM:

Gigi Rose, here's a report:

I'm not that fond of chocolate and I already have codeine at home for pain, so I probably wouldn't try the chocolate, but I can see that others would.

Kage Baker got it right in her Company books -- theobromine *is* special, but to humans, too.

#105 ::: Hil ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2005, 10:13 PM:

Regarding an interestign phone call, November 2,2004: Anyone actually go through with the whole National Grants fake grant thing? my friend gave her info and is worried they are going to steal money from her account, her id, etc. she gave bank info only. no soc or anything. she hung up on them and they called back! what happens next? when/how do they take the money?

#106 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2005, 10:16 PM:

You're lucky(?) you can still recognize such smells; most brains filter them out after a while.

In my case, it was definitely not lucky, but rather a contributing factor to dropping my chem minor. (Not the only contributing factor, so maybe a little lucky.) I relate to the world disproportionately through smell, compared to most other humans I've talked to, and being able to smell all the orgo experiments in detail was not a pleasant thing. (And my dad is in enviromental chemistry, so if I was ever going to lose my sense of smell for these things, I think it probably would have happened by the time I dropped the chem minor.)

If you're still sick and get tired of hot and sour and all the other recommendations here, I dump together eggs, rice, lemon juice, chicken broth, chicken, peas, carrots, and garlic, in whatever proportions are available. What it doesn't cure it makes more tolerable. Protein and vitamins and all sorts of good stuff in it.

I'm getting over some cold-ish crud myself, but luckily it's the achy, "I feel like I was dragged behind a truck" kind without a snuffly nose. As I said, highly dependent on sense of smell. I bump into things and have a hard time telling how my family members are doing when I can't smell my world. Better to feel like the wreck of the Hesperus and be able to smell, from where I sit. Ahh, January.

Feel better soon.

(And Yoon: one of my friends pressed that daikon stuff on me when I broke my ribs coughing. It distracted me from the broken ribs and coughing with its awfulness. When I was little my dad used to offer to kick me in the shin to distract me from whatever else was wrong, but I never took him up on it. Seems like the same principle.)

#107 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2005, 02:09 AM:

Re: brain filtering out lab smells: I was always a computer weasel, rather than actually working with the various gloppy things. Hence, a sudden blast of, say, toluene meant someone had just broken something, and it was time to start shutting down equipment against the possibility of a motor throwing sparks...

Well, usually a computer weasel. When I was in college, I did serve as a chemistry department grunt-- briefly. My partner and I got assigned to clear out a "storage space" down in the basement-- an ex-lab full of a decade's worth of stuff too valuable to throw out, but too useless to use. The chem department ran out of space, so the decision finally came down just to throw everything into a dumpster.

When we caught sight of the room, my partner and I blanched. He said, "Uh... there aren't any old chemicals in here or anything, right?"

"Right," said our supervisor. "OSHA and the like have already been through here. Just general trash, bound straight for the local landfill."

So we commenced to drag a dumpster into the freight elevator, down to the basment, and into the room. (It was a big room.) We went into ant mode: pick stuff up, throw into dumpster, repeat.

My partner tossed a sealed (but empty looking) boiling flask into the dumpster. We heard "POP... hisssssss...." and white smoke started coming out of the dumpster.

Ever see any Warner Brothers cartoons?

We went "AIEEE!" and ran for the door. My partner was closest to it, so he hit the hall, grabbed the door, and yelled "COME ON!" despite the fact I was still accelerating at about 1.5G. Through the door; he slammed it behind me, and leaned against the thing-- like Bruce Campbell holding the windmill against the Steadicam Demon. I joined him, and we gibbered for a while at each other.

Atracted by the commotion, a grad student came out in the hall. "What's up?" he said.

"Boiling flask! Dumpster! Chemical spill! WHITE SMOKE!"

"Oh, yeah?" He nudged us away from the door, opened it, stuck his head in, and took a good whiff. "Yep. Boron trifluoride. That's poisonous."

We just stared at him, eyeballs like four saucers...

Well, they took the two of us-- oops, pardon me, the three of us, once we got done telling the safety officer about the idiot grad student-- down to the campus hospital. We were fine. Although the chemistry department had to cope with a sudden grunt quitfest.

I heard later that they made up for the temporary shortfall by sending in the grad students-- a little short on muscle, but so convinced that chemicals couldn't hurt anyone who knew so much about them, they'd cheerfully ignore every safety reg on the books. Me, I decided I'd say in a field where the professors told us software solutions were better than hardware ones-- on the grounds that you couldn't drop software on your foot.

#108 ::: Chloe ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2005, 02:51 AM:

Eric Sadoyama: "Pseudoephedrine may be effective, but don't expect it to be on the shelves much longer now that the crystal meth epidemic has finally reached the East Coast. The feds will probably ban the stuff soon."

Heavens to betsy... Why does everyone keep claiming that meth is new to the east??

Anyway, I hadn't realize that Pseudoephedrine was the "upper" type thing in sinus medication. It's in Theraflu, and I can take Theraflu. It's Benadryl, Sudafed, and Clariton that give me heart palpatations and "racing thoughts". Indeed, the only things I can take for sinus congestion are Theraflu (regular, not the non-drowsy), Allegra, and certain types of nasal sprays & cough syrups.
Indeed, now hearing that all decongestants are stimulants... I wonder now exactly what the issue is for me. I'd always assumed the reason some of them gave me a racing heart rate & such was because of the type of decongestant in them... But now I'm wondering if it's not some combination of things in some of them.

At any rate, although I have many times suspected certain people I've known to be addicted to sinus medication much like junkies...
Considering Oxycotin addictions being wildly out of hand, yet Oxycotin is still going strong... Well, I don't think we have to worry about Theraflu being pulled off the market just yet. I mean, think of it... Oxycotin comes ready to use, and it's still being sold, while Pseudoephedrine is just an ingredient, right?

Xopher: "They already note you down if you buy a lot of it at once."

Again, I hardly think that really matters anyway, considering there are drug sellers who carried on for 30 years before being caught, even though all of their purchases/prescription-writing is supposedlly 'noted down'. (I'm referring to a doctor in my area who has been well-known as an addictive substance provider in the area for over 30 years, and was only just arrested last year.)

As for stores moving it to the back counters... They'd probably be inclined to want to do that because of the shoplifting element. Most 24 hour grocery stores in my area now lock up their "drug store" aisles during the overnight shift when workers are sparce. And for awhile now, they've kept condoms, of all things, out of the regular aisles. (Both of these things were explained to me as "shoplifting theft prevention" measures.)

Though I have no doubt that some people think banning Pseudoephedrine, or making it prescription only - but they're probably the same people who have no clue that many addicts are getting their oxycotin, vicodin, valium, perkidan, etc. by prescription.

#109 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2005, 04:44 AM:

Why, Chloe? Err, because the press says so and, not having been to the East Coast in years, I tend to take what they say at face value? Perhaps you're the perceptive type who noticed it when it was barely a blip on the screen; well, now it's a big enough problem that everybody and his brother are talking about it. That's why.

#110 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2005, 10:20 AM:

Eric Sadoyama wrote:

Why, Chloe? Err, because the press says so and, not having been to the East Coast in years, I tend to take what they say at face value? Perhaps you're the perceptive type who noticed it when it was barely a blip on the screen; well, now it's a big enough problem that everybody and his brother are talking about it. That's why.

Er, well, no. You seem to be conflating "no news reports" with "problem doesn't exist".

Take this old rant as an example. It's about DC - and it's about DC 8 years ago...

Perhaps it's pessimistic of me, but it seems that it's just a part of the usual boom-to-bust-to-boom cycle. Everybody and their brother get to talking about it, somebody does something, we start again *shrug*

Perhaps if more time was spent on the 'War on Poverty" and the "War for Education" and the "War for Health Care", we'd have less of an issue with people brewing up bathtub escapes (whether that's an escape from poverty vis-a-vis selling, or an escape from an unpleasant reality, vis-a-vis consuming).

#111 ::: Mary R ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2005, 01:44 PM:

Count me in as someone who used to have great results with Alka Seltzer Cold medicine. No more. Luckily, I haven't gotten a bad cold recently. What annoys me is that the active ingredient they had to remove, phenylpropanolamine (PPA), was never found to cause any harm in the dosage used in cold medicines. It was also found in diet pills, and there were instances of stroke in diet pill takers. The recommended dose for some of the diet pills was 75 mg per day. The strokes happened within three days of women starts taking PPA.

I hate that when they find a problem with a drug, the only solution is to completely remove it from the market.

#112 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2005, 03:57 PM:

Chloe, the reason you get speedy symptoms with some of the drugs and not with others is because it's just like that. Even very similar drugs sometimes have very different results in different people. You can hope to generalize, but your hopes will occasionally be dashed.

#113 ::: Chloe ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2005, 05:14 PM:

Eric Sadoyama: "Perhaps you're the perceptive type who noticed it when it was barely a blip on the screen; well, now it's a big enough problem that everybody and his brother are talking about it."

I think it's more like I'm the honest type, who didn't ignore the problem, or pretend it didn't exist.
Believe it or not, there are still parts of the country where these kinds of problems do exist in abundance, it's just that even the people directly effected by it, like say the family members of the drug addicts, pretend it's not happening somehow, hush it up and so forth.
Just because they pretend it's not happening, so nobody pushes for the papers to report it, does not mean it's not happening!!
And I'm sorry, but that "I tend to take what they say at face value? does sound, as xeger says, as if you're equating the media not reporting on something as proof it's not worth reporting, or that the issue doesn't exist.

There's no way anyone's going to tell me that Dr. Alexanderian wasn't selling drug addicts prescription drugs illegitimately since the 70s, because the newspapers and police didn't catch him in the 70s, or 80s, or 90s. Because it was well known that he was! There was gossip in the area about him constantly!
The fact is, nobody kicked up a big fuss to reporters or police, until they got it into their heads that he might be abusing Medicaid. Indeed, the news reports made it sound like nobody gave a damn what he was selling or to whom, only that they might be using taxpayer money to buy their drugs. If that's not a sad commentary on our times, and evidence that the problem existed before any reporting was done on it, I don't know what is.

RE: the link A few months after I moved down to Washington, DC, my mother came down to visit and commented approvingly on how thin my old friend Leah was. When I explained that she’d become so slender because she’d been using crystal meth, my mother responded, “Well, she looks great. Why aren’t you doing it?”

Oh My God. I've heard similar tales about people who knew people who were going to Dr. Alexanderian in my area, for prescription diet pills, in the 80s & 90s.
Today, some of those people are now dead from drug addiction, or in full blown opiate addictions.

Lucy Kemnitzer: "Chloe, the reason you get speedy symptoms with some of the drugs and not with others is because it's just like that. Even very similar drugs sometimes have very different results in different people. You can hope to generalize, but your hopes will occasionally be dashed."

Oh, I realize that, of course.
And yeah, I've always been aware that I seem to be more sensitive to almost any drugs, compared to other people. Even doctors have noticed that the effective doses of a wide variety of things are much less on me than most others, regarding some prescriptions.
My point though was not that I didn't get relief from say Sudafed or Benadryl, but that I got nasty reactions from them! It's unclear to me still whether these reactions are actually dangerous, but I'll tell you, they feel dangerous. Like the cure is definitely seems than the disease. haha! Even if they're not dangerous, I can tell you, I'd rather be miserable with congestion than feel like that, wiht heart palpatations and a heavy buzzing feeling in my head.
At any rate, I really thought there must be one ingredient in those things, but not in Theraflu (which doesn't give me nasty reactions), that caused the reactions. Now, from reading about this here, I'm starting to think it must be the combination of certain things in a certain way... Because the active ingredient would seem to be the same.
Or, another thought was, maybe it's the delivery vehicle... In that one drinks Theraflu, rather slowly. At least I do, particularly since I mix it in tea most of the time. (I'm only able to tolerate the taste for maybe the first or 2nd dose at most, when I'm the most sick and can't taste anything anyway. From talking to some friends with colds using Theraflu recently, apparently that's quite common.)
At any rate, it's certainly been enlightening.

#114 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2005, 07:01 PM:

Chloe - It's unusual to have palpitations as a result of taking antihistimines such as Benadryl and Claritin. I'd suggest being sure that what you were taking didn't also include a decongestant, usualy pseudephedrine - the active ingredient in Sudafed. (For example, Claritin-D has pseudephedrine added, as do some variants of Benadryl.)

If you've had palpitations from the plain form of both of these drugs, you should probably avoid all other antihistimines or use them only with close medical supervision.

Also, you should note the current crop of OTC sleeping pills are basically relabeled Benedryl. (Benedryl makes me sleep like a baby, but it also leaves me groggy the next day. I go for Rx Temazapam if I really need to sleep.)

Be careful - it's an OTC jungle out there!

#115 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2005, 07:13 PM:

Lucy Kemnitzer: exactly. One of the up and coming post-Human Genome Project areas of research is pharmacogenetics, figuring out why drugs work differently for different people.

With some work, I hope we'll wind up with the ability to take a quick blood sample, test it on a microarray for known markers, and be told "take this one, don't take that one, take half as much as usual of this" rather than having to find these things out the hard way.

#116 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2005, 07:38 PM:

Hope you all get well of your various illnesses. I'm being plagued by the closed-house stuffy nose that I usually get in the winter, but it's just a stuffy nose and no other symptoms. And it's making me take my Bendryl dose regularly because that stops the problem, at least until the Benedryl wears off. And it's the only thing for stuffy noses that my doctor says is okay to use because I've been diagnosed with high blood pressure.

#117 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2005, 08:45 PM:

Hope you're both feeling better.

Here's a noteworthy coincidence:
Friday's MMWR has a Brief Report: Tularemia Associated with a Hamster Bite --- Colorado, 2004 .

#118 ::: Miri ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2005, 01:07 PM:

Oh! Aunt Sophronia! I *love* Zenna Henderson, and almost nobody I mention her to has ever heard of her. Now I'll have to go home and re-read all those short stories. It'll be a burden, but I'll manage somehow. :)

Hope everyone's feeling better now.

#119 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2005, 02:07 PM:

Timely story on pseudoephedrine:

"At least 20 states are considering tight restrictions on access to Sudafed, NyQuil, Claritin-D, Tylenol Flu and hundreds of other cold, allergy and sinus remedies that contain pseudoephedrine."

From the LA Times (Sub. req.-- see BugMeNot).

#120 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2005, 02:31 PM:

Oh Chloe, I meant "speedy" as in the vernacular for the symptoms you described, not as in "quick." You were completely clear: I wasn't.

#121 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2005, 04:16 PM:

Stephen, that's an interesting tale; I've been wondering if you had some backstory but didn't guess you'd met Flexi Jerkov in college. I never saw anything like that, but we may have been off the median due to a younger professor who pushed safety hard; possibly he'd noted that older chemists had a life expectancy ~10 years less than their peers. The bio department, on the other hand, was behind the times; the entire Bio 2 class my year had to get their butts shot up because a TA turned up with hepatitis the week after everyone had been using common pipettes to measure solutions.

Chloe: I've started seeing "We do not carry Oxycontin" signs in local pharmacies. (I live in Boston proper, in a fairly quiet area well out from downtown and well away from the poorest areas.) It's not quite comparable to cold medications; Oxycontin, as I understand, is effective against seriously crippling pain, while cold meds are usually milder palliatives (and some even have substitutes, cf mention upthread about nose drops).

#122 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2005, 05:50 PM:

My own personal cure for anything involving body aches is mud packs. Mrs. Green's, our local whole foods organic type market, sells them in packs of five: mud from the dead sea that you can rub over your whole body, leave on for 20 minutes, and then rinse off. I bought them initially just as mother-spa recreation. But it occurred to me that since body aches from viruses are supposed to be caused by toxins released by the virus, and since the mud was supposed to suck the "toxins" out of you, that maybe it might help. (It is, after all, how a sick animal would treat the problem.) I figured it couldn't hurt and might help. Works great. These days, when I buy the mud packs, I save them for when I feel sick.

#123 ::: Chloe ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2005, 07:29 PM:

Larry Brennan: "If you've had palpitations from the plain form of both of these drugs, you should probably avoid all other antihistimines or use them only with close medical supervision.
Also, you should note the current crop of OTC sleeping pills are basically relabeled Benedryl."

Wow, you might be onto something here...

All the 'over the counter' sleep aids I've ever tried have also given me a reaction like I get from Benadryl. Nervousness, fast heart rate, racing buzzing kind of feeling. (Some worse than others.) I remember the first time I tried an over the counter sleep aid, about 15 years ago, I was living with my mother at the time, and she was surprised that the sleeping pill actually had the opposite effect. I was almost hysterical at the time, it was quite scary.

It's probably not a coincidence that the only effective cure I've found for severe insomnia, was a prescription for Buspar - which is actually an anti-anxiety medication.

Are over the counter sleep aids related to antihistimines? And do Allegra and Theraflu not contain antihistimines? Because Allegra & Theraflu are the only products I would personally consider "safe".

Christopher Davis "With some work, I hope we'll wind up with the ability to take a quick blood sample, test it on a microarray for known markers, and be told "take this one, don't take that one, take half as much as usual of this" rather than having to find these things out the hard way."

That would be excellent. I've long wondered why there hasn't been something like that before. But I guess it's a complex area of research, eh?

Bob Oldendorf: "Here's a noteworthy coincidence: Friday's MMWR has a Brief Report: Tularemia Associated with a Hamster Bite"

Did anyone else think of The Sims when they read that?

Lucy Kemnitzer : "Oh Chloe, I meant "speedy" as in the vernacular for the symptoms you described, not as in "quick." You were completely clear: I wasn't."

I think I also misread what you wrote as well.
Mind you, it's been a quite frustrating history of me trying to explain what happens to people. You know what I mean? Like doctors, family, friends... A lot of people don't even realize that even "over the counter" medications can be bad for some people. Like there's long been this popular idea that if you can buy something freely in the grocery store without a prescription, it must be safe. And believe it or not, I've actually been accused occasionally of hypochondria because I get acute side-effects from 'over the counter' medications.

CHip: "Chloe: I've started seeing "We do not carry Oxycontin" signs in local pharmacies. (I live in Boston proper, in a fairly quiet area well out from downtown and well away from the poorest areas.)"

Really? Now that's something I didn't know.
Though I think it may have something more to do with the "theft deterrent" than actually curbing the use of the drug by people with shady prescriptions.
For example, right after that Dr. Alexanderian & I think 2 other doctors in the area, where shut down because of their shady prescription writing & drug selling... There was a string of pharmacy robberies in the area.
Coincidence? I think not.

CHip: "It's not quite comparable to cold medications; Oxycontin, as I understand, is effective against seriously crippling pain, while cold meds are usually milder palliatives (and some even have substitutes, cf mention upthread about nose drops)."

But I've heard that doctors are often encouraged to prescribe Oxycotin for non-crippling, non-serious disease, patients. And even non-predisposed to addiction people can become dangerously dependent on the drug.
And there hasn't been much change in that, that I know about. I think that was my point.
I hardly think that Sudafed will be banned completely out of existence. I think that was also my point.
Like they haven't made it harder for drug addicts to get Oxycotin, even with some measures... So what would taking Sudafed off the shelves really do to prevent addicts from making/getting meth? Know what I mean?

Anyway, my cold is still hanging on. And I think it's only a matter of time before I'll be resorting to mud packs. (Even though it doesn't sound like my idea of a fine time in the tub. hehe.)

#124 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2005, 07:49 PM:

Chloe - OTC sleeping pills have the same active ingredient as Benadryl. They made the switch because, unlike narcotics, it's pretty much impossible to kill yourself with the stuff.

Allegra is also an antihistimine, but it must be one that you're less sensitive to. You should probably have a heart-to-heart with your doctor about using it, though. I have no idea at all what's in Theraflu, but if it works for you, all the better.

#125 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2005, 08:40 PM:

Chole mused:
All the 'over the counter' sleep aids I've ever tried have also given me a reaction like I get from Benadryl. Nervousness, fast heart rate, racing buzzing kind of feeling. (Some worse than others.) I remember the first time I tried an over the counter sleep aid, about 15 years ago, I was living with my mother at the time, and she was surprised that the sleeping pill actually had the opposite effect. I was almost hysterical at the time, it was quite scary.

Heh. Benadryl is on my list of drugs to avoid if at all possible. It does work for its intended purpose - reducing allergic reactions - but the side-effects are ... profoundly distracting. I still remember spending the better part of a day trying (very seriously) to put the blue smoke back into a broken computer, since I was absolutely sure that would fix it. Ugh!

#126 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2005, 11:24 PM:

Chloe: it's an interesting area, which really couldn't be researched very effectively until sequencing technology got good enough to sequence many genomes very accurately and very quickly. (The latest capillary sequencers are far better than the stuff we were using 6 years ago.) Add to that the good ol' Moore's Law increases in computer power and the work being done with microarrays for genotyping, and you have the recipe for some real progress. The initial efforts will be aimed at finding markers for disease susceptibility, but I think we'll see more pharmacogenetics work happening too. (The pharma companies will do or fund a bunch of it once it gets to a point where they think it will help cut side-effects or increase effectiveness, because that may help them "rescue" drugs that currently don't seem to have enough benefits for their risks. Note what the Vioxx situation cost Merck.)

I think we'll get some very interesting results in the next few years, but I can't predict when it'll get to the general use stage. I wouldn't be surprised to see a scan of the "top 250" markers done as part of routine bloodwork by 2015, though.

#127 ::: Chloe ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2005, 01:28 AM:

xeger: "Heh. Benadryl is on my list of drugs to avoid if at all possible. It does work for its intended purpose - reducing allergic reactions - but the side-effects are ... profoundly distracting. I still remember spending the better part of a day trying (very seriously) to put the blue smoke back into a broken computer, since I was absolutely sure that would fix it. Ugh!"

ALthough of course I'm sorry to hear you've had horrible reactions from this stuff... I am glad to hear that others have had some astoundingly bizarrely severe reactions from this stuff... For many years, I believed myself to be somewhat nuts. Until my best friend went to med school, became a psychiatrist, and learned about a lot of the bizarre side effects drugs can have. And a lot of the serious "drug interactions" that could happen because of prescribed medicine and herbal "otc" medicine.
But still, a lot of people are shocked to learn that the side-effects can be quite severe with something another person would have no problem at all taking. And I've never had enough "validation" on this to really feel like I'm not a complete oddball. ;)

Christopher Davis: I really hope that's for real. And yeah, the way you explain it, it would certainly be cost-effective research to do!!

Re, the link to this article:
LA Times...

I'm not sure I have a big problem with having to ask the pharmacist for Theraflu. It would be annoying not to be able to buy it in a regular drug store, but I really don't have a problem with having to ask for it specifically, unless there were absolutely no pharmacies open on the weekends for 50 miles or something.
If it was prescription required, that would bother me.
And I'm not sure I have a problem with providing my name to the PHARMACY. I mean, grocery store cards pretty much do that anyway. (NOt that I necessarily like that though.)
What did kind of put me off was this "list provided to government officials".
Mostly because I feel like that information could be culled somehow and made available to employers who could sit around with somebody's resume and say "this person buys a lot of allergy products - they must be sickly and might miss more work than this other person who..." might be a drunken drug addict buying their drugs off the street instead of the government culled otc drug list.

What does anyone else think of this deal with the pharmacist handing it out? Is that alone dangerous, do you think?

#128 ::: Rose ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2005, 09:49 AM:

Meh! Y'all made me sick!

Well, maybe not. But I want someone to blame and here you all are talking about illnesses. On the bright side, at least I don't seem to have actual influenza, just one of its viral relatives with "flu-like" symptoms.

Back to bed.

#129 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2005, 01:30 AM:

Chloe, ibuprofen killed my kidneys the first time round. I didn't take too much of it, I just turned out to be sensitive to it (and I also take tiny doses of meds compared to other people). Several of my nephrologists have said that NSAIDs should never have been made OTC.

I take codeine for pain, and I always have to sign the register for that.

#130 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2005, 07:34 AM:

Any opinions about whether fans tend to have more weird drugs reactions than most people? (Alternate theories: I know more fans and have a skewed sample, fans talk about drug reactions more than most people.)

After a friend found that provigil puts him to sleep, I can up with "Alien metabolism: please medicate carefully".

#131 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2005, 09:52 AM:

So I'm sitting here with my dry tickly cough and my bottle of pholcodine linctus, obtained over the counter without a prescription although required to be dispensed by the pharmacist, and being very grateful that I'm currently in the UK. :-) Opiate linctuses are the *only* thing I've ever found that suppresses a dry post-cold cough enough that I can get some sleep. It's a standard medicine cabinet item in the UK. I'd be risking being dragged off as a Narcotics Abuser if I asked my American doctor for a prescription, judging by some of the bizarre reactions I've had on the subject of opiates.

{cough, wheeze}

#132 ::: Chloe ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2005, 02:34 AM:

Marilee: How awful!
I was actually told by a doctor that I shouldn't use ibuprophen, with my history of anemia years ago. Haven't had any problems with that recently, but I did when I was younger.

I guess it really does depend on the person.
When it comes right down to it, all the OTC stuff has potential dangers. I don't know, maybe we should have pharmacists dispensing a lot of this OTC stuff - they certainly seem to have even more information about drugs than the doctors seem to know.

Nowadays I only take ibuprofen if I have a bad headache, and it's all anybody has on them. I generally only have acetominophen on hand at home. Works well enough for me. Except I try not to take anything for too many days straight though... And stay away from things like Exedrin that combine several different ones, because I've known too many people who've had that rebound headache syndrome thing - whether they were diagnosed or not, I know they did have that - because they had a headache every day, and took Exedrin every day - and that's just too suspicious to ignore.

Nancy Lebovitz: Fans of what? Did I miss something?

Julia Jones: "I'd be risking being dragged off as a Narcotics Abuser if I asked my American doctor for a prescription, judging by some of the bizarre reactions I've had on the subject of opiates."

Something makes me think that the "standard medicine cabinet" type opiates you're talking about are nowhere near the potency of Oxycotin, Vicodin, or 'street smack'.
I also wonder if the opiate addiction rate is lower in the UK.

Doctors in the U.S. are now, I believe, pretty much told to be wary of patients who come in asking for specific drugs, especially when they're potentially addictive. Many doctors truly were once ignorant of their patients who were addicts. They were just trying to help. Now some have swung the other way, and are downright suspicious.

It is sad that the fact that a certain percentage of people can be so seriously harmed by a medication, makes it difficult for people who are not harmed by the medication, to get the medication that could help them.
I think this is the case with a lot of potential "side-effects" of drugs. Whether the side-effects for some people might be addiction, the side-effect for others is kidney problems. :( Meanwhile, tons of people could take these things and not have any of that happen to them.

But how to help those people, while protecting that portion of people who could have serious consequences from the drugs? It's a tough one! :(

#133 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2005, 11:13 AM:

Chloe: Excuse me--I was using fans as shorthand for science fiction fans. (And science fiction includes fantasy, but that's another story.)

#134 ::: Barbara Nielsen ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2005, 12:07 AM:

By today--get up and get dressed and you'll feel better. Much love and best wishes.

#135 ::: Chloe ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2005, 05:13 AM:

Barbara Nielsen:
That's what my mother has always said!
But darn it, I keep doing that day after day this week, and I'm still not feeling much better!

Nancy Lebovitz:
haha! You had me wondering there.
But of the sci-fi fans I know, I can't think of any who've mentioned a problem with side-effects. And of the people I know who've mentioned problems with side-effects, they've not been sci-fi fans - in fact, one is one of those people who never sees sci-fi movies & such and can't imagine the appeal.
But all of this is anecdotal too. ;)

#136 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2005, 11:34 AM:

Got it in one, Chloe -- Barbara Nielsen is my mother. My grandmother used to say the same thing. If I had children, I'm sure I'd find myself saying it to them.

Julia, we're just damned stupid about opiates. I once offered a friend some Canadian Tylenol with codeine for her extremely painful neck spasms, and was turned down -- self-righteously, even a little pompously -- on the grounds that she didn't want to be "doped up." All I could think was, "Honey, you wish."

One could pull together several centuries' worth of quotes from the best medical authorities of their day, saying that opium was the single most useful substanace in their pharmacopoeia. It still has all kinds of applications. But we mustn't; it's in the same supernaturally wicked class as heroin and morphine.

This verges on technical manichaeanism. Actually, what it reminds me of are Temperance-era remarks about the wickedness of vanilla extract, or alcohol-based cough syrups, because it's the first step that leads to lying drunk in the gutter.

There's a streak of American belief that's never shaken loose of the doctrine of Utter Depravity. They just call it by different names.

#137 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2005, 11:44 AM:

Whenever this comes up I like to remind people how heroin got its name: it was the "hero" drug that was supposed to save people from the deadly scourge of morphine addiction!

#138 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2005, 11:57 AM:

Hmm. The only online source I can find says it's from the euphoric, "heroic" feeling the drug produces...I'll look it up when I get home to my beloved dictionary.

#139 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2005, 12:30 PM:

Chloe, the opiates available OTC in the UK are indeed pretty mild - and they must be dispensed by a pharmacist, and you will be Looked At Funny if you ask for large quantities (I know from personal experience; I was once required to sign the poison register because the university doctor had told me to get both codeine linctus and codeine/aspirin tablets to deal with night time and day time symptoms of tonsillitis). But pholcodine (codeine derivative), codeine and dihydrocodone are all available in low dose forms, the latter two only in combination with aspirin, paracetemol etc.

TMI warning: I have a form of irritable bowel syndrome which requires a low fibre rather than a high fibre diet, and occasionally requires medication. Most of the standard IBS drugs don't work, for values of don't work including "makes it much worse". I discovered by accident that codeine is effective in very low doses without having side-effects. I asked my doctor in the UK for a prescription for the codeine-only tablets so that I wasn't taking unnecessary anti-inflammatories. He gave me the prescription without a murmur, his only comment being that one of us should have thought of it earlier. First time I had a severe relapse after moving to the US, I went to see a doctor, gave the prior history, and when we got to "what has previously worked to control flareups", his reaction was more or less "Unclean, unclean!!!"

And don't get me started on US prescribers who try to insist on prescribing vicodin rather than codeine, even though my first dose of vicodin was my last voluntary dose, because half an hour later I was throwing up violently...

#140 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2005, 01:53 PM:

The Intermountain West has been full of meth labs for a while now. Everybody's known that for years. I don't know why it's suddenly an issue. Also, I'm tired of hearing about how stimulants have to be tightly controlled or eliminated because some people have abused them. Any drug that offers people an opportunity get root on their bodies will be abused. This is something we all want to do. In the meantime, some of us need stimulants all day every day -- and I can tell you from experience that taking nice clean pharmaceutical-quality dexedrine creates less physical and psychological stress than getting an equivalent amount of lift from lots and lots and lots and lots of coffee.

Of course, if you're rich, you don't need to self-medicate. When lawmakers and corporados and powers-that-be need a lift, they can get their doctors to prescribe Provigil, Adderal, Ritalin, Cylert, time-release dexedrine ... very nice stuff, clean high, known dosage, known effects. It costs the moon and stars if you don't have a health plan that pays for the prescriptions, likewise the very expensive tests that'll be necessary if your doctor's going to avoid being hassled by drug enforcement agencies.

Poverty and near-poverty is real. There are a lot of hardscrabble households in small towns and rural areas. Speed's been getting increasingly popular out there. It's relatively cheap, relatively easy to make, can be integrated into your existing lifestyle, and doesn't require you to deal with foreigners.

I'd think better of these law enforcement efforts if we funded more studies that look into the reasons people take these drugs. It's like the connection between homelessness and alcohol: no matter what your substance abuse status before you become homeless, living on the streets makes alcohol look like a better and better idea.

Kate, the nearest thing you can get to a hamster leash is a hamster ball (which Patrick has dubbed the Hamster Palantir). It doesn't exactly leash them, but it does keep them from disappearing into small spaces, and you can lay broomsticks and manuscript boxes on the floor to limit their areas of travel.

#141 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2005, 01:58 PM:

Not to be a Calvinism geek, Teresa, (although I am married to a theology grad student) but I think you meant "total depravity". Utter depravity is deep frying Mars bars. Otter depravity involves seafod.

#142 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2005, 02:05 PM:

Urr, seafood, rather.

The link we need to follow up on Crystal (which is rather big out here in the San Joaquin as well) is with the amount of what I was taught to call 'sweated labor' years ago in grad school: truck driving, day labor, retail work. You take it to help you drive another 8 hours without rest, to make it through an extra shift or a second job.

#143 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2005, 02:39 PM:

Teresa, when I feel really, really annoyed about not being able to get simple everyday medicines in the US because they're Drugs Of Abuse, I remind myself that at least I can usually function without them, if not very well, and that I know people who are in a much nastier position. Like you. :-(

I've started to wonder if codeine is a commonly abused drug in the US because it's a commonly abused drug - all the hoopla means that
a) it gets more publicity as something to try
b) the idiotic controls result in the sort of "we won't let you have a large enough dose often enough to actually control the pain" prescribing regime that has been shown to *increase* the risk of addiction.

#144 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2005, 05:16 PM:

Codeine *does* make me loopy, which is why I usually try to do without. I want to control as much of my brain as is possible. I don't have any problem with getting a script for codeine, but the Manassas Kaiser pharmacy can't fill it, I have to take it to Fair Oaks (which is okay, I see specialists there regularly).

#145 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2005, 05:35 PM:

Marilee: I'm lucky, I can get relief for moderately severe pain from a OTC dose of codeine in combination with aspirin or ibuprofen, without the loopiness. The 30 mg codeine tablets I had for the IBS were a nuisance, because they did have a noticeable effect, and were too small and fiddly to easily cut into the smaller doses that were all I actually needed, but the level of induced loopiness was pretty low and would have been tolerable if I'd been taking them for pain. I've never really understood why people would want to do that for *fun* - my brain chemistry is sufficiently screwed up all by itself without deliberately making it worse.

Effective drugs for insomnia, OTOH - I once had occasion to take antihistamine sleeping tablets to break a nasty "too tired to sleep" vicious circle, and and got a sharp lesson in what it feels like to be in danger of psychological addiction to a drug that makes you feel good, and why those tablets are sold a maximum of ten at a time in the UK. Ick. Ick, ick, ick.

#146 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2005, 07:44 PM:

After the open kidney biopsy, I remember crying when the nurse told me it was time to decrease the Dilaudid. I didn't like being loopy, but I liked the pain a lot less.

The good part was that the biopsy left my right hip area numb and I'm having my second set of shingles, both times on the numb area. I'm supposed to see the doctor if the rash gets infected, but I don't need any pain meds. (The rheumatologist got to comment on shingles *and* blood pressure last time.)

#147 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2005, 10:02 PM:
Chloe ::: For many years, I believed myself to be somewhat nuts. Until my best friend went to med school, became a psychiatrist, and learned about a lot of the bizarre side effects drugs can have. And a lot of the serious "drug interactions" that could happen because of prescribed medicine and herbal "otc" medicine.

...or foods. The drug interaction list for grapefruit juice is downright scary. It affects metabolic pathways (cytochrome P-450 3A4 and p-glycoprotein) that are used in the intestinal processing/absorption about half of commonly prescribed drugs. And it's got documented interactions with scores of them, some quite significant--some drugs work better and some work less well, but for all of them, the grapefruit means you're taking the wrong dose now. In some cases, wrong by an order of magnitude.

Julia Jones ::: Opiate linctuses are the *only* thing I've ever found that suppresses a dry post-cold cough enough that I can get some sleep.

Ok, in my role as purveyor of weird, counterintuitive home remedies, I've had good luck with Vick's VapoRub. That's not weird or counterintuitive, since it's meant for use as a decongestant. The weird bit is where you apply it.

Just before bed (sitting on the bed by preference, for reasons that will soon be clear), you rub a nice thick layer of Vick's VapoRub all over the soles of your feet. Put cotton socks on over the resulting mess so you don't get it all over the bed clothes, and go to sleep. It works for me and a few others I've suggested it to, though you may have to renew the application in the middle of the night. In the morning, toss the socks in the laundry.

I have absolutely no idea why this works for anyone. I can make an argument for hot peppers and migraines, say, but this one is just silly. And I really don't want to know how someone came up with it...

#148 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2005, 10:19 PM:

The American attitude towards opiates, even when administered in a hospital setting can be truly maddening. About 18 months ago, as my gradmother lay dying from a gangrenous bowel (never get sick in Florida - if you develop a sniffle in that state, immediatly get medevaced to someplace with a functioning healthcare system) I had to fight with her doctor who wanted to reduce her dosage of pain medication. His reason was (in his mind) morality and faith-based. I used some language on him that, I'm certain, reinforced his opinion of me as a heathen and I had to invoke the combined outrage of the nursing staff to keep her properly medicated.

(Sorry, my anger is still showing even after all this time.)

Someday, my country will grow up. I doubt that it will be in my lifetime.

#149 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2005, 04:34 PM:

I *really* like grapefruit. It's very annoying not to be able to have it anymore.

#150 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2005, 04:24 PM:

Larry said: I had to fight with her doctor who wanted to reduce her dosage of pain medication.

Unfortunately I think that's a more common problem than you'd think. I've read where doctors have refused adequate pain killers to terminal patients because of fear of addiction.

If anyone else finds themselves in such circumstance (though we can hope not), I'd recommend finding a local hospice. They should be able to help you fight for adequate pain treatment (and for what it's worth, hospice is now well covered by Medicare and by more and more private insurance companies.)

#151 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2005, 04:37 PM:

Marilee: I'm lucky, I don't like grapefruit, so I don't miss it.

#152 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2005, 04:57 PM:

...or foods.

...or even light. My light therapy appears to interfere with the anti-ADD effectiveness of my Cylert, though not with the stimulant effect. But this is strictly anecdotal at this point.

Next time I go to Southern California at Christmastime, I'm going to ease up on the light therapy for a week or two beforehand, and keep the curtains drawn during the several hours I generally have to wait for everyone else to wake up (I awaken at 6AM EST and can't usually sleep more than about an hour after that, even in California).

And I don't miss grapefruit in its pure form, but I miss grapefruit juice -- and the various things it's in. Fresca. Sigh.

#153 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2005, 06:07 PM:

My Grandmother also spent her last years in Florida, and her last month with hospice care. Unfortunately, several months before the hospice she was hospitalized with multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer which destroys the bones.

In the hospital, Grandma was in intense pain and drifted in and out of consciousness, delerious and paranoid. Often when she regained consciousness, she would only speak Czech, which no one understood. Mom, who is a medical transcriptionist, and my aunt, who Grandma had been staying with, begged the doctor to make her comfortable by upping her pain medication dosage. He refused, instead wanting to put her through more chemotherapy. A nurse reported that once when Grandma had become lucid, the doctor leaned over her bed and cajoled, "Rose, I'd love to help you out, but your daughters want you to give up. You don't want to die, do you?" The nurses did their best, but after that, Grandma was sure my mom and aunt were trying to kill her.

Grandma was obviously at the end stages of an incredibly painful disease, and for mom and my aunt who were already stressed and grieving to have to fight tooth and nail with this "doctor" to get my Grandmother released into hospice care was appalling. How a doctor can interpret "First, do no harm", as "Make sure the heart continues to beat, no matter what" is beyond me.

(well what do you know - I'm also still bitter!)

Crappy Florida.

#154 ::: Spam deleted ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2005, 06:08 AM:

Spam from

#155 ::: G. Jules finds comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2005, 10:29 AM:

Now accurate and reliable hamster care spam might make more sense.

#156 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2005, 04:53 PM:

Not to mention that most fans have cats.

#157 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2005, 11:14 PM:

Re: "G. Jules finds comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2005, 10:29 AM: Now accurate and reliable hamster care spam might make more sense"

Didn't I write that?

Should I be afraid? Very afraid?? Am I losing my mind?

Or should you be afraid that your database is about to betray you?

Brad DeLong

#158 ::: G. Jules hopes she's not a database glitch ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2005, 01:09 PM:

Yep -- the above comment was, in fact, me. Er -- and perhaps I should add that I'm not a figment of a database's imagination. (To the best of my knowledge, at least.)

I did, however, run through the prior comments and notice that you wrote But why dogspam? Why not hamsterspam? on Christmas, 2004. Perhaps it's a case of great minds thinking alike?

#159 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2005, 10:03 PM:

Glad to know that I'm just losing my mind...

On the other hand, I was chasing links to Kage Baker when all of a sudden I was confronted with *this*:

"The page no longer exists. If you followed a broken link, please inform the owner of the referring page. If you have any queries about this error, please e-mail

"Back to homepage

"[ Powered by Zeus Web Server ]"

And now I *am* afraid...

#160 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 12:01 AM:

"A web server shall not delete a web page, or, through inaction, allow a web page to be deleted."

#161 ::: Kim Wallmark ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 02:47 AM:

Mary: "As far as I'm concerned, it's a waste of time to take the common combo cough medicines. If you've got crud in your lungs, it needs to be thinned and you need to leave your cough reflex alone."

Depends on your cough reflex. Mine's severe enough that at the end of a cold without cough suppressants, I usually can only stop coughing when it's so severe that I'm gagging (which, let me tell you, is not even fun the first time). I'm also a lot more effective at bringing goo up if I have enough diaphragmal control to tune the cough. The dark-red-in-the-face coughing fits don't go deep into my lungs where the gunk is, but they tear nine kinds of hell out of my throat, provoking more dry coughing.

#162 ::: tommy marsh ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2007, 08:01 PM:

I got a cold or something when i was living in new zealand. went to pharmacy got opiate cough sypup without prescription -- stopped coughing immediately and slept like a baby. got through coughing fits and sleepless nights until i was well. in America doctors let us suffer in the name of stopping addiction. RIDICULOUS!

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