DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Jan 4 2013

A Choice of Shots

by Veronica W

Wheezing, sneezing, sniffling, snorting, hacking, coughing; the not-so-cheery sounds of winter. The cold and flu season is here and if you haven’t been sick yet, but have stood in any line, handled money, grabbed a grocery cart or a doorknob or just glanced at a germ factory (aka a child), then run—don’t walk—to your nearest pharmacy…or pantry.

Many people swear by flu shots. I am not one of them. In fact, when a doctor asks if I am allergic to any medications, I tell him “only the injectable ones.” (Really, I do and he always pauses for a moment before he gets it and smiles)

Before taking all those truly expensive—and questionably effective—OTC meds, why not dig out your grandmother’s journal and look at some good ole home home remediesremedies. I’ll bet you have some of the ingredients on hand already. If nothing else, you’ll have a good laugh, which certainly will do you much good. Here are some “proven” cures.

  • Place a mustard plaster (dry mustard, flour and water paste in a cloth) on a congested chest
  • Tying a big red onion to the bedpost keeps the ones in the bed from having colds
  • Simmer a clove of garlic in a cup of milk and add a pat of butter before drinking
  • Eat a chocolate bar for a tickly throat  (Yes!)
  • Rub Vicks on your chest and feet
  • Suck on a clove of garlic
  • Tie a dirty sock around your neck when you go to bed if you have a sore throat
  • Mix a drink of lemon, honey and fresh onion juice
  • Stuff a moist wad of tobacco in an infected ear or blow tobacco smoke in it

If these don’t appeal to you, you can pore over some other remedies in The Encyclopedia of Folk Medicine, The Doctor’s Book of Home Remedies or Honey, Mud, Maggots and Other Medical Marvels. Please note: Homemade chicken soup is in a category all by itself and is not only delicious and effective but has the added benefit of showing that someone loved you enough to make it. 

When all else fails, the hot toddy is a tried and true remedy. Make a cup of hot herbal tea. Add a teaspoon of honey, a small (!!!) shot of whiskey or bourbon, and a squeeze of lemon. Then bundle up and sweat it out.  Whatever you choose to do, I was told colds and flu are “three days coming, three days with you and three days going.” You do the math. If your home remedy can reduce that time, then please, please, please share it.  A-a-a-choo!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Rob Anders January 8, 2013 at 3:04 AM

The anti-science angle in this blog post is very disturbing to me. If you tell your doctor that you’re against vaccines, and the best he can do is crack a smile, this leads me to two conclusions about him:

1. He’s a pseudo-scientific doctor who pushes things like holistic treatments, aromatherapy, “herbal” remedies, and other alternative treatments not backed by any kind of medical science.
2. He’s a legit doctor who’s biting his tongue and not hurting your feelings.

Hopefully the second. If I had a doctor that I went to with a bad cold, and he told me to suck on a garlic clove, I’d run away. Fast.

Please consider the naturalistic fallacy. This is the idea that everything that’s natural is good for you, and everything that’s unnatural or artificial (flu shots, OTC medication) is bad for you. You evoke it right from the start. This argument starts to fall apart in many scenarios.

Consider you have a headache. You have two things in front of you: arsenic (completely natural and poisonous) and Tylenol (an unnatural pain reliever). Which do you take?

Leigh P. January 9, 2013 at 9:16 PM

Yikes…I agree, Rob. Science gave me Sumatriptan for my migraines and no amount of natural herbs can come close to alleviating that kind of pain. I’m glad my kids are vaccinated and have their flu shots before I take them to story times.

Jesse M January 10, 2013 at 12:57 PM

I think both of the previous commenters are missing the point of this post.

Rob, the “anti-science angle” is tongue-in-cheek, as indicated by not only the general tone of the post but also the quotation marks around the word “proven” in reference to the efficacy of the home remedies. Additionally, nowhere in the post does the author claim to be anti-vaccine; rather she refers to her “allergy” to injectable medications, and the doctor cracks a smile because it is obviously a joke.

Veronica W January 10, 2013 at 1:52 PM

Thanks Jesse, for correctly interpreting my facetiousness. I have had two knee replacements and would have been in a very bad place without my injected anesthesia and pain meds afterwards. (Chicken soup is still great, however, when you don’t feel well.)

Ev January 16, 2013 at 12:00 PM

When conducting research on people the placebo effect must be taken into account. Considering many OTC and prescribed medicines target the symptoms of the illness rather than the illness itself, a bowl of chicken soup may be more effective for some people than an OTC decongestant. To make things even more exciting, there has been research that found that chicken soup may contain a number of substances that could be medically beneficial (Rennard et al, CHEST; Oct2000).

On the flips side, some of the most deadly substances known to man are “natural”. For instance one drop of pure chlorine is very dangerous. Radioactive isotopes can be very dangerous depending on the type and exposure level or can be used to try to treat cancer. The jury is still out on that one for me. The lovely thing about science is that we are forever exploring and investigating with an ever widening horizon. The more we learn the more we realize how very little we actually know.

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