It’s really all about rest.
It’s funny how when you pay attention to your body it tells you things about yourself and the way your body works.
The September Cold
Back in September, a few days before I was due to head out on a trip to Lopez Island, I got struck down by a cold. It came upon me suddenly with a lot of sneezing and a very runny — more like drippy — nose. (I call that leaky faucet nose.) I assumed it was an allergy attack. I’ve had “hay fever” my whole life and moving to the west — first Arizona and now Washington State — really reduced the number of attacks I get. But I was working outdoors that day in a dusty environment and I assumed that either pollen — the sagebrush was blooming — or dust had triggered the attack. I walked around with a tissue box, which I brought with me when I went out to dinner with friends. “Just allergies,” I assured them.
But it wasn’t allergies. The symptoms persisted throughout the night and I woke the next morning feeling like crap. Weak, achey, miserable. I realized then that I had a cold and began to panic. I was really looking forward to that Lopez trip and knew how horrible traveling with a cold could be. (It had ruined vacations in Hawai’i and the Bahamas.) I was determined to recover quickly.
So I spent the whole day in bed, drugged up with whatever cold meds I could find in my medicine cabinet. That was mostly Alka Seltzer cold medicine, which happens to work great for me. Daytime formula during the day and nighttime formula for night. I slept most of that first day, getting up only to feed Penny and the cats, let Penny out a few times, and gather eggs from my chickens. I found some frozen chicken soup in the downstairs freezer and heated it up for lunch and dinner. I had orange juice in the fridge and drank all of it. The whole day went by in a sort of fog. It’s fortunate that my calendar was empty; I would have had to cancel everything on it, including any revenue flights.
The next day, I felt human again. Almost good. I got up and started my day as usual: coffee, catching up on news, etc. I’d planned to take it easy again and did — at least for the first half of the day. I read on the living room sofa. I wasn’t tired enough to nap, so I didn’t.
Later in the afternoon, I ventured outdoors to take care of a few chores. I did more than I expected to do, but I monitored my condition carefully and came inside at any sign of fatigue. My symptoms were controlled by cold medicine and I was okay.
I was very surprised to be feeling fully recovered just a few days later, in time for my trip to Lopez. I thought long and hard about how that quick recovery and I realized that for the first time in my life, I’d done something I’d never done before: surrendered an entire day of my life to a cold.
Could that be the answer to a quick recovery? Just spending a whole day in bed?
I’d read in numerous reliable places that the common cold took 5-7 days to pass. I’ve had colds in the past that have lasted weeks, with lots of suffering every day and even a few doctor visits. Yet the symptoms for mine had come and gone in about 4 days.
The November Cold
Unfortunately, I have the opportunity to try to repeat my fast recovery this week.
I flew home from Arizona on Saturday morning and immediately got to work putting out fires (so to speak) at my house. My housesitter had done a good job taking care of things while I was gone and left the house immaculately clean (which I really appreciate) but since I wasn’t expecting the temperatures to dip below freezing while I was gone — hell, it was in the 60s every day right before I left — I didn’t give him instructions for the chickens water. It was frozen and the poor birds had apparently been trying to peck through the ice. So I had to get them set up with their heated water dish for winter. They’d also run out of food — I thought what I’d left them in their feeder would have been enough. They didn’t seem to be suffering at all, so I suspect the situation had been short term. No harm, no foul (no pun intended).
I also had to struggle to deal with a frozen hose (which I’ll need to wait until warmer temperatures to resolve), my mousers running out of dry cat food, and clearing space in my garage for a friend who was bringing his boat over to store for the winter.
So I was running around like a nut all afternoon and most of the next day.
It was on Monday afternoon — notably three days after my commercial airline flight — that those “allergy” symptoms started in. I had just cleaned the chicken’s roost area in the coop and put down some bedding pellets. The pullets were on the perches in there and did a lot of panicked flapping around as I worked. The sneezing and runny nose started within 10 minutes. Damn birds. The dander must have gotten me.
But the symptoms persisted through my dentist visit and the rest of the afternoon. And that evening. By night time, I knew it wasn’t an allergy attack.
I got on the nighttime cold medicine before bed. I still had a miserable night, tossing and turning, blowing my nose enough to build a mountain of dirty tissues beside me.
In the morning, I felt super crappy with a headache the size of the migraines I used to get years ago. (Honestly, if nausea had accompanied it, I would have called it a migraine.) After the sun rose, my bedroom, with the lights off, was too bright — even though it was overcast all day. I got up only to let out Penny, give her some food, and take some drugs. I had grapefruit juice in the fridge and drank a bunch of that. I felt too weak to go down and check the garage freezer for more chicken soup. I went back to bed. Penny, obviously sensing that something wasn’t quite right, snuggled up between me and my dirty tissue mountain.
I cancelled my dinner date with a friend and blew off the wine tasting I was supposed to attend afterwards.
I slept most of the day.
Around 3 PM, I got up and made myself something to eat. A salad with sardines. (Don’t knock it; I like sardines.) I cursed myself for packing the balsamic vinegar into my camper (which is waiting for me in Arizona) and not buying a fresh bottle for home. I tore down and discarded my tissue mountain. I let Penny out again and went back to bed. I slept more.
In the evening, woken by that damn headache, I got up to take some more ibuprofen. I let Penny out again. I went into the garage and gave the cats a can of food. I let Penny in. Then I settled in on the sofa with a throw blanket and glass of grapefruit juice to catch up with Stephen Colbert’s Late Show. I felt a little better, but not much. At least I could stay awake.
After about an hour of that, I was exhausted. It was only 7 PM. I surrendered, took some more nighttime cold medicine, and climbed back into bed. I read for about 10 minutes and then fell asleep.
I slept pretty well until about 3 AM. Then I woke up feeling pretty darn good. I hung around in bed, catching up on news via Twitter. (Lots of good news about yesterday’s election. Hooray!) Then, at about 4:30 AM, I decided that my internal clock would just have to stay screwed up for a while and got out of bed to start my day.
I’ll take it easy today, but will get stuff done, mostly indoors. I have a lot of paperwork to catch up on after my two-week trip south. Maybe I’ll finally finish unpacking my books. And I’m sure I’ll take a nap.
My goal is to rest up enough to be completely recovered by Friday. I think it’s possible if I don’t push myself.
And that’s the lesson I’ve learned in dealing with these two colds: when a cold strikes, give in to it. Just treat the symptoms with whatever cold meds can help you get rest. Sleep as much as possible. Stay warm and comfortable. Rest, rest, rest.
If it’s just a cold — not the flu — a quicker-than-average recovery might be possible. But not if you push yourself.
And if you’re feeling good right now, go out and get a flu shot. I haven’t gotten mine yet — shame on me — but will definitely get it as soon as I feel 100% recovered from this cold.