The Cold War

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My wife, Dr. Bindu S. Mayi, PhD in Microbiology knows stuff and I’ve learned some things from her.

The attack of a cold, like any other battle, can be won more easily if you get the upper hand early. I refer to this in stages.

Stage 1: fire the first shot. Cold and flu season is no joke. I was not one to ever get flu shots, but like other vaccines that benefit us as a collective group (like the measles and polio vaccines), where if you don’t get them you put others at risk, I realized that I am not an island. This is important to me because I care about my family with whom I live, especially since one of them is my handicapped brother. But not just my family, I care about anyone whom I might encounter. So I took the advice of my extremely smart doctor, listened to my wife and started getting flu shots. I have the luxury of being married to a microbiologist so she also tells me which flu shot to get and why. This year, for example there were choices. By getting the flu shot, you are actually putting a small dose of the virus, an inactive part, into your body. This dose stimulates your body to recognize and build defenses against this virus, meaning when it actually tries to attack you for real, you already have your defenses in place. The easiest battles to win are the ones you are already ready to fight. Scientists every year spend a lot of time creating the best flu shot they can, to help us fight each year’s flu. The Flu strain is not always the same, often becomes stronger, sometimes merges with other strains, so our flu shot has to adapt to meet these new challenges.

Stage 2: get out the way. We fired the first shot and now the next important strategy is to avoid the return fire. If you are not a doctor or another professional who has to deal with sick people, then you should avoid them as a matter of smart practice. DO NOT rely on sick people to avoid you. It seems like they become like zombies programmed to walk around and spread their germs. They walk around in public, shaking hands, hugging friends, touching doorknobs, and sneezing freely into the office space. They suppress their symptoms with over the counter medicines, hug you and then tell you they have a cold. Or they shake your hand and don’t tell you they have a cold. But you notice they have a cold and have already touched your own face with that same infected hand. Damn those zombies. They are not being nice to us. It seems like we live in a world where we can’t afford to allow ourselves the proper rest and isolation that we need when we are sick. Our job insecurity forces us to go to work when we feel horrible. It is not right on so many levels. If you have a boss who makes you feel like you have to come to work even when you are sick, make sure you spend that day with them. But let’s get back to you staying the not sick person. You have to avoid sick people. And you have to avoid sick people who aren’t even there anymore, but they have left a trail behind. Whether cold and flu season or any other time, there are simple practices that will keep you healthy. The biggest one is DON’T TOUCH YOUR FACE, particularly your eyes, nose and mouth. The second most important practice is WASH YOUR HANDS and still don’t touch your face. Washing your hands frequently is extremely effective for avoiding germs. You are going to touch your face because it is just what we do. You have to consciously train yourself not to, but in the meantime make sure that those hands are clean. I don’t like hand sanitizer which is one of those overkill options making this fight with viruses ultimately that much harder. I prefer good old soap and water. The key is thoroughness. My wife says washing while singing three happy birthday songs is how long the process should take. I’ve never done that, but I wash my hands a lot. During cold and flu season, you will most likely be exposed, but by avoiding people you know to be sick, shaking less hands, and washing your own regularly, you should be good.

Stage 3: fight early. I don’t know if everyone has the same awareness as I have, but I can tell when a cold is starting to attack me. I get early signs like a little scratch in the back of my throat and a strange tickle in my nose, or a slight itchiness in my eyes, perhaps some unusual fatigue and when I start to feel any of these signals, I immediately go on the offensive. Here are my counterattacks:

Saline solution nose spray. I use a simple generic drug store saline nose spray almost daily as general prevention, but when I feel that tickle or any other sign, I spray away. I spray and sniff to get it back there as much as possible. And I do this several times a day if I feel the war is waging.

Black Elderberry syrup. My wife is great at finding effective countermeasures and this has proven to be one of them. We take a tablespoon of Gaia brand Black Elderberry syrup whenever we don’t feel right and it works.

Raw onion. Are you ready to feel that sensation shoot up through your nose? That is how you know it is working. It may not leave you with great breath but the bad breath will pass faster than the flu. It is actually kind of sweet tasting with a kick. A nice chunk of raw onion does wonders.

Cognac. I am sure that Brandy may do the same thing, but I find Cognac works extremely well to give a big kick to attacking cold germs. A simple shot of Cognac when you feel that scratch in your throat, is a great counter attack, I have found.


I tend to do all of the above when I start to feel symptoms.

Stage 4: you lost. We discussed what to do to avoid being sick, in stages 1 and 2. We learned how to fight back in stage 3 when there is a confrontation. Now, let’s discuss what to do if in spite of all of that, the cold wins. In this stage I believe the best recommendation is the most simple one: rest and liquids. If I have to deal with stage 4, I have already passed the stage 3 options so I don’t bother taking those things at this point. I isolate myself. My wife boils water with fresh, crushed ginger and black pepper. And I rest. Out of courtesy to others, I avoid them. I don’t go into work. I don’t go out to stores and restaurants. I don’t walk around touching doorknobs after sneezing and coughing into my hands. I do continue to wash my hands often and I use tissues. I am not one to mask my symptoms with medications and cough suppressants but the CDC says something about it not being a bad idea. But I usually am not so bad as to be suffering horribly from coughing too much either. You should surrender and enjoy this time of rest as best you can, knowing that, although you have lost this battle, your immune system will become that much stronger.

Colds and flus are battles we may lose now and then, but we are going to win the war. Thanks for doing your part.
Check on my wife’s recent article in the Orlando Sentinel: LINK

Enhance Your World ~
Sachin Mayi

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