"Hey, I think I found those germs you shed. Do you FUCKING WANT THEM BACK?"

I'm sick.

I deal very poorly with being sick. One of the first symptoms to kick in, even before the stuffy nose and sore throat, is a raging case of emo. Not even the dainty kind, where you lie around tragically in your bed and pray for death. No, I get the kind where I have to stop myself from asking other people to fuck off and stab themselves in the eye of their choosing, because they are pissing me off and I don't have the energy to do it myself. I know better than to actually take it out on anyone, because I know that it's being tripped by totally irrational stuff. The gold medal winner, I think, was the time a conscientious roommate asked me if I wanted them to leave the window open or closed when they abandoned me to die of the plague (at my request, I hasten to add; I feel, not unreasonably, that a self-imposed quarantine is best for all involved), and I made one of those anguished death-rattle wailing noises that I can only do when my entire throat is swollen and said, "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD do not make me responsible for the STATE of the WINDOW."

Being sick also interferes with my sleeping. If I'm sleeping okay when I come down with something, I go insomniac really quickly; if I'm already insomniac, the stuff that normally knocks me out does fuck-all. It's the congestion and post-nasal drip. I can't even lie down comfortably. I have defective sinuses at the best of times, but anything that prompts my upper respiratory system to fill itself with goop is sheer hell. I have more than once considered the merits of having them removed, but I keep getting stuck on how exactly you're supposed to scoop out something that's already a hole in something else. As a practical matter, I cannot test any theories I come up with, as we don't have a trepanation kit, a set of woodworking chisels and a hammer, a power drill that's good for anything other than making useless whirr noises when equipped with a sanding block, or even a good set of grapefruit spoons.

It is very poor consolation that the rats know my pain. They can't catch human colds, but domesticated rats stick their noses into everything, and are notorious for having snuffy-breathing problems. If I ever learn who invented sinuses in the first place, I am going to sue them fucking inside out, and I am naming Rattus norvegicus as co-plaintiffs.

Being uncomfortable all the time and short of sleep makes me very testy. I hate everyone on Earth right now, both individually and in aggregate. If extraterrestrial intelligence is discovered while my head is still full of biological concrete, I will hate them too. I understand that none of them have done anything to warrant this -- no one I'm in direct communication with, anyway; there are a smattering of dictators, axe murderers, zealots, academic frauds, and talk radio hosts that make my blood boil sometimes even when I'm perfectly healthy -- but wanting me to get up, talk, walk, dress, and make a reasonable amount of eye contact is way more than I can handle. It is absolutely not personal, but that doesn't stop me from thinking it. If it makes anyone feel better, 'everyone' also includes myself, and I swear under my breath every time my accursed human physiology forces me to stand up and shuffle to the bathroom.

I usually deal with this by ingesting all the useful chemicals I can get my hands on. People like to say that 'drugs are never the answer', especially people who started to achieve sentience while Reagan was in office, and then gave it up as being too much of a hassle. I beg to differ.

Hypothetical example: It's 9pm on a Friday night, and you have just checked your voicemail and discovered that a critical piece of bureaucratic paperwork has somehow gotten lost in transit, and failed to arrive at its destination in time. The thing is monumentally important and the snafu must be fixed at the earliest possible opportunity, or you will be fired or booted out of school or extradited to Latveria to stand trial for war crimes or whatever. Obviously you need to call them up and get yourself stuck on hold the nanosecond they are there to answer the phone, but since it's strictly a clerical disaster, there is no conceivable way that anything can happen -- good or bad -- until the start of business hours on Monday morning.

I would contend that drugs are an excellent answer to that situation. They're certainly not the only one, but lying around and watching bad movies while slamming shots of vodka beats the hell out of spending the entire weekend sitting in the corner freaking out. Swap out 'vodka' for 'NyQuil' and 'freaking out' for 'blowing my nose and making undignified snurgging noises', and you have my philosophy on the true utility of OTC cold treatments. There's a reason they say that if you medicate yourself, you could recover in as little as seven days, whereas an untreated cold may last an entire week -- the difference doesn't have anything to do with how long it actually takes the germs to get gone, but with how long you feel like you're suffering.

The best part of that is that the therapeutic index for a lot of common cold meds is pretty damn high. Tylenol can be dangerous in even moderate overdoses, and you should never do more than double (i.e., prescription-strength) most NSAIDs, and even then not for the long haul, but the ratio of most of the other things you can buy is 10:1 or better. In practice, this means that if I'm getting desperate for sleep, I can keep snorking down cough suppressant and antihistamines until the side effects get more annoying than the cold and I won't die from it -- although when it wears off and I wake up I generally wish I had. Likewise, I'm pretty sure the LD50 for ascorbic acid cough drops is lower for 'blunt force trauma with' than it is for 'ingestion of'. I just keep taking the non-dangerous things until either the cold goes away, or I stop caring.

The one thing that really irritates me when I go down to CVS to buy ALL THE DRUGS is that everything has that godawful phenylephrine stuff in it now. It's not dangerous, so far as I can tell, but it has the dubious distinction of being the only modern OTC drug I know of that was approved despite performing no better than -- and in one case worse than -- placebo at its standard 10mg dose. The Americans are mostly being very diplomatic about complaining, but there's one guy who's been published (more than once) in a British medical journal, who's just going, 'look, you and I both know that you want this stuff to work so you can tell people you're saving them from the filthy meth-heads, but not only is your new "active" ingredient useless shite, it's not stopping anyone from making methamphetamines, so please re-think this before a large mob of unhappily-congested people tramples your corporate headquarters flat'. He didn't actually say the last part in so many words, but given the rest of the paper I think you can consider it implied.

[The guy's name is Ronald Eccles, if you're curious, and he's attached to Cardiff University. At least one of the articles is openly available here. A rough translation of all of that, if you don't read Academician very well, is that the stuff doesn't work, the only people who ever said it worked were in-house drug reps, and whenever someone brings this up with the FDA, the FDA jams its fingers in its ears and goes LA LA LA LA LA CAN'T HEAR YOU. It's worth noting also that this is a metanalysis of a bunch of other studies. Ordinarily, you spend most of the body text in those rehashing what you found, not recounting in great detail how nobody could fucking give you anything to look at.]


  1. ...especially people who started to achieve sentience while Reagan was in office...

    People who believe in the theory of personal freedoms but advocate against the practice of them.

    1. You mean Americans?

      Seriously, it's like this huge swath of the country doesn't understand the concept of 'those are other people, who are not you' anymore.

    2. Yes, Americans, something has gotten into the majority of the populace in the last decade or two that's just...weirdly...un-American.

  2. Not trying to rub it in or anything, but what you said about phenylephrine makes me very glad I don't get sick very often. Though now I'm wondering if my beloved loratadine anti-allergy pills have it in them .... : /

    Hope you feel better soon!

    1. You're safe. Phenylephrine is theoretically a decongestant, and they're trying to use it in place of pseudoephedrine. Loratadine is an antihistamine and, as far as anyone knows, neither fun nor a precursor to anything that is. If you get anything "-D" (i.e., with a decongestant on top of the antihistamine) you might run into it, but if you just take the allergy stuff you should be okay. It's not hazardous, it's just frigging useless.

    2. Thanks for the reassurance! ^_^ I was only worrying about phenylephrine because I always get a little nervous when I learn that I've been putting something in my body and not only do I not know what it does or might do, not even the people who are paid to know do!

    3. Oh, they know approximately what it does. It's in the same family of relatively light CNS stimulants as pseudoephedrine and the other effective decongestants. There's decent evidence that it works fine as a topical nose spray. It just happens that the bioavailability of phenylephrine taken p.o. is awful -- 40% or less. The side effects profile climbs much more sharply than the desired decongestant effect, making taking enough of the stuff to clear your nose somewhere between annoying and unsafe. Nobody's quite sure, probably because nobody is willing to eat half a box of Sudafed PE to check.

      Caffeine works halfway decently in a pinch, if you don't mind the smell of burnt neurons hanging around the back of your nasal cavity. I also wind up taking a lot of antihistamines, since I have issues with sinus swelling and irritation on top of the actual snot problem. It's been suggested that I get a neti pot, but that runs into the same obstacles as House's plan of just railing a gram of diphenhydramine -- by the time you're desperate enough to think that sounds like a good idea, you're not physically capable of getting anything up your nose, beneficial or not.

  3. Phenylephrine is absolutely and utterly PANTS. It annoys the heck out of me - NZ has 'wisely' decided to limit meth makers too - because frankly, if I'm buying OTC cold meds, I WANT THEM TO WORK. I do not want to sit there staring at the packet waiting hopefully, I want to discover that oh, hey! The sudafed has dried out my sinuses, look at that!

    I stocked up while I was last in the UK. Customs didn't comment when I came back.


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