Like much of the country I’ve been brushed by the flu with its maddeningly tenacious cough.
My umpteenth coughing fit made me reach for the soothing water I constantly have at hand. The water always helps but, actually, why would it? My congested lungs and irritated airway are separate from my esophagus and stomach, right?
The Leaving Certificate Biology Course supplement page on the Respiratory system was a good reminder that though the esophagus and trachea (windpipe) are separate, they both begin life in the pharynx (throat) before forking off. Interestingly, the trachea not only is a conduit for air but moves nasties like bacteria, dust, and viruses out of the lungs by attaching them to mucus already there. Hairlike cilia lining the inside of the windpipe then move the whole package out of the Respiratory system hand to hand style (see picture below). When the mucus reaches the pharynx, it’s irritating and we either clear our throat or cough.
Drinking water gives relief by helping to clear our throat and vocal cords of the mucus and aforementioned nasties before sending them to their acidic death in the stomach.
Interesting, huh? But enough talk about mucus. Here are my favorite tips for treating/preventing colds this season:
Give your place some humidity. Most houses are made to be sealed tight but with the heater blasting it can dry out the air making your cough worse. I like having a pot of water on with cinnamon sticks brewing. It smells great (if your smeller is still working) and you can even use the water for tea! Just don’t be like me and forget to add water occasionally.
Embrace tea and soup. Both are fantastic because they’re like mobile, mini humidifiers. The warmth and extra fluids also help thin out your congestion (I’m trying not to say the m-word again!). Some suggest gargling tea can relieve throat tickles because of the tannin (black tea has the most) but be aware of drinking caffeine as it can be dehydrating.
Sleep. A couple nights a week are no TV nights for me and I’ve noticed I get sleepy way earlier on those nights than on nights I park myself in front of the tube. I know many of us are running around like crazy, even in the evenings, but if the TV is artificially keeping you awake, just turn it off and go to bed. Treat yourself well; your body needs to heal and fortify itself.
May this find you in good health or on the road to it. What are your favorite ways to keep healthy or recover once sick?