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Saturday, November 5, 2016

Influenza is a pretty word for a not-very-pretty situation

I’ve always thought the word ‘influenza’ was romantic. You imagine beautiful young maidens in long flowing dresses and tresses perishing of influenza and consumption. Just heating up and wasting away, in a long ago fairytale setting. That’s before I got the flu and held onto it for two solid weeks. It ain’t so pretty anymore.
They’re really pushing the flu shot again this year and so of course I got mine. I was in the doctor’s office for my monthly B12 shot when the nurse asked me if I wanted a flu shot. It was in my arm before I suddenly remembered that as soon as I had the shot last year, I got the flu. This year it took nearly a week but it did eventually show up, as feared.*
Luckily I was just transitioning to working from home again so I didn’t have to miss any time at the office. But after a solid week of cold medicine, cough syrup and Vic’s Vap-o-Rub, I started to investigate more natural methods of dealing with flu symptoms.
Which brings me back to the year we had two Chinese boys living with us. The winter of 2014 was a particularly harsh one, and like nothing these boys from the seaside town of Suzhou had ever seen or felt before. When that first chill set in, they started looking around for some of their traditional herbal remedies.
The boys drank about six cups of dark Chinese herbal tea with ginseng and raw honey every night. They drank so much hot water during the day they wore out an electric kettle and I started to research water intoxication to ensure they weren’t drinking too much.
One night as I tucked in to sleep, I smelled something very strange wafting through the air. I could smell cooking. I got out of bed and padded down the stairs in my robe and slippers to see what the boys were up to in the kitchen. There was no one there. I went back upstairs, noticing the smell was growing stronger. It was a strong herbal, onion-y aroma – not unpleasant, but I didn’t want to sleep in it.
I hoped they hadn’t brought food up to their rooms. Opening my bedroom window for fresh air, I closed my door and went to sleep.
The next morning I passed Big Jerry in the hallway on his way to the bathroom. The smell of garlic followed him like a green cloud and seeped from his hair, his skin, his every pore.
“Jerry!” I laughed, startling him fully awake. “If you eat raw garlic like that you aren’t going to have to worry about the girls getting too close.” He just blinked at me and continued on his way. Later the boys explained to me that they eat copious amounts of raw garlic in China when they feel a cold coming on.
“We don’t want you to get sick,” they explained. I told them they were making me sick with the smell and they needed to back off a bit on their health kick. I hid the raw garlic in the back of the beer fridge. The next morning it was obvious they had found it. The Farmer had to drive them to school with the windows down on the truck.
When the Farmer is sick – about once every five years – he coats a wool sock with Vic’s and wraps it around his neck. This season he is using a neck warmer. He wears it all day when he’s out building his log cabin, and sleeps with it on at night. I’m going to steal it while he’s in the shower and give it a run through the wash.
Maureen at the Kemptville Restaurant says she protects herself against the flu-wielding public by taking raw ginseng all season long. It comes in little vials and it’s really cheap and effective. That’s the next trial on my list, because I don’t think I can handle drinking garlic soup all day long. I realize you can also take concentrated garlic in tablet form but – guess what?- the tablets are sealed with some kind of compound that gives me migraines. I just can’t win.
Cold season is disgusting. And why do the effective cold remedies have to taste so bad? Buckley’s, ginseng, raw garlic – at least we don’t have to worry about spreading the cold by kissing. No one is coming near me with a ten-foot pole.

*you can’t get the flu directly from the flu shot, as it contains a dead virus. However if your immune system is already compromised, you may be vulnerable to viruses in circulation.

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