I am not feeling well. I have a horrible cold. One of those colds that moves up and down…from throat to nose to chest and back to throat. The good news is that I am doing well since the average number of colds per adult per year is four…and this is my first in the last 12 months. The better news is that I know it’s not influenza – I was vaccinated last October. The bad news is that despite all of that…I still have a cold.
I had loads of people and teams come to visit our site last week. This is a rarity. Not that people come and visit…but rather that I am there when they do. Normally whenever anyone interesting visits I am somewhere else…often visiting their location!
The upshot was that I had started meeting people (and talking) each day by 8:00am and didn’t stop until around 10:00pm. By Thursday I knew my throat was sore. Forlornly I hoped that this was just my throat complaining about all that talking. Friday morning I knew it was more.
I don’t know where I picked it up from – I met so many people last week I lost track after Tuesday. I shook hands. I hugged. I spoke. I chatted. I laughed. It could have been anyone I met…or anywhere I went. I just hope I didn’t pass it on.
I have learned enough about viruses to know that the only option with colds is to try to stop the spread (washing hands is number 1) and to treat the symptoms, which – in my experience – can be a bit of a lottery. Decongestants work but I find they can be even more stimulating than my favourite double espresso. Antihistamines relieve my runny eyes but can make me feel tired. Those magic cough suppressants you can get these days definitely reduce the number of times I need to cough, but coughing helps me clear my chest and throat. Those old fashioned expectorants definitely make me cough – although I don’t often need any help there. And of course innovative scientists have seen fit to combine many of these remedies into single agents…
The best advice I have ever had on colds was from my sister – if I treat all symptoms aggressively then my cold will be over in about seven days…whereas if I do nothing it will last a week.
The one thing that reassures me is my belief that each time that I catch cold, my immune system responds and makes itself – and me – stronger and more resistant. The only thing that helps me is the extra care and affection I always get from my family. And yes – in truth – this is the only thing that reassures me as well.
That having been said, I am confident it’s true that my immune system gets stronger after fighting off a cold…but I am not sure it makes any difference in my ability to avoid another one. I like the associated concept – that we get stronger through adversity…it’s a positive and uplifting…but again I am not sure it’s really true.
As I think about it, I have to conclude that the concept (re-communicated in Kelly’s famous song) that hardship or trauma makes us stronger, is false. I see little evidence that such experience helps us next time we are faced with challenge. Rather my experience suggests the only truly successful approach is a blend of care and affection… help and support. Uniquely this combination strengthens and develops our ability to learn and adapt…and even how to combat, or – better yet – prevent future adversity.