There’s something about a summertime cold that makes it ten times worse than the same affliction when contracted in the winter months. Maybe it’s just that you don’t expect to catch a cold in the summer. Poison ivy perhaps, or a flaming-red case of sunburn. But not a cold, for Pete’s sake.
Colds are a winter thing. You catch them by standing in the rain, by going out in the cold air with wet hair, and mostly by sending your children to school, where germs are passed around as liberally as royal family gossip is shared by the tabloids.
All the traditional panaceas for the common cold are definitely rooted in a wintery time scape. If you catch a cold, you stay home, bundle up in a warm comforter in front of a cheery fire, and drink hot chocolate, homemade chicken soup and hot toddies. Then you slog off to bed in a warm-liquid-sated torpor, burying yourself under protective, comforting layers of blankets to hibernate for a week. Exactly seven days later your head and sinuses clear like a mountain stream busting loose into miniature ice floes during a spring thaw, and you emerge from your recuperative refuge as fresh and energetic as the pristine, effervescent waters of a melting snow pack.
So how do you treat a cold in the summer? When it’s 70 plus degrees outside, you’re not generally inclined to build fires, consume warm beverages or don consolatory layers of clothing. And as you sit glued with sweat to your lawn chair, wearing Bermuda shorts and a tank top, sipping gazpacho and lemonade while your head throbs with pressure like an overripe muskmelon and your nose drips like a plugged water sprinkler, it’s virtually impossible to conjure up any of those winter-oriented curative vibes.
As I enter my third (yes, third) week of wheezing, coughing and snuffling, I’m developing several theories about winter colds versus summer colds. My first theory is that summer colds last at least twice as long as winter colds because – for the reasons just mentioned – you simply can’t psyche yourself up to get better without all the trappings of winter cold treatments.
When your mom is in Hawaii, for example, lazing under a palm tree and nursing an umbrella-adorned fruit drink, instead of in your kitchen poring over a hot stove to concoct the generations-old secret family recipe for chicken soup (our secret family happened to be Campbell’s, but it’s the thought that counts, you know) to nurse you back to health, you just aren’t as motivated to get well.
My second theory is that the summer cold sufferer’s recovery is further impeded by self-delusions that perhaps they are suffering from a rarely occurring or newly acquired allergy. I watch my husband sneezing and sniffling with summertime allergies and I start to think maybe that’s what I have, so I conduct a comparison of symptoms.
“Honey, do you feel like someone made a voodoo doll in your likeness and then plunged a dagger into the doll’s forehead right above the left eye? Do you have coughing fits that turn your face so many alternating shades of purple and blue that the children think it’s a magic trick and laugh and beg you to do it again? Do you experience fever-induced dreams where you come up with the entire text for a gripping novella, only to awake and realize that the few phrases you remember from the dream are pure drivel?”
That obviously proves that I am not suffering from any typical run-of-the-mill allergy.
My third theory is that the summertime cold is best combatted by ingesting healthy foodstuff. Fruits and veggies, for example. I go to the fridge in search of something in the green category. I have green olives and pickles – one representative from each aforementioned food group, to be sure, but not quite what I had in mind. The only other greens to be found on the premises are the bowl of leftover Casserole Surprise that got shoved to the back of the fridge shelf a few months ago, and the exposed end of a loaf of cheddar cheese.
Well, theory number three needs a little more research. And while scientists continue to delve into the cure for the common cold, I’ll pursue my own contribution to the world of medicine – the cure for the “uncommon” cold, the summertime cold.
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