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Barefootin' Doctor

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Being the cold season, it is vital that people understand what a cold is, know differences between viruses and bacteria, when to seek medical help, and how to facilitate recovery. Firstly, colds and respiratory infections are caused by many different viruses that can be present in many different ways, such as the "common" cold with head congestion, runny nose, itchy eyes or as a sore throat and cough, or even as a deep cough in bronchitis. Viruses are often accompanied by fatigue, mild fevers up to 102 degrees and generalized muscle aches and pains. You may get swollen glands in your neck- these are lymph nodes which are composed of cells whose function is to help fight infections. The swelling and soreness is the inflammation-the response to enemy organisms. Aspirin is good in decreasing fever, muscle aches and the soreness due to inflammation. Viruses usually run their course and go away. Infectious mono and hepatitis are also viruses (I hope to discuss these illnesses in the future). There is no specific medicine or treatment that kills viruses. Antibiotics such as penicillin or tetracycline do nothing to viruses and should not be taken because each drug has its side effects and complications as well as allergies reactions and selections for other infections that are resistant to that antibiotic.

If you feel a cold coming on, it is important to start taking care of yourself right away, hopefully to decrease its duration. This means plenty of rest, stopping physical exertion, and keeping warm. Running yourself down and exposing your body to wetness and cold tend to lower your body's resistance and allow your illness to get much worse. It is important to drink plenty of fluids, water and fruit juices especially. This will keep you well hydrated and help wash out your cold. You should decrease your intake of milk, cheese, rice and other foods that increase mucus production and thicken your secretions.

It is probably helpful to take vitamin pills and especially vitamin C. The scientific data is questionable about the effects of vitamin C, but feedback I have gotten from people who use it and my own personal experience-makes me think it is beneficial. Brothers and Sisters who take vitamin C regularly in doses of 1/2-1 gram (1,000 milligrams) daily claim very few colds- many who take one gram or more a day at the onset of their colds claim a shorter duration than they used to without vitamins. Rose hips and red raspberry herbs are high in vitamin C. All of this may be coincidence-if it's in our heads, well, that's cool - it's really far out to let your head cure your body- sweet old Linus Paulmg sounds good really.

Herbs have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. The western doctors never heard of 'em. Sisters and Brothers who use herbs regularly and for illnesses really find them beneficial. Herbs have definite effects on your body just as pills doctors give you do. Different herbs have different predominant effects. Making herb teas is probably the most practical and nutritious way to use herbs. Don't boil herbs - boil the water, and brew the tea. Ginseng has a major effect in decreasing secretions and clearing up congestion and also soothes sore throats. A good cold remedy that sisters and brothers in the Rainbow house use is hot date milk (high vitamin D content) with ginseng. (See sister Jeanie Walsh's column, "Eat to Get High" in SUN Issue 23 for date milk and other herb instructions). Another herb that is helpful in congestion, decreasing fever plus a good source of vitamin C is red raspberry- it makes dynamite tea. Lots of hot herb teas with honey, especially ginger and sassafras help to soothe sore throats. Garlic is another cold remedy that has been used for centuries by many groups in both Eastern and Western cultures and also in Transylvania. Chewing parsley is a useful deodorizer.

Everyone knows they shouldn't smoke-cigarettes, of course- and this applies especially to periods of sore throats and coughs. Many smokers think nicotine has good effects on colds-bullshit-at first it opens up your breathing passages, but in reality it irritates your throat and makes colds, sore throats and coughs worse. People who smoke tend to get more colds, and their colds and coughs tend to be worse and last longer. This is also true for people who drink a lot of alcohol, for the drunk state lowers your body's defenses.

A lot of people think they should take a bunch of pills and shit when they get colds. Most decongestants and antihistamines tend to work minimally and usually make things worse when they wear off- especially nose sprays. If the congestion really drags you down, you can get some decongestants in any drug store. These are probably as good as prescription drugs. You don't need to waste time and money at a doctor's to get his favorite cold pills. If you really need any pills, use them sparingly as their effects wear off fast. Also, as I stated before, you don't need and should not use antibiotics for colds. They don't help and may hurt. EAT WELL. FREE YOUR BODIES FROM THE DESOLATE REFUGE OF THE SYNTH ETIC SOCIETY! You don't need no doctor.

-Elson Haas