This may well be the last feature I ever write. I have a cold. You may think I am overreacting but it feels like the end for me. How cruel it is to have to go towards the bright light when you’re the type of person who gets sunburned easily. A reggae concert in Jamaica is the only place you’ll find eyes more bloodshot that mine. My sinuses are blocked and my head feel stuffy. I am battling to focus. The only people whose decision-making abilities are more impaired are students in a pub that serves half-priced drinks.
To make matters worse, there is no end to the remedies offered to me by people I come into contact with. It puzzles me. I constantly read about South Africa having a shortage of doctors yet everyone I meet seems to have a remedy for my illness. It’s a wonder that we get colds at all with so many treatments available.
Once, in varsity, I started feeling ill a few days before a test. A classmate mentioned his remedy. A mug of hot water, lemon juice, some chilli flakes and a nip of brandy. You guzzle the concoction and climb straight into bed and sweat it out. I duly followed these instructions and awoke the next day feeling far worse. I don’t know whether it was the virus or the brandy but I have become wary of home remedies ever since.
People avoid doctors and chemists for any number of reasons. It may be a price barrier, fear, previous bad experience or mistrust of pharmaceutical companies. We’d rather not have to visit a doctor and use treatment that has been produced by the big, bad, faceless corporation. Oddly, people will happily buy a product that is marketed as organic or natural, even though the company that produces it has the same motive as the pharmaceutical company – money.
Home remedies are nothing new but in many instances they make a medical emergency worse. For example, the application of butter was touted as a treatment for burns. We now know that it may make a burn more severe as it traps heat. The salt in butter may also desiccate the burned tissue. If you feel the need to use butter in helping a burn victim, rather use it to make a sandwich. The victim may not enjoy hospital food.
Another popular myth is related to the treatment of seizures. Somewhere you’ve heard about epileptics “swallowing their tongues” and for this reason, you need to jam a solid object down the throat while someone is having a seizure. The best way to keep the airway clear is to lay a person on their side. There really is no need to shove objects down their throats or perform a tracheotomy with a butter knife.
Some old wives tales and home remedies are less harmful. Onions, when placed around the home, prevent colds and flu. The origins of this remedy seem to have been lost but ancient Greeks reportedly used to rub onions on sore muscles so they’ve been used for medicinal purposes for a very long time. I think I know why this particular belief caught on. To contract a virus you need to come into contact with people who are already sick, and nobody would want to visit someone whose house smells like onions.
I think it’s time for a shot of whisky. I know it has no medicinal purposes. I figured that if I am so near death I might as well have a drink before I go.