Preferential Treatment

by Laura Pilati

Ah, fall. Here in Virginia, September means many things to me–the beginning of autumn (hello lovely colors!), the end of summer (goodbye 95 degrees and 80% humidity at 6:00!), birthday/celebration season (perhaps I’ll even add my wedding date to this next year!), and…ragweed.

Ah, yes. Ragweed. Back where I grew up (in Hampton Roads, VA), ragweed is especially the vilest thing that ever there was. For at least a week every year, what seems like the entire crust of the earth is covered in a dense, mustard-colored powder, and just when you think that you’re rid of it–six months later in the dead of winter–there it is, sneakily glaring at you from the corner of your windowsill. But the worst of it is the bodily reaction. If you’ve ever lived anywhere in the vicinity of ragweed, you know what I’m talking about. ACHOO!

The onset of allergies almost always, without fail, brings on a sinus infection in my head. This year, I was especially hit hard, as was nearly every other poor sneezing soul that I came across in my office, on the phone, and on the street. For nearly a week, it was completely and utterly miserable: what started out as a significant sore throat turned into a faucet-like nose, which turned into a raging headache, which evolved into a headache with all the snot of the world coming out of my nose. Sorry for the visual.

Are you a doctor avoider? I am. Well, not for my chiropractor. But in conditions such as this, the thought of going to a doctor makes me feel like I might actually join up with the American wolf t-shirt-wearing, McDonalds-eating, football kid-transporting Suburban drivers of the world and collectively scream: You can’t tell me what to do! And I will not take your antibiotics! (that is what they say, right?)


So, as soon I was at the sore throat stage (aka day 1), I broke out my arsenal of tools:

  • Emergen-C: consumed quickly and daily
  • Hot showers, to breathe in the hot vaporous H2O and cough up the flem
  • Honey (Madeleine’s remedy), to soothe the soreness
  • Salt water, to gargle whenever convenient
  • Plenty of sleep–this I didn’t get an A+ on this time around, but I did alright
  • Fruits and veggies, and avoid sugar and carbs (which, though comforting, usually prompt the body to produce more mucous)
  • And, obviously, avoid pharmaceuticals like the plague. Almost as much as the doctors.

Day 2 came and I had kicked the sore throat, but decided to go to yoga in the evening and, by the end of it, was feeling weak and a little stuffy (just for the record, that’s the opposite of how I expect to feel at the end of yoga). And my instructor, who is one of the kindest, most wonderful people in my little life experience, said to me: “I heard that the allergens are terrible right now. I always seem to get sinus infections from them, and then the doctors tell me–if you’d just take a decongestant, you would avoid this. But I hate taking stuff!” And then, like a curse…I got the worst sinus infection of my life for 3 days.

On Sunday evening, aka day 5, I was practically on my knees begging the sinus gods for forgiveness, and I did it–I caved. I decided to take a decongestant. My methods just weren’t standing up to what life was throwing at me anymore, and I didn’t know how much longer I could take the intense sinus headache, body temperature irregularity, nausea, and a sensitive nose from all of the kleenex I was using, and not die. And from there, I started feeling much better. I took the decongestant regularly for about 2 days, then maybe once or twice for a day, and now–at the end of day 10–I consider myself 95% back to normal. Where would I be if I hadn’t started taking the decongestant? Maybe I’d be as crumpled as my kleenex right now. And yes, that makes me feel a little bit sad–about being that sick, yes. But also because I believe in my body’s natural ability to heal itself, and I feel like I betrayed it a little. At the same time–I did avoid the antibiotics, and perhaps I wouldn’t have started recovering this quickly with the decongestant if I hadn’t coupled it with my own at-home remedies. Hm. Am I just crazy?

Now, here’s what I want to know. Do you self-treat when you feel ill? If yes, how do you self-treat? And in what cases do you see a doctor? And, regardless of your answer to the first question, when do you seek out the pharmaceuticals? We all have different ways of dealing with illness and injury, even the most minor of cases, which I think says a lot about us as individuals and as a culture.

6 responses to “Preferential Treatment

  1. Have you tried nettle tea? With a touch of honey! It has done wonders for me this year! Three cups a day when you really need it, then cut back to one cup a day!

  2. I lived with allergies most of my life and find the best treatment is to take an OTC allergy medication, or at least a decongestant, on day one! Cold compresses releave the headache/stuffy nose ache, tea with honey just feels good going down, and lots of Emergen-C tops it off! Rest, rest and more rest help give your body the chance to heal itself, along with a little help from these other remedies. Antibiotics are not the answer for allergy-induced sinus issues — the trade-offs are not worth it!

    • Thanks Carolyn! Good advice. I don’t always develop spring/fall allergies, so it’s hard to tell if I’m getting a cold or it’s allergies and, as a result, difficult to treat early on. Does anyone have suggestions for diagnosis? Antihistamines don’t always work.

  3. Any other Neti Pot lovers out there? I just got one this weekend and am still getting used to the idea.

    • I have a neti pot and I enjoy it! Though it was definitely an adjustment. That’s actually a great idea for allergy prevention, though I suppose I never think of it until it’s too late (you’re not supposed to use it if you have congestion). Also, since you’re a new user, it’s worth mentioning that you should never use straight tap water. But you’re probably smarter than me and have already thought of that. 🙂

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