zeborah: On the shoulders of giants: zebra on a giraffe (science)
[personal profile] zeborah
So a week or so ago I caught this bug off my mother. (My mother, who's had it for three weeks or so, in turn blames the dust from roadworks repairing sewerage pipes.) For the first week it was rather genteel, involving only a persistent productive cough and no other symptoms. At all. It was actually quite weird, but nice, because I didn't *feel* sick.

On Friday the coughs got too much for me to stay at work; and yesterday I went to the doctor who diagnosed laryngitis by a) the time-honoured method of translating symptoms into Greek and calling it a diagnosis, combined with b) what everyone else has. She wrote me a prescription for antibiotics-if-I-get-desperate, on the grounds that although it's probably not a bacteria I seem like a sensible white middle-class person who didn't walk in demanding antibiotics so can be trusted not to abuse the privilege. Also while it's airborne, as public health menaces go that ship's already sailed so I can go to work as long as I feel well enough and work doesn't mind.

This sounded good to me because while my work sensibly provides infinite sick leave and I'm a fan of sitting on my couch with my cat, there's a meeting I *really really* want to go to this morning.

So of course I spent large proportions of last night:
a) attempting in vain to suppress a persistent, nonproductive, side-splitting, lung-hacking cough;
b) attempting to figure out how to stop this cough in order to sleep and/or survive the night;
c) attempting to find a practical implementation of my solution;

and a regretfully small proportion of the night:
d) sleeping.

Also I eventually woke up this morning with the more classic symptom of laryngitis, to wit, not exactly being able to talk, per se.

Anyway, here are the results of my medical engineering experiments, because while my research was not strictly publicly funded, I'm a firm believer in open access.

Hypothesis A: The cough is induced by irritation in the bronchi, and if I can soothe the irritation with ice water then the cough will be suppressed and I can go to sleep.

Methodology: Subject sucked on and occasionally chewed ice cubes.

Results: Even more coughing, omg, seriously, if you have strong religious beliefs about how the proper place of lungs and stomach contents is inside the body then don't do this. I did actually manage to keep everything in its proper place but it was a near call and I painfully strained a rib muscle of some sort before I managed to stumble hacking out of bed and to the location of my second experiment.

Hypothesis B: Cold bad ergo warmth good.

Methodology: Subject took a hot shower with the fan turned off so that the bathroom steamed up.

Results: Inhaling steam good. The cough mostly went away. The hot water also felt nice on my strained rib muscle. Unfortunately once I came out of the bathroom again the cough resumed.

Hypothesis C: Lungs are clearly super-sensitive so need a constant stream of warm, moist air.

Methodology: Having discarded, for practical reasons, the idea of trying to sleep in the shower, bath, or a hypothetical Linwood all-night sauna, subject boiled the jug and nuked a wheatpack for her ribs. Subject then spent the next six hours working out the best way to sleep safely with a bowl of boiling water in one's bed and periodically waking up (the water having cooled enough to retrigger the hacking cough) and going back to the kitchen to reboil the jug.

Results: I think I got almost four hours of sleep in three batches? Not bad, all considered. Anyway my eventual method was to lie on my side on pillows, with next to the pillows a large plastic bowl containing a smaller metal bowl of boiling water, and my head and the bowl covered with my polar fleece poncho, aka 'blankie'.

At one point I added some eucalyptus oil; I don't think this either helped or hurted.

A damp towel nuked for a minute provided near-instant relief while waiting for water to boil. But it cooled quicker than a bowl of water so wasn't by itself a good solution.

Conclusion: If you see or hear someone coughing, run as fast as you can in the other direction. Apparently this thing is going around.
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