Zizi Gets a Cold, Or Not?

“Damn,” exclaimed Zizi, “My nose feels like someone is stabbing me.  I’m getting a cold.   I hate that, there’s nothing I can do. And to top it off, the weekend is coming – I’d rather have my cold during the work week.”

“Hmm…” said Alice, “I usually get a tickle, or a burning feeling in my throat before a cold.  Sounds like you have a sinus infection, not a cold.”

“A cold, a sinus infection, what’s the difference.  I’m going to be sick. I hate it when one nostril plugs up and the other one leaks all the time.  It’s so counter-intuitive. I hate being sick – I wish I could be healthy all the time!”

“You are very healthy,” Alice replied.  “You hardly every get colds or flu.  That’s healthy.  Besides, don’t you know that, for most people, one nostril is always plugged, up even when they are healthy? They just don’t notice it.”

“Surely that’s unhealthy, breathing through only one nostril?”

“We don’t know which is healthier.  It could be that breathing through one nostril at a time is a healthy mechanism, allowing the other nostril to recover from the dangers of protecting your lungs. Maybe we only need to breath through both nostrils when we are working really hard.”

Alice continued, “In yoga and Ayurveda, they believe a state of complete balance is attained when both nostrils are open and flowing evenly. And they practice solar and lunar breathing; otherwise known as alternate nostril breathing or “Nadi Shodhana” to help attain balance.”

“But, why do I only notice it when I get a cold?”

“When you have a sinus infection,” Alice corrected again.  “A cold starts in the throat.”

“I usually get a cold first in my nose and sometimes it goes down to my throat after a few days,” Zizi argued. “I thought I only need to know the difference between a cold and the flu?”

“Marketing for cold medicines is designed for selling to people with colds and sinus infections. The the most famous quote ‘with proper medication you can cure a cold in 7 days, but leave it alone and it will go away in a week‘ – is probably a mistake.  eg. It’s about sinusitis, not colds.  Colds are caused by a virus, and normally last only 4 to 6 days.  Sinus infections last longer and can lead to a cold. Sinusitis – sinus infections are a fuzzier group of diseases – they can be caused by bacteria or a virus.”

“Ok, smartypants,” Zizi reacted, “what do I do?  What’s the best medicine?”

“I’m no doctor,” replied Alice, “I just like to study healthiness and illness.  Besides, the best plan is probably to get some rest.  Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed for a serious infection – but they are a dangerous crap-shoot  Also, if your infection is a virus – antibiotics won’t help at all.  Antibiotics might actually harm your overall health more than they help your illness. If it’s a bacterial infection, your body will fight it off.  If it’s a virus, truth be told, it might actually be a healing illness.”

“A healing illness?  OXYMORON or what.”

“Our medical mentality likes to study illness – and hardly understands healthiness at all.  It may be that some illnesses actually improve our healthiness.  Think of a forest.  After a long time, it can become ingrown and unhealthy.  Then a fire rages through and cleans it up – and a new, healthier forest can re-grow.  Some people believe viruses are like forest fires, attacking unhealthy cells.  Of course, fires are dangerous – and virus attacks can be dangerous too – they can weaken you leading to pneumonia or other more severe illness.”

“Like fires? What do you mean?” asked Alice.

“Well, the cells in your nasal passages and throat multiply rapidly. Over time, they might build up a lot of unhealthy or damaged cells.  The weaker cells are vulnerable to attack by a virus.  Didn’t you ever wonder why a virus doesn’t continue to develop and kill ALL of your cells?  It can only attack the weaker cells. ”

“So after I have a cold, I have a higher percentage of ‘healthy cells’?” Zizi asked.

“That’s the theory, and, there is space for new, healthier cells to replace the old ones that were consumed by the virus.  Yes, it might be healthy to get a cold.  I don’t think anyone has really studied that question. It might be that you can only get healthy from a cold if you are unhealthy.  If you are healthy, the cold virus doesn’t affect you. It also explains why you don’t get a second cold right after you recover from a cold. There are no more unhealthy cells for a virus to attack.  It takes time to become unhealthy again. But take care, you can easily get a sinus infection.  Many people get a sinus infection immediately after having a cold, because the cold blocks up the sinuses, making a warm breeding place for bacteria.”

“So… maybe that’s why your colds last longer, because you get a cold and then a sinus infection afterwards?” Zizi asked.

“It could be, I don’t really keep track.”

“But I don’t get many colds,” Zizi queried, “does that mean I’m less healthy?”

“It’s more complicated.  You might get fewer colds because you have fewer unhealthy cells for the virus to attack.  That would also explain why your colds are milder and shorter, because you are healthier.  We don’t measure people’s ‘breathing passage tissue healthiness’, so we don’t really know.”

“Damn,” said Zizi, “my nose hurts, and now my head hurts too….”

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About Tracy Kolenchuk

Founder of Healthicine.org. Author of two books about healthicine;
Healthicine: The Arts and Sciences of Health and Healthiness
Healthicine: Introduction to Healthicine

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