2018-05-09 / Voice at the Shore

The best cure for the common cold


Do you remember years ago when we were kids (don’t ask me how many years that was…) and we started coming down with a cold? Back then, if we sneezed just once, Mama would call out, with a smile on her face, “Aha! You sneezed on the truth!” But if we happened to sneeze more than once and cough as well, her smile would disappear. “Careful, you’re coming down with a cold!” she’d say.

That night, there would be a “cure” waiting for us in the form of chicken soup coupled with a glass (not a cup) of hot tea with lots of lemon. In addition, we were told to gargle with lots of hot salt water and maybe even to take a cough drop. (Of course, we could never decide when to take that cough drop…In the morning or at night? Before, during, or after dinner?)

But now many years have passed (again, don’t ask how many…) and no one really makes a fuss if I sneeze once or even twice. And now we have television—not just black and white, but TV in vibrant colors, with eye-catching commercials to grab our attention even during the most dismal of news programs. And lo and behold, one of those commercials is for a new medicine that promises to cure the common cold! This medicine is available for just a “nominal” charge (whatever that means…), with a small extra charge added in to cover shipping and handling. This newly-developed medicine promises to help ward off and destroy all germs lying in wait to make me sneeze, cough, and make my throat sore and scratchy. Sounds good, No? Yes!

So here I am, watching this commercial after sneezing not just once but twice. I also feel a cough coming on. This new medicine is just what I need! I am about to pick up my telephone to dial the toll-free number on my TV screen, when I hear the announcer say: “Just bear in mind that this medicine should not be taken by children under the age of...” I missed the number, but at my age does it really matter? The announcer goes on to say, “Nor should it be taken by those who are pregnant, planning on becoming pregnant, or thinking of helping someone become....” Enough! None of that applies to me.

But hold on…”Nor should it be used in conjunction with certain medications.” Hmm. Here the announcer rattles off a batch of medications, in English and in Latin, so I hesitate to pick up the phone. Then comes the clincher. “Possible side effects include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite or weight gain, constipation or weight loss, or even occasionally no change in weight. If the latter is the case inform your doctor immediately!”

“At times,” the announcer adds, “one might also experience dehydration, dry mouth, or an uncontrollable urge to sing Karaoke, jump up and down, or fall asleep. If any of these persist, stop taking this wonderful cold medicine right away!”

Now I’ve really had enough. I immediately distance myself from the telephone and the television set. Instead, I reach over for a Kleenex and blow my nose, make myself a glass (not a cup) of hot tea, and ask my wife to heat up some chicken soup. She serves it to me with a little added carrots and onion. Mama would be proud. 

 Dr. Leo Lieberman is a local author who was formerly an associate professor of Holocaust and Jewish Studies at Stockton. He is also a former columnist for the Jewish Times.

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