Jo's Handy Cures For Annoying Things: The Valentine's Weekend Edition

Who here is recovering from a little more Valentine's Day chocolate and champagne than they probably should've had? Show of hands?

I'm the only one raising my hand, aren't I?

Plus, my knee is still wonky.

And I think I'm coming down with a cold.

Here, then, are my handy remedies for everyday, annoying things. Please keep in mind that I am the absolute worst kind of medical professional from whom to take advice; season everything here with a four-foot by four-foot grain of salt.

1. The Chemical-Weapon Class Hangover

When the thought of brushing your teeth makes you tetchy and you can't eat even mashed potatoes, how on earth can you work out (or even be a functioning member of society)? The quickest cure for a hangover is, of course, not to drink that second bottle of champagne in the first place. If you lost track of your Cliquot consumption, though, try this:

Water. Hydration is a must. Alcohol dehydrates your brain, which is what leads to that horrible headache and nausea.

Gatorade. I'm normally not a fan, but original-flavor Gatorade really *does* have enough glucose to feed your brainbox and make you feel better. Plus, the sugar content can actually settle your stomach. If Gatorade is too much, try Sprite.

Exercise. No joke. A brisk walk will help your metabolism rev back up, and you might even find your liver a few blocks away in the process.

Sleep. 'Nuff said.

2. The Turned Ankle, Wonky Knee, or Strained Lower Back

If your injury is severe enough to require more than over-the-counter painkillers, then skip this part. If you have a mildly achy body part, though, read on:

Anti-inflammatories. I don't care if it's turmeric or Aleve you're taking, make sure you're dealing that joint or muscle a fair hand of anti-inflammatories. Not only will those help with the current inflammation and pain, they'll help keep things from spiraling into a nasty cycle that can make things work. One of the most helpful anti-inflammatories, that won't wreck that liver you just forced back into your abdomen over its weak protests, is

ICE. Ice is huge in the treatment and prevention of injuries. In the first 24 hours after a sprain, strain, or pull, it can help slow swelling, reduce the amount of collateral damage, and make you feel a whole lot better. Just be sure you don't apply ice for more than 20 minutes at a time, and be sure you don't freeze your skin.

Heat. After the first day or so, heat can be very soothing and healing. Applications of moderately warm water, with or without epsom salts (to reduce swelling) feel great, increase blood flow, and help lymphatic drainage. And, of course, there's

Rest. Seriously--if it hurts, get and stay the heck off of it. Gentle stretching of sore muscles can be good, but don't overdo! There's nothing worse than hurting yourself more when you're trying to feel better.

3. The Heartbreak of the Head Cold

I do not like combination medicines like TheraFlu or Nyquil: they contain acetaminophen, which can be dangerous in large quantities, and they often have things you don't necessarily need in them.

Decongestants. These help with stuffy-headedness. You can use topical decongestants, like a nasal spray (for no longer than three days), or a systemic one, like Sudafed (but watch it if you have hypertension or prostate problems!). Decongestants will generally make you more hyper than a squirrel on crack, which is why many people take them with

Antihistamines. The old sort, like Benadryl, will make you sleepy (a good thing sometimes; we actually use it at the hospital rather than things like Ambien). The newer sort, the loratadines and cetirazines, won't make you sleepy and can actually work better than Benadryl. Read the label, of course, and follow the directions, but if your primary problem is a runny nose, antihistamines are what you want.

Cough Remedies. Sadly, lab tests have shown that the active ingredient for cough suppression in over-the-counter meds isn't any more effective than a placebo. Now, I personally have had good luck with something called Delsym, but I don't know if that's placebo effect or not. The general rule of thumb is that if the cough is keeping you up at night, you should see your friendly medical professional for a prescription. You might be goofy the next day, but you'll sleep. Oh, you'll sleep.

And finally, Gentle Exercise. Again, gentle exercise can be very useful. Don't try to work out at your usual level, but be mildly active. A stroll on a pleasant day will help you move some snot around, improve your mood, and make you sleep better.

4. The Honest-To-God Flu

For heaven's sake, don't plan on doing anything for two weeks except sleeping, coughing a lot, and taking lots of painkillers. If you catch it early enough--and can stay vertical in the doctor's office long enough--antivirals can do a lot of good, reducing the duration of the flu by about 48 hours. Two days' shorter stay in Hell is a good deal.

If you're unlucky enough to catch the flu, especially the Pig Plague (which I have had and which was indescribably awful), stay home. Stay in bed. Eat ramen. Have somebody rub your feet. Don't freaking move until at least day 3, at which point you will definitely need a shower.

And don't work out. Physical fitness isn't worth the rest of us having to haul your exhausted carcass off the treadmill.

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