We have probably all had “head colds,” but I want to supply some additional information on them. You will not find this on WebMD or anywhere else on the Internet. It is something that only the laypeople (read *laymen) know about.

There are several varieties of head colds and none of them are nice; in fact, most of them are gross and quite uncultured. I apologize in advance, but the truth must be told.

I’ll start with the “stopped up head” because I have just gotten over it. My head was stopped up (sometimes euphemistically called “congested”), much like the toilet sometimes in our house, and I needed to be unstopped. For the toilet, we would try a “plunger,” those large rubber suction cups with a handle. By plunging (notice the name) the instrument up and down while flushing the toilet, usually debris can be exhumed and destroyed. Not always of course, in which case the plumber (notice the name) is called. For about $90 he (plumbers are generic biased) can tell you that for another $250 the remains can be blown into the nearest river (via city approved pipes, of course). From there it will go to a cleansing factory before we have it back as potable water. However, it might be wise to filter it.

Back to my stopped-up head: there are several maneuvers that can help. The drainage is from the brain downward, so I begin by massaging the temple area with my thumb and index finger and pushing the substance down my lymph drainage tubes toward my shoulder blades, where I thump my fingers three times against the protruding collar bone. This is much like flushing the toilet, although I have no idea where the head stoppage stuff goes. I also massage above by eyebrows, down the ridge of the nose, under the eyes and along the cheek bone. That collected substance is also pushed down and thumped against the collar bone. I am now going to show you how and why this works but to do so I need you to look at this picture of a brain, because that is where, to begin with, all the debris is located.

We are looking down on the brain, much like looking down at a series of mountain ridges from an airplane. The valleys within the mountain ridges are the black lines and, for our purposes represent the gunk that we have in a stopped-up head. We can think of what has happened as a jungle forest (the top of the brain) that has been rained upon and the valleys as areas where the excess runoff has collected. That is exactly what happens in a stopped-up head: rivers of gunk (sometimes called snot by the uncultured) begin to pool and overflow into the cavities of our skull. A lake of muck soon permeates every available area and must be dispensed with. The colors in the diagram are significant: the light, pinkish area on the top of the picture represents the decongested area; the green in the middle, the jungle area where the matter grows; and the blueish area near the bottom signifies the part of the brain neutralized by drugs and nasal spray.

All matter in the valleys must drain into the various cavities of the face: the sinus cavities, the nasal and oral cavities and any tooth cavities not filled in with silver amalgam or gold.

Some of the stuff in the cavities can be disentombed by blowing the nose, but this is a time-consuming and sometimes futile effort. It is also a nasty business: globs of greenish mucous fill up the tissue (don’t use a handkerchief unless you want to clog your washing machine) and run over your lip and into your mouth. Instead use the massage and thump method.

When our son was a baby and often had a head cold in the high-altitude village where we lived, we used to use a bulb syringe to suction out the nostrils. If you try this method, be careful if you see bits of tissue—it may come from the brain.

A second kind of head cold, but not nearly as bad as the stopped-up head is the sniffle-head, in which case the stuff in your head has been diluted by brain waves, much like a microwave with food, and is making its own passage toward the sea, so to speak. Sniffing holds it at bay but often causes coughing and watery eyes. Think of a serving of weak oatmeal or porridge and you will have the picture of the substance you must disperse—not hard and clumpy, but water-logged and moving slowly, like the lava from a volcano.

People who have the “sniffles,” and we have all had them, should be kept in cold rooms so that the mucus will harden and can be unearthed by hard nose blowing. It is not a pleasant sound when the mucus suddenly tears loose and thuds into the tissue, which may break. It is better to not go further in my description because no amount of massage and thumping will now help.

A third and closely related kind of head cold is the “watery-head,” so called because the eyes and nose begin to drip and drain simultaneously. The dam has burst, so to speak, and there will be gallons of drainage—usually about a tissue box an hour, according to the experts.

Sometimes, the flow will last so long that light traces of blood will be found in the current as well. This should not alarm you. Tiny capillaries in the nasal passage are bursting with excitement as the rivulet streams by and the blood wants to join in the escape. Trust your body and especially your nose and try not to wipe hard or the blood may become thicker and you will need some special drug to help you.

This brings me to my last comments about head colds—the drugs that are “available” to help you. Most are “over the counter” but a few require prescriptions and are “under the counter.” Be aware, however, that there is no treatment for the “common cold.” Nevertheless, drug companies have a variety of costly cures.

First off, are the “pain relievers,” which you should use even if there is no pain, but you think there might be sometime in the future. You should always use them for the “shortest time possible,” which is five days and you should follow “label directions” to avoid side effects. The side effects are numerous, the descriptions generally filling four pages of very fine print, and the notice can be found somewhere inside the box of pills.

There are also “decongestant nasal sprays” that loosen up the clogged-up rivers in the brain. The spray must traverse hundreds of little brain waterways, so should be applied vigorously, meaning until you feel faint. The contents of the spray are secret, much like the formula for Coca Cola, locked in a vault at Pharma Inc.

We have all tried cough syrups, but now the FDA and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends against using over the counter cough and cold medicines. They claim there is no evidence that the syrups help, although those with a high alcohol content do tend to help the patient forget about the cough.

The best cure for any cold is chicken soup and often chicken farms have their birds depleted in the winter. Also, drink “plenty” of water and put some lemons in it. Don’t drink or eat anything with caffeine in it and avoid alcohol, which can dehydrate you. Be sure to sooth your throat with a good saltwater gargle and use some saline nasal drops. Vitamin C, zinc and echinacea are also recommended by some, but not the FDA.

The best news I can give is that you will need lots of rest, so staying home from work or school is mandatory at the first symptom of a head cold. That should be a no-brainer.

Winter 2019
Waco, Texas