Orthogonal Thought | Random musings from the creator of Cooking For Engineers and Lead Architect of Fanpop





Sore Throats

Posted 19 April, 2007 at 5:09pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Life)

Sore throats suck. When I get sick, it usually starts with a sore throat. It begins with a slightly uncomfortable ticket in the back of my throat - usually a day before the throat begins to really hurt. This day is filled with worry and anxiety - am I getting sick, or is it a false alarm? For me, the beginnings of a sore throat can mean many different things.

Allergies - sometimes when my allergies are going full blast, my mucus membranes keep producing. Instead of a normal runny nose, my nose has a chance of running backwards (called post-nasal drip), down the back of my throat, causing irritation and making it more likely for me to develop a sore throat. Often, using a nasal decongestant can help alleviate the irritation, revealing that no actual sore throat exists.

Canker sore - a painful sore can form on the interior tissue of the mouth (usually near the gum lines, but sometimes it can be anywhere in the mouth) close to the throat. This happens pretty rarely and lasts for a few days, but, besides the uncomfortable pain when swallowing, is pretty harmless. This is recognizable because it doesn't irritate the throat as a whole, but instead is localized.

Cold - this is bad news. It generally means I'll be less effective at everything that I do (except maybe sleep) until it clears up… usually 7 days. When the sore throat starts in full swing, I use the fever/congestion test to determine if it's a cold or the flu. A cold usually starts without nasal congestion and is not often accompanied by a fever. Later, as the illness progresses, my nose could become stuffy, but if it starts off clear - it's probably a cold. There's a variety of remedies out there and I don't even know what to think about most of them. Most seem to work to prevent a cold and there's a lot of conflicting info about how to reduce the duration of a cold. Most over the counter medicines do nothing except alleviate symptoms, but both Vitamin C and zinc are popular supplements taken to actually reduce the duration. Do they work? Maybe, maybe not. Zinc is really popular right now (especially Cold-Eeze zinc lozenges) but it seems that when research and clincal trials are surveyed, there are as many that show no effect as there are that seem to prove effective shortening of infection. The National Health Service (NHS) of UK does not recommend zinc lozenges stating "there is no strong evidence of efficacy. There are doubts about the bioavailability of different formulations, and most formulations produce adverse effects (nausea, taste disturbances, and irritation of the oral mucosa)". The NHS does suggest that Vitamin C intake "in large daily doses (more than 1 g daily) may provide a modest benefit in terms of reducing the duration of cold symptoms." But they found that long term usage of large doses of Vitamin C did not reduce the chances of catching the common cold.

Flu - this is the worst possible case. When I get the flu, I can't even work from home. I'm basically out of the picture for at least a couple days with aches and pains, fever, and lethargy.

I'm pretty sure the sore throat I woke up this morning with is the common cold variety…

3 comments to Sore Throats

mark mulligan, April 20th, 2007 at 7:48 am:

  • Just discovered your cooking for engineers site, and drifted over here. I love analytical articles on food. Good Eats, yes!

    Since you get a warning jolt before cold/flu sets in, you are an ideal candidate to take Echinacea. The throat spray seems to work best for me — beware, the taste is awful.

    I have about a 50% success rate, killing off sore throats preemptively before they turn into something worse.

    As to canker sores, do you drink lots of orange juice? Perhaps all those soft drinks? As you must know, they are all acidic, bad news for the mouth's mucus membrane. I know they melt my gut lining something fierce. Try rinsing your mouth out with clear water after every indulgence. Might work.

    Just some suggestions. Keep up the good work! Hope you enjoy mine (link above).

    Sincerely, mark mulligan

papa, April 20th, 2007 at 8:14 pm:

Cayenne tisane… is insane | Orthogonal Thought, April 20th, 2007 at 10:10 pm:

  • […] I try out the Cayenne Pepper Gargling Sore Throat Cure… […]