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If You're Sick, Don't Tell Your Friends

If you’re sick, don’t tell your friends. At least not the helpful ones.

Several decades ago, before anyone ever heard of a pandemic, I had a sore throat. “Try my sore throat remedy,” boasted our friend, one-armed Fred. His penchant for creating disasters hovered around him like an aura. Fred’s Not-So-Famous Sore Throat Gargle contained water, aspirin, iodine, salt and baking soda. Add a little vinegar and it could be a recipe for blowing up your tonsils.

We had friends in another state who had a cure for everything. Low energy? Slurp some of their nutritional supplement which suspiciously resembled wine. For appendicitis they recommended crawling down a set of steps three times, bumping one’s stomach on each step. (I was waiting for them to tell me to stand on my head and spit out mothballs.)

My grandpa applied tobacco juice to wasp stings. I prefer jumping up and down, screaming and kicking trees these days, since I’m usually not around anyone who smokes or chews.

Health enthusiasts are perhaps the most difficult to fend off when sick. During college days, a friend heard that undergoing an intestinal purge would be good for our health. Following her advice, for three mornings we drank Epson salts and lemon juice in hot water, then fasted until evening. Unfortunately, she neglected to learn the part about drinking juices and water to keep hydrated. Long story short: we lost a lot of weight. We might have achieved the same results with a gallon of Milk of Magnesia.

History has handed down outrageous home remedies. According to our ancestors, if you have acne, just apply urine to the spots. Kids, don’t try this. It doesn’t work, and besides, the smell will drive away your friends.

Want to heal a sore throat? Old-timers applied salt herring to the soles of the feet. If they had an ear ache, they blew tobacco smoke into the sore ear. For shingles they hung a turpentine-soaked string around the neck.

My father-in-law used to swallow kerosene to cure a cold. He may not have been cured but he glowed nicely around fires.

I repeat: if you’re sick, don’t tell your friends. Just quietly crawl to your room and get some rest. You’ll probably feel better in the morning.

What about you? Heard any home remedies for a common cold or sore throat? Tell us about them below. Please, no debates about pandemic cures.


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