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Much of the information in this blog was posted in March of 2020. We have sure learned a ton about COVID-19 since then; I continue to believe that there is much more that we do not know about the disease than what we do know about it.

Over the past several days, more than few of my friends have had sinus infections. Fall allergies are rearing their ugly heads in my part of the world. With that in mind, I thought I would reblog much of the information I initially blogged in March of this year.

In no way should you take anything in this blog for medical advice, even though some of it has been given to me over the years by physicians whom I respect; they would tell you to avail yourself of proper medical attention when the need calls for it.   Let me repeat!  DO NOT take what I’m about to say as medical advice, or as permission to not follow your doctor’s orders.  DO NOT take this as a suggestion to skip going to the doctor when you even think you might need to.

For several months, nearly every newspaper and newscast has carried stories about the coronavirus (also called the COVID-19 or the novel coronavirus).  As I write this updated blog, President Trump remains ensconced as a patient at Walter Reed Medical Center in the Presidential Suite.

All businesses I am aware of who can feasibly do so are allowing employees who can work from home to do so.  What’s next?  I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if, after the coronavirus is yesterday’s news, that more and more businesses will allow their employees to work from home, at least as a limited option.

I know that not everyone washes their hands after using the restroom…..I know….gross, right?  And some of us who do wash our hands often may not wash them the right way, but believe that we do.  Therefore, germs are transferred from our hands to the door handle/knob, as we depart the restroom, making the door handle/knob germ-laden for the next person.

My mother always insisted on washing her hands immediately after she came home from church, running errands, a meeting or whatever.  She passed that habit on to me.  I don’t know if it helped her or not, but I can only remember her having a handful of colds.  Unfortunately, that habit hasn’t helped me as much as it helped her, but I think it probably has helped some.

(As an aside, and as a cherished memory of my good friend and mentor, Dr. Angela Claxton-Freeman, I’ll share this story.  When I was president of the Girl Scout Council of the Appalachians and she was the executive director, we travelled to Dallas on Girl Scout business. We were in an airport waiting for our connecting fight. and visited the restroom.  To our surprise, it had nice, comfortable chairs. We took a seat and decided to conduct decidedly unscientific research.  Since we had a great view of the sinks, we counted the number of ladies {I use the term advisedly} exiting the stalls and not washing their hands.  I don’t recall the number, but it was WAY MORE than 50%.  Let that sink in!  I can only hope the situation has gotten better.)

Omar Kassem, MD, was my next-door neighbor growing up.  Although Omar has retired, he gave my father some great medical advice years ago when he was visiting his mother.  His advice was simple, but my parents and I utilized it many times.  It’s not 100% foolproof, but it’s never hurt a thing.  The advice:  When you feel like you’re coming down with a cold, sore throat, the flu, anything at all respiratory, every waking hour, inhale 10 times as slowly and deeply as you can.  Hold your breath as long as you can.  And then exhale as slowly as you can.  If nothing else, it feels good to do this;  this is the principle that a spirometer (often used after surgery) works on.

Whenever I feel like I’m coming down with something, I put approximately equal parts of orange juice, white and purple grape juice and apple juice into my Crock Pot, and let it simmer on low for hours.  If you don’t like hot drinks, this mixture is also tasty right out of the fridge.  (Frozen juices are fine to use;  if you’re in a hurry, add the water and set the Crock Pot on high for about 2 hours, then turn it back to the lower setting.)

Another drink that’s helpful is lemonade.  I learned the lemonade secret from Nancy Pace, MD, when we both served on the board of directors of the Association of Junior Leagues, International.  Nancy, I try to have lemonade mix in the cupboard all the time, and I try to have at least a juice glass of lemonade every day during “sick” season.  Know that I think of you every single time I pour lemonade!

Another valuable lesson that Nancy taught me is the importance of Bag Balm to combat sinus infections. When we were on the AJLI board, I was away from home 178 days over a two year time span.  During that time, I made 24 trips for the Association, all but 2 of them by air.  After every trip, I would get a sinus infection until Nancy suggested I use Bag Balm.  It’s been around since 1899, comes in a green tin, as you can see in the picture.  I get Bag Balm at my local farm supply store.  How do I use Bag Balm?  This is gross, but Nancy suggested it, and it works.  Using a clean Q-tip, I dip it in the Bag Balm, and then insert it in my nostril.  I get a clean Q-tip, and repeat the process in the other side of my nose.  I’ll have to admit, since the COVID-19 outbreak, I’ve been employing this strategy pretty often when I leave the house.

Beppie Cerf was also in my class of directors on the AJLI board.  Beppie suggested using Alkalol when fighting a cold or upper respiratory infection. Alkalol has been around since 1896, making it even more tried-and-true than Bag Balm. To use Alkalol, I pour a bit into a paper cup, dip a Q-tip in it, and swab one nostril with it.  Taking a clean Q-tip, I repeat the procedure in the other nostril.  I pour out any remaining Alkalol and do not re-use the paper cup.  This product isn’t the easiest to find;  you will probably need to get it from an independently owned pharmacy, rather than a chain drugstore.  Even then, they may need to order it.  It’s soothing to irritated noses!

Some people say that chicken soup doesn’t do a thing to help recuperate from an illness;  others say the opposite.  I’m not sure what the scientists say, but all I know is that it tastes good and helps me to feel better.  I try to always keep some on hand, because if I’m sick, I don’t feel like going to the grocery, nor do I want to expose others to my germs.

The jury seems to still be out on Vitamin C, like chicken soup.  However, many years ago, W.T. Mathes, MD, told my mother to give me Vitamin C in high doses any time she felt like I was getting ready to get a cold.  I will have to give credit to Dr. Mathes, who soon will reach the century mark.  The times I’ve taken Vitamin C I’ve rarely gotten very sick.  Thank you, Dr. Mathes!

When I was 4 years old, I got several ear infections in quick succession.  Dr. Mathes told my mother to get lambs wool for my ears;  it doesn’t pack down like cotton.  Lambs wool will probably not prevent an infection, and it certainly won’t cure one.  However, putting lambs wool in my ear makes having an earache much less grueling.  I try to make sure I always have some lambs wool at the ready.  Like Alkalol, it can be difficult to find.  I recommend asking an independently owned pharmacy if they carry it or can get it for you.  Thank  you, Dr. Mathes, for the lambs wool suggestion!  I think of you every time I put some in my ear canal.

I don’t believe essential oils can cure or prevent everything, but from my experience, they help with some things.  For the past several years, I’ve used Five Thieves essential oil.  The story goes that during the time of the Black Death, people used it to keep them healthy.  I’ve had a couple of upper respiratory infections since using it, but I know they could have been far worse.  Maybe the Five Thieves didn’t do a thing, but it’s not a chance I’m willing to take by ceasing to use it.

Vicks Vaporub has been around since 1918.  People used  it during the Spanish Flu epidemic in the United States over 100 years ago.  I put some on my face nearly single night, and have since I was in college.  When I forget to dab some on before bed, I almost always wake up with a sinus headache.  And Vicks Vaporub helps to quell stuffy, uncomfortable noses, too!

Finally, these types of illnesses often come with a cough.  I found out in college that I am allergic to codeine, an ingredient in many prescription cough syrups.  A friend in college, Dan Gearing, told me that a small sip or two of bourbon would help my cough.  And indeed, a sip or so is usually all it takes.  That stuff tastes so bad, I have no clue why people would willingly and voluntarily drink it!   I’ve had the bottle in the picture several years, so you can tell I use it sparingly when I need  it.

Getting a good night of sleep can often help these types of illnesses just about as much as anything. I frequently recall overhearing the late James Robinson, DVM, say something like this on multiple occasions: “Now, Mrs. Jones, I’ve given Fluffy some medicine to help her rest tonight. She’s had a big day with the spay I did on her this morning. Don’t be concerned if she doesn’t eat tonight, but if she’s not eating by lunch tomorrow, I want to hear about it. Letting her rest tonight will help her recover more than about anything. She will only recover when she is sleeping.” I don’t know that’s true for people, but I do know it doesn’t hurt!

Again, I want to emphasize that you should in no way use any of the above to substitute for advice and/or treatment from a physician.  However, I believe that all of these things have helped me.  If you elect to use them, I hope they will help you as well.

Let’s pray that COVID-19 goes away quickly, that spread is quickly contained, and that none of us gets it.

Copyright, March 9, 2020 and September 3, 2020 by Rebecca Henderson

3 thoughts on “Allergies? Cold? Flu? Maybe COVID-19?

    1. I copied this from the website: The active ingredients of Bag Balm are 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate 0.3% (antiseptic) in a petroleum jelly USP and lanolin base. In the past, Bag Balm has been documented as containing 0.005% ethylmercury.


  1. I always enjoy learning about herbal and natural remedies, even though in my medical training these were usually not touched upon very often. I think your comment about hand washing is probably one of the most important things one can do to prevent a cold.


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