CLEAN PLATE: Down-home Hoosier remedies relieve symptoms

I’m fascinated by conversational colloquialisms, informal common phrases that everyone in a given region understands and uses, some without even realizing it. A good example are the terms “pot-luck” or “carry-in” dinner. You hear those a lot around here, especially this time of year, but speaking recently with someone from southern Indiana, they didn’t quite know what those were. Some further digging revealed that they use the term “pitch-in” instead. Strange, but interesting.

Another favorite of mine is the regional differences in what people call carbonated beverages. Almost everyone in the Midwest calls it “pop.” I confess that I am an outlier, because I call it soda. I’ve called it that since my best friend in high school moved here from California and called it soda every single day. Now, anything other than soda sounds wrong. My two children have also now grown up calling it soda, so I’m slowly changing the way the Midwest speaks! (Cue evil cackle here.)

Small talk can drive me crazy. People perfunctorily asking “How are you?” are expecting you to answer “Fine. And you?” That’s just what’s done. But most people are never truly “Fine.” Everybody has stuff going on, some people have some heavy-duty stuff. Another expected small talk device is the generic comment about the weather. Ugh. The meandering previous paragraphs finally bring me to part of the main topic: if you are making small talk with someone, any time of year, and illness comes up, invariably someone will comment “It’s going around.” And the other person, maybe you, will agree. It doesn’t even matter what “it” is! Everyone knows someone who is currently under the weather or perhaps someone coughed on the bus that morning. It doesn’t matter. It’s a conversational safe zone. It is something that everyone can agree on and commiserate about. Maybe throw in a personal story to really bring it home. My point being, people are weird, and I like that.

This time of year, there will be a large number of people who are sick with one thing or another. Colds, coughs, bronchitis, flu, whatever. It’s doubtful that everyone will have the same thing, but the at-home treatments for things like that are similar. Because you’re usually treating and soothing the symptoms and not the cause, and that’s OK. Doctors will tell you that with a lot of these things, especially colds, all you can do is rest, drink lots of fluids and wait. Grandmas may tell you to eat chicken soup and rub stinky stuff on your chest. They’re both right! Let’s talk about things you can do and make at home to comfort yourself or your family when “it’s going around.”

First, I’ll caution that you should always see your doctor if you are feeling very ill. If they send you home with the advice to drink lots of fluids and rest, then you can try any or all of the following:

• Chicken soup, or almost any hot, brothy soup will soothe sore throats, ease upper respiratory conditions and help keep you hydrated.

• Mentholated rubs on your chest will help open your nasal passages. I also use a lot of Carmex all year long to keep my lips from getting chapped, and occasionally apply it on the tip of my nose if it’s dried out and sore.

• Ginger — raw in boiling water, a ginger chew or ginger tea — can help soothe sore throats, coughs and nausea.

• Honey in tea or on its own has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, and helps your immune system with local allergy symptoms. It’s also soothing for your throat. Note: do not give honey to children younger than 1.

• Gargling with salt water can decrease the severity of cold symptoms.

• Neti pots with room-temperature or warm water can cleanse and moisturize nasal passages. Make sure you read and follow the instructions if you are using them for the first time.

• Warm baths or showers that produce steam are generally soothing and can also help open your airways. If you add Epsom salt and/or baking soda to your warm bath, it can also help soothe body aches. You can also add essential oils like eucalyptus or frankincense to the bath to help clear your air passages as well, or put them in a diffuser.

• Use a heating pad to soothe aches or use a rice bag that you heat up in the microwave. You can also put those in the freezer to use as an cold pack.

• Use a cool-mist humidifier to help keep dry air from making you worse. Remember to change the water every day so it doesn’t grow any mold.

• Garlic has been said to reduce the severity of cold symptoms, and adding more garlic to your diet may also help you stave off colds in the first place. It can’t hurt anything other than your breath. Echinacea and Vitamin C would also fall under this category.

• A coworker recently shared his at-home remedy: cut six lemons and place in a pot of water. Boil for “a while” then add honey and ginger, and drink. It’s a soothing, hot, lemony drink that will coat and soothe your throat. You can also buy teas that are specially formulated for illness and comfort.

Miranda Beverly is the front-end manager and marketing coordinator at Maple City Market in downtown Goshen.

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