Thursday, January 31, 2008

an amazing trip trick: staying healthy

Sorry, folks. I was in such haste to post last night that I didn't proofread this. A few clarifications are shown in red. (For the inconvenience I'll throw in another tip: Do not rent the movie Good Luck Chuck.)

I have been extremely apprehensive to post this. Especially since the last Amazing Trip Trick I posted was about potty training and how I was such a pro.

Laa dee daa dee dah!

Now, less than a month later, I've got kids springing leaks all over the floor.

But. The fact that we've dodged any serious colds or illnesses for the better part of this year makes me want to sing from the rooftops. So, just hear me out on this and then, if we're all struck with the flu - you can bet I'll never post advice again. Or, at least not until I have something really important to share.

Okay ... so you know the theory "It's good to get your kids exposed to different germs because then they'll build up an immunity"? Well, I think that is a load of hogwash.

Growing up, it seemed that I caught every cold that came along. As an adult, it seems that I catch every cold, too. So why is it - that if I was sick as a child, I get sick as an adult? Where's my immunity? With as many times as I've been sick in my life, I should be immune for the rest of my days.

Whenever I get sick, it always starts out the same way. Scratchy throat, painful to swallow, my ears feel full and I'll have a dull headache. Then my nose will start dripping. By the next day, I am completely congested and unable to breathe. Within a week, the congestion will have moved to my lungs and I will spend the next two or three weeks - possibly four or six - hacking up all kinds of grossness.

I'll try anything to make myself feel better. Humidifiers, decongestants, expectorants, antihistamines, saline nasal sprays, eucalyptus body oil, gargling salt water, steam rooms, Emergen-C, various types of tea, honey, zinc, vitamin c, soup, echinicea, wheat grass, orange juice.

You name it, I'm pretty sure I've tried it. Magnets? I've tried those. I've also tried acupuncture, acupressure ... I met with an allergist, a herbologist and a ridiculously expensive homeopath who had me taking puffer fish pills while standing on my head and wearing green socks. Through the years, I've been diagnosed with bronchitis and put on more antibiotics than I can count. I've missed countless days of school and work.

Recently, my fabulous sister, Beth - who is a pharmacist (and a lawyer and a chemist), suggested that I try Zicam. Considering Zicam is a homeopathic remedy, I was really surprised to hear her recommend it. Maybe because I think of homeopathic remedies to be more eastern medicine like and I think of my sister as being a very western medicine like person.

Whatever the case, I tried it because when I'm sick and feeling miserable I'll try anything.

Unfortunately, Zicam doesn't work well once you are sick. You need to start taking it at the first sign of getting sick. So the very next time I felt the tell-tale sore throat and clogged ears, I began using the nasal gel swabs. If I tell you nothing else of value on this blog ... I honestly can say that those things worked.


Now, let me throw in this caveat.

I did still get sick and was stuffy for a few days, but it wasn't nearly as severe as it had been every single time I ever had been sick every other time in my life. My nose was stuffy for a few days, but within a week, I was completely cleared up and back to feeling spiffy. It has NEVER happened (in my entire life) that I've recovered from a cold in such a short period of time.

Once the children turned three, I started using Zicam on them, too. As soon as I can see that they have runny noses and are acting grouchy - I will administer a dose four times a day: When they first wake up for the day, before they go down for a nap, once they wake up from their nap and once they go to bed.

Depending upon whether or not they are running a fever, I may also administer another dose while they are in bed sleeping, before I turn in for the night. I will continue to use Zicam on the kids and on myself, for several days (five?) until the symptoms begin to subside.

Thus far (knock on wood), our kids have not had a single chest cold for the past eight months. Considering they go to the church nursery, gymnastics, soccer and meet with fellow triplets once a week, I think this is nothing short of a miracle. Our children have been exposed to a lot of children during this time, including several kids that were being treated for bronchitis, croup and pneumonia.

So, my conclusion is that Zicam most definitely shortens the common cold and reduces the severity of the symptoms - dramatically.

We use the nasal gel that comes in the pump. The Zicam nasal swabs, which are essentially Q-Tips soaked in Zicam, work well also, but I believe that buying the pump and depressing an application directly on to your own Q-Tip is a much more cost effective approach. (You also get more Zicam with the presoaked swabs then you could ever actually use with one application.)

I have tried the tablets and they taste awful. We'll continue to stick with the nasal gel because the administration is painless for everyone and I recently saw a write up in the December/January issue of Parenting magazine (or maybe it was the February/March) (if Charlie didn't rent a movie tonight and wasn't beckoning me to join him, I would go look it up) that indicated that nasal gel zinc is absorbed more effectively and works better than any other application.

I've heard claims that the use of nasal zinc can adversely effect your sense of smell. This article suggests otherwise. And considering I change an average of 20 diapers a day and still feel like passing out, I am fairly certain my sense of smell is undiminished. Although, at this point in my life, I doubt I would complain too much if my sniffer suddenly stopped working.

You can purchase a package containing two Zicam gel pumps for $11.99 at Costco. Because there are only two pumps in the package - but five people in our family that use the stuff - I will depress the pump once or twice on a clean cotton swab, and use that on the inside of each person's nose. Then, I'll flip the cotton swab and use the other end on the other nostril.

You must use it several times a day, for several days to see any effect. Don't expect to use it once or twice and be healed.

Here are some other things we do to stay healthy...

I wash everyone's hands frequently.

Definitely whenever we've been out playing, and before we eat. As soon as the kids walk in the front door - I herd them in to the bathroom to wash their hands. Because we're often on the go and finding a bathroom can be tricky, I always have with me a hand sanitizer.

I once used Purell religiously, but have recently converted to Vick's Early Defense which I like better. It doesn't contain any alcohol (important when you have a thumb sucker), doesn't dry out your skin, or sting any cuts.

Everyone in our home takes a vitamin each and every day. I'm still taking a prenatal vitamin, but the kids have been taking Gummi Vites for at least the past year. They'll take two of the Gummy Vites and one of the Immune Booster. Part of the reason I started giving them a vitamin is because I was concerned that their appetites had slipped and wanted to be sure they were getting the vitamins they need.

Whenever the kids do have coughs, I'll rub Vicks VapoRub on the soles of their feet (as well as their chest and neck) and although it may be coincidence - I can tell that their coughs are notably abated. Maybe it has something to do with pressure points? I don't know. I just heard it, tried it, and could tell a difference.

Green socks and standing on your head - you can skip that one. Unless, you have VapoRub on under those socks and nostrils coated with Zicam.

So that's what I've got and I'm sticking to it. Because although all of our friends have been leveled at least once this year ... we have not.


That my friends, is what you call taunting the Gods of fate.

Better known as jinxing yourself.

Now if I don't update my blog for the next week, you'll know why.


  1. I also love the Zicam nasal swabs but I can't convince my two teenagers to "put that stick up their nose..." And Airborn. My husband teases me about my use of Airborn, although the kids will use that.
    I also was sick all the time as a child, and get sick easily now. But these two products really help.

  2. I am a die hard Zicam fan and I've been swabbing my kid's noses for over a year. AND they haven't missed a SINGLE. DAY. OF. PRESCHOOL. this year! We did get knocked down at Christmas with strep throat, but considering they are in their first year of preschool, they are breezing through these illnesses. I, on the other hand, am dying. But at least the kids are healthy. When I dropped them off at school on Wednesday, HALF the class was missing. So I'm heading over to Target to load up on some Zicam after I take Austin to school today. Just in case!!!!

    It works! I'm a believer!!!!

    Also, I just read an article about RSV and children and how in some children it DOESN'T build up the immunity and sets the whole immune system up to overreact for the rest of your life. So the longer you can keep you child from getting RSV the better! I'm going to write about that one soon. As soon as I'm not dying anymore.

  3. I have used ZICAM for years. LOVE IT. My husband won't use it and he gets sick for weeks at a time. Great post. Great tips.

  4. Why Vicks on their feet? I like all of your suggestions, and will probably use some of them because we have been slammed with sickness this year. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Hmm... maybe I'll have to try the Zicam again. I've tried it before and it didn't work as well for me as Airborne. LOVE the Airborne. Costco bulk is awesome.

    But I don't think I can give the twins Airborne (kids' version) until they are four or five, so maybe we'll have to try the Zicam for them. Thanks for the tip!

    I am like you with the long drawn-out cold, especially with the cough. I have to sleep on the couch so I don't keep G up all night with my cough. I recently discovered Mucinex and it helped a ton. Mine is always a dry cough though and it doesn't sound like you have this problem. ;)

    Oh what a delightful comment I'm leaving about mucus!

  6. Thanks for the Vicks Early Defense tip! I use the regular hand sanitizer but also have to slather my hands in hand cream after because I get too dried out. More than you wanted to know.

    We use the Zicam, the Little Critters Vitamins and the Immune Vitamins as well and with the exception of my 20-month-old (too young for the Zicam and Immune Vits), nothing terribly serious in a couple of months. We still get hit, but, as you said, it clears up within several days.

  7. I am TOTALLY with you in the love and belief of Zicam. Had I not tried it for myself, I never would have believed it...but it is, quite possibly, one of the world's finest inventions.

  8. I blogged about the miracle that is the Zicam nasal swabs about 2 months ago. I can't believe I hadn't ever tried it before. It really does work.

  9. Hey There,

    Long time reader, never commenter, but just wanted to pass along some info!

    I'm a big big believer in homeopathics for things like colds, congestion, etc. Just wanted to let you know that Oil of Oregano is also an absolutely fabulous way to combat colds. It's an all natural anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic, that is pretty much my miracle cure. One drop under the tongue twice a day when I feel a cold coming on (as well as pounding the vit. c and echinacea) and I have not been sick for longer than 4 days in the past two years. I'm also a student (exposed to many germs on campus) and I work in an animal hospital so you can imagine what's floating around that place. Anyway, just a tip! I'm glad the Zicam works for you, haven't tried it myself.

    Little note: if anyone decides to try the Oil of Oregano only use a drop at a time because it's very potent and can burn a little bit. To that end I wouldn't give it to kids without mixing it with something.

    Oh yeah, and the nasal swabs likely work better than oral tablets for the same reason you put Oregano Oil under the tongue...faster absorption into the blood stream.

    Not being sick is amazing, isn't it? Down with Western meds for things like this, I say. :P

  10. How funny you posted this. Just yesterday I started to feel the beginnings of 2008 sinus infection #1. I usually get several bad ones per year.

    I remembered you had posted about being helped by Zicam and stopped and bought some. 3 doses later I have a sore, red throat, cough, and low fever, butI'm not deathly ill as per usual. I'm combining it with EmergenCbased on advice from my sister.


  11. Awesome tips! Can;t wait to try them...well...I can wait, but at least I'll have something else up my sleeve next time my trio gets sick.

    BTW, Henry is adorable!!!

  12. I just found this interesting site about health problems and the loss of taste and smell from which some Zicam users have suffered. There is also important safety information here: