Note: this article is a collaboration between me & Clairene, a fellow CNM Types writer!
If the date on our screens stated “2020/2021”, any cough, sneeze or fever could and would most likely be termed as “potentially COVID”. Fortunately for us, it is now 2022, and the above symptoms are no longer as closely associated with the label because many of us have recovered from COVID already.
However, very recently (and we do not know whether it is the crazy weather or the lack of rest that everyone is experiencing), there has been a non-COVID flu going around. People would fall ill but test negative on the ART kit and continue to be sick for at least one or two weeks. What on earth is going on?
Well, as non-medicine, non-science students, we cannot answer that. What we can provide however, are some ways in which we can combat the non-COVID flu - both using traditional and non-traditional methods. Read on to find out more!
Vicks is the best fix
The list of Vicks VaporRub uses just gets longer and longer - apparently inhaling steam that is enhanced with Vicks works harder to get rid of that blocked nose! Some of you may recognise this as the home remedy that your grandparents love. The origins of this practice remains unknown but we presume it emerged in the early 20th century when Vicks Vaporub was introduced to the world.
How does it work?
Add two teaspoons of Vicks Vaporub to a large bowl of hot water. Place your face right above the steam and cover yourself (and the bowl) with a blanket. Inhale the steam slowly for not more than 15 to 20 minutes.
The inhaled steam helps to liquify mucus and clears the airways, thereby relieving that stubborn blocked nose and cough. Just remember to not heat or re-heat the mixture in a microwave. People with respiratory conditions like asthma should preferably seek medical advice before using this home remedy.
Personally, I (Sabarna) love the feeling of having my airways liberated after a 15-minute session of steam inhalation. Usually I try this before I sleep. The sauna-like feeling (from the warm steam and increase in perspiration) feels nourishing for my skin and gives me a healthy glow too!
Chicken Soup for the (Sniffling) Soul
We have all had those days where rushing for tutorials, jostling for a space in the shuttle bus and battling the Arctic conditions of the library just feel more exhausting when you have a flu. And like any other Singaporean, what could possibly be more healing than a warm bowl of chicken soup on such a day?
Though this is a tried and tested method, it may not necessarily eliminate that flu bug - but it will definitely make you feel better!
A typical chicken soup that is hot and savoury is packed with vitamins, minerals, calories and proteins, helping to boost your body's flu-fighting ability. In fact, even the hot steam from this soupy dish can be a natural decongestant.
Where do I buy it?
Most NUS canteens
The Soup Spoon (their take-home soup packs can be found in convenience stores)
So Pho (for a yummy Vietnamese take)
And pretty much every hawker centre, food court and Asian cuisine restaurant
For those who want to make it yourselves instead - add in carrots and onions for an antioxidant boost as well as some garlic and pepper to help get rid of that nasty phlegm!
Apart from some of the more whacky (but surprisingly effective) ways of countering the non-COVID flu mentioned above, there are also a couple of traditional methods that we would like to reintroduce. Personally, I (Clairene) think these methods are much more accessible, and intuitive for people - but if you need a jolt to your memory, here it is!
Disclaimer: Below is by no means a prescription by a professional doctor, so please see one if you fall sick and also take note of medicine you are allergic to.
Source: Guardian Singapore
Vitamin C (Redoxon), Panadol, Zyrtec - this is my (Clairene) personal favourite combination for Western medicine that you can get over the counter.
For those of you who might not know, Vitamin C (alongside many other vitamins) is actually incredibly essential to our body for a variety of reasons. It helps the body to produce collagen, is an antioxidant, helps the body absorb iron, boost the general immune system and much more. Redoxon carries Vitamin C in a dissolvable tablet form, and all you need to do is drop it in some water and wait for it to dissolve completely.
It usually has an orange flavour to it, and often contains other nutrients like zinc and iron. On a daily basis, you can also start building up good habits by taking in Vitamin C from fruits and vegetables (such as citrus fruits, strawberries, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower).
Zyrtec on the other hand, is an antihistamine that can help with the reduction of swells from hives and allergies, and help clear nasal passageways when they are blocked. It takes effect within 60 minutes, and you only need to take one tablet per day. This means that it is very convenient, and if you ever feel like you need a quick fix for that pesky flu, then Zyrtec can be one of your choices. Do take note though, Zyrtec comes in two forms: Zyrtec-R and Zyrtec-D, which are actually two different drugs. The latter has an added ingredient, and cannot be consumed without an approved prescription because people do have allergic reactions to it.
We could spend another paragraph introducing Panadol, but most of us here know what it does. In short, people consume Panadol to lower their fever, reduce body aches and even sore throat and dry cough. It is a universal medication that can be obtained relatively easily over the counter, and it even has different versions that were manufactured for different purposes (period cramps, intense fever, etc).
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
Ah, we can already hear some of you saying - “This is not real medicine! It is not scientifically proven!”
Calm down friends! There is validity in that statement, but given that TCM has been around for centuries and this was how people treated their diseases back in the days of monarchs and dynasties, we think it is still worth mentioning.
Fun fact - NTU is currently offering a double degree programme that features TCM, check it out here: Double Degree in Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences and Bachelor of Chinese Medicine
In terms of TCM, one of the most popular remedies is the use of Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa, also known fondly by many families as Pi Pa Gao. According to their website, the sticky thick syrup is specially formulated with honey, chuan bei, and 14 other traditional herbs to reduce phlegm, cough and sore throat. Apart from the bottled version, Nin Jiom has come up with herbal candies and travel-sized sachets for the convenience of their consumers. I would say that it has come a long way from where it started, and judging on how popular it is with the younger crowd after school camps and cheers, Pi Pa Gao deserves a pretty loud shoutout.
Speaking of herbs, the older generation would also advocate for drinking herbal cooling teas like chrysanthemum, barley and antelope tea. The teas are made with natural ingredients boiled in water, with rock sugar being added sometimes for taste. Most of the time, you can find these sorts of tea in TCM shops, and if you do choose to go for a diagnosis, then you might walk out carrying a bag of dried herbs that you have to soak, boil and reduce down in order to cure your ailment.
The pièce de résistance to all of this is that the end product is a bitter, black water looking concoction that not many can appreciate. But according to the elderly - it is good for you, so go figure.
With that nasty flu going around, we hope at least one of these methods works for you. Even then, remember to wear your mask (yes no more masks already but that's only if you are feeling well!) especially in close proximity with people. Ultimately, being well-rested and hydrated are key to recovery so make sure to carry around water bottles and sleep on time!