Are you suffering from a cold? And I don’t mean Covid. I mean a real, old-fashioned, knockout cold.
I began to cough about four weeks ago. Of course, I took several Covid tests — all negative. The cough did not stop. Further tests were negative. I felt so ill, I even took a PCR test.
My GP said it’s a cold. But it can’t be, I explained perfectly rationally. I feel like I’m going to die.
Even now, nearly a month later, I’m still having coughing fits. As if 18 months of Covid haven’t been enough, apparently there are now ‘super-colds’ thanks to a combination of more than a year spent indoors, wearing masks and keeping away from one another. Without our usual exposure to germs, a cold we’d normally brush off is laying us low.
Dr Max Pemberton explains how important it is to rest after illness.
According to the UK Health Security Agency, calls to 111 for help with colds, flu, difficulty breathing, or a cough are on the rise. Patients aged 15-44 were the most affected.
Maybe there is some good to come out of this. Perhaps convalesce is one of the things that the pandemic forced us to do.
We had to stay in last year because of the Covid rules. We had to take care of ourselves and get some rest. It was not possible to make yourself go to work or to continue working, as we did when we were sick. The law explicitly said that you should stay home. This approach should be continued for other illnesses, including the common cold.
This must be a positive thing. Look at the Queen, who was advised last week to cancel her trip in Northern Ireland. After spending a night in hospital, she returned to Windsor to recuperate.
Yes, Ma’am, at 95, even you need to learn to slow down a bit, take it easy, watch some black-and-white films and demolish a bowl of oranges — doctor’s orders.
We have tried, like Her Majesty, to keep calm and carry our lives on, even when we feel a little shaky. How many of us have come to work with a fever or a cough when we should have stayed home?
This behaviour is a result of our fast-paced, hectic modern lives. We refuse to believe that common illnesses such as the common cold can be treated in as little time as it takes.
We tell ourselves that it will take us a few days.
Dr Max (pictured), stated that skipping sleep can cause us to feel unwell for longer periods and even increase the risk of spreading the illness.
Not so long ago, getting better was part of being ill. Then it was just assumed that after a few Lemsips you’d be right as rain. People seem to be genuinely perplexed when it takes longer to recover, yet most coughs and colds aren’t gone in a few days, it’s more like a week.
Skipping this part of illness does nobody any favours — it means we often feel unwell for longer, and also risk spreading the lurgy to others.
Covid has made it clear how serious that can seem, especially for the elderly.
And it’s not just coughs and colds. It’s easy to underestimate the time it takes to recover from any number of conditions.
Earlier this month, comedian Robert Webb had to quit Strictly after he realised his body simply hadn’t recovered from the open-heart surgery he’d had two years ago. He needed to rest longer. He was able to recognize this.
All of us need to learn the art of convalescence. Take time to allow our bodies and minds to heal. Covid has given us permission for us to take care of our bodies.
We have had to become isolated for days and, I hope that we will learn the value in recovering fully.
That old-fashioned ‘period of convalescence’ helps the body heal and the mind rest.
People had to be more vigilant about their health generations ago, before antibiotics were available. It would take two weeks to recover from a common cold. People would also be at risk of developing pneumonia so they would stay in bed and take their time.
Before the pandemic we had learned to view this as almost quaint, and certainly not something busy professionals would consider doing.
But we owe it to ourselves — and to those around us — to recuperate when unwell.
It is not heroic just to keep going.
Dr Max said Madonna (pictured) has morphed into an almond-eyed teenager, and it’s creepy
- Despite a burning desire to do so, I have thus far avoided commenting on Madonna’s social media pictures. I think people too easily take aim at older women — particularly about how they look. But after campaigner Sasha Pallari broke cover last week in the Mail to lambast celebrities for editing their pictures, singling out Madonna for special attention, I can’t keep quiet. I love Madonna, she’s a true trailblazer — fearless, strong and independent. It is this that makes her use social media so sad. Rather than looking like a fit, healthy woman of 63, she has morphed into an almond-eyed teenager, and it’s creepy. It’s like a car crash — you don’t want to look but you can’t help but stare. What message does this send? We all know that airbrushed images create unrealistic expectations of how people should look. This is contributing to a rise in self-esteem and negative body image. Madonna’s odd ‘teenage’ look further perpetuates our obsession with youth and implies that the older body is to be reviled. Madonna has been a vocal opponent of bigotry and sexism throughout her life. Why is she allowing ageism to get in the way of her success?
Yes Kate, high IQ can spell doom for you
Dr Max believes being very bright can make life a little bit harder because the world is more complex and you’re aware of nuance and uncertainty in a way others aren’t. Pictured: Kate Beckinsale
Kate Beckinsale claims her high intelligence has hindered her Hollywood career. Well, from where I’m sitting, you’re doing fine, Kate — but I do understand what you mean.
The actress, who studied French and Russian at Oxford University but quit to pursue acting, added in the interview last week: ‘Every single doctor, every single person I’ve ever come across has said, “You’d be so much happier if you were 30 per cent less smart.” ’
I think being very bright can make life a little bit harder: the world is more complex and you’re aware of nuance and uncertainty in a way others aren’t.
I’ve witnessed this over the years with patients who’ve become depressed. They either need mental stimulation that is difficult to find in a job. They may be so deeply involved in the world that they are frustrated by those around them. It’s isolating.
I remember a psychology lecturer saying what we should all want for our children is to be attractive but slightly thick: they’ll live a charmed life and be blissfully ignorant of their intellectual limitations. I have a terrible feeling that he may be right.
- Our vaccine programme was the best in the world when it began, but numbers have fallen and only a small fraction of people eligible for a booster jab are getting one. We may face additional restrictions this winter if we become complacent. This would have devastating effects on everything, from mental health to economics. It would be a tragedy if we threw away all the amazing gains we’ve made over the past year with the vaccine. Don’t wait to be invited — go online and book your jab today.
Dr Max prescribes…
Dr Max said the Vivobarefoot range of ‘foot-shaped’ shoes can support your feel as well as improve posture
The Vivobarefoot range of ‘foot-shaped’ shoes — rather than shoe-shaped shoes — is supposed to support your feet as well as improve posture (Primus Trail II All Weather trainers, pictured, £130, vivobarefoot.com). But I also like the way they make you feel connected to the ground — and they’re strangely comfortable. Founded by two cobblers, the company also sells very sturdy walking boots which somehow feel as if you’re not really wearing them.