Why buy cold medicine?

I’ve had a cold for the past week. My nose has been so stuffed-up I can’t breathe through it at night, plus I’ve got a headache, sore throat, and I’m always sneezing

Because I rarely come into contact with other human beings, getting sick is something that doesn’t often happen to me. This cold is probably the first time I’ve been sick in over ten years. And it’s been so unpleasant I went to the store and bought some cold medicine.

I didn’t want to. Most colds just run their course and then go away after a week or two. But I wanted to feel like I was doing something because I was really miserable.

But there is no cure for the cold. As the old saw has it, we can put a man on the moon (we accomplished that one quite some time ago, actually), but we still can’t find a cure for the common cold. There are two reasons for this. In the first place, the common cold isn’t a single disease but a general name for over a hundred different viruses. In the second place, since it isn’t a very serious disease (that is, you don’t die from it) there is no financial incentive for drug companies to find a silver bullet.

Which isn’t to say that drug companies don’t make money out of selling cold remedies. They certainly do. The stuff I ended up buying sounded just right: Extra Strength Tylenol Sinus, for “sinus pain and pressure, sinus headache, and sinus congestion.” It cost $8 for 20 pills (12 daytime tablets and 8 nighttime tablets). I don’t know why I even bothered. I mean, I knew it wasn’t going to work because I know that nothing works. And it didn’t work. Three days later I hadn’t gotten any relief at all from any of the cold symptoms I had. None. In fact my cold got worse. I might as well have been eating Smarties.

I might also add that I couldn’t detect any difference between the daytime “non-drowsy” pills and the nighttime “lets you rest” variety. I was actually kind of looking forward to being knocked out by the latter. No such luck.

I don’t mean to pick on Tylenol. I mean, my mother swears by it. And I’m sure none of the other brand names would have done a bit better. But it makes you wonder. Seeing as we all know that there is no cure for the cold, how do such products remain on the market? I mean, they don’t even provide relief from cold symptoms. I still can’t breathe.

Maybe cold medications are like vitamins, most of which do absolutely no good at all unless you have an impossibly bad or deficient diet and you’re in need of some particular supplement.

Seeing as I still have this cold, I suppose I’ll just keep taking all these pills until they’re gone. But I know there’s no point.

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