Who was that masked woman?
Actually, the question people likely asked as I rode away in my trusty white van was, “What infectious disease did she have that she had to wear a mask?” Fearing for their own safety, no doubt they wanted me to be like the Lone Ranger — racing away on my faithful steed and leaving them with nothing but good deeds and questions.
“Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!”
Two weeks ago I randomly began to cough. No other symptoms. The next day, however, my throat was sore, and I knew I was battling something. (I was hoping it wasn’t the H1N1 flu virus, since I hadn’t gotten my flu shot as my doctor strongly suggested and didn’t want to face his scolding.) But I had work to do and continued to do it. Two days in, my throat felt somewhat better but the cough had taken full reign. I tried over-the-counter cough syrup that night, which managed to stifle the cough somewhat but made me nauseated and loopy. I awakened about 1 a.m. with the sweats and chills and the desire to worship the porcelain goddess. But my worship was nonproductive. Not even a dry heave. I sipped on Coca Cola until the 12-hour cough syrup wore off, but even then I had no appetite. The cough, however, returned full force while my voice disappeared almost completely.
I forced myself to go to work, cleverly crafted a writing/vocabulary assignment that would require little of my voice, and planned on continuing to work. However, when I attended a teacher appreciation luncheon that day, I realized my sacrificial attendance at school wasn’t exactly appreciated. In fact, people were afraid of me. I tried to distance myself from others, but when I stepped out for a brief coughing jag, I returned to find fellow teachers had unknowingly sat near my plate. Seeing their fear, I picked up my plate, tossed it in the trash, and left the luncheon — and arranged for a sub for the following day.
That’s when I became the masked woman. Another sleepless night punctuated with coughing jags elicited the suggestion from my husband that I see a doctor and get some cough medicine with codeine. I called, barely able to speak, and made the appointment. When I checked in, the receptionist handed me the mask, and I donned it. Was it supposed to cover my mouth and nose? Doing so made my glasses fog. I turned to find a seat, and saw the others in the waiting room looking at me suspiciously. I was a little worried myself, more so when the doctor met me wearing a mask herself.
Though I didn’t have the traditional symptoms, a strep test proved positive, and I walked away from the doctor’s office — still masked — with prescriptions for both an antibiotic and the cough syrup for codeine and a long “to do” list, including voice rest and time off from work. Surely, two days off work and the two weekend days would be sufficient for a recovery, along with the meds.
I was disappointed. The cough syrup gave me the jitters; no relief there. The antibiotic made no impact. Over a period of numerous days, I worked my way through a host of remedies, suggestions of both the doctor and my friends:
- Gargle with salt water.
- Gargle with vinegar.
- Mix fresh lemon and honey and allow it to drizzle down my throat.
- Sip balsamic vinegar.
- Drink vinegar water or tea.
- Drink ginger tea.
- Drink loads of fluids to thin mucus.
- Do sinus rinses.
- Do sinus rinses with salt water.
- Do sinus rinses with salt water with a baking soda booster.
- Use nasal sprays.
- Sleep sitting up.
- Take guaifenesin.
- Take extra vitamin C.
- Spray four sprays of Zicam into the mouth every three hours — but only on a full stomach.
- Spray Zicam into the back of the throat when the cough starts.
- Drink hot toddies before bed.
- Get massage therapy on my throat.
- Gargle with equal parts Benadryl and Mylanta.
It was that last suggestion that ended my pursuit of home remedies. Along with the thought of “disgusting,” although the messenger did suggest it “if I were desperate,” I remembered a doctor long ago prescribing Benadryl when I had similar symptoms and difficulty sleeping.
That did it. Actually, that preceded by my husband’s decree that I should return to the doctor’s office, which made me consider whether I’d actually followed ALL of the doctor’s orders… I hadn’t. I hadn’t, for instance, taken ibuprofen at least three times a day — because I wasn’t in pain. But when I considered that the medicine is an anti-inflammatory, and my throat was clearly inflamed and might be aided by the drug, I added the med, along with Benadryl, to my regimen.
That night I slept for the first time without being awakened by coughing jags.
After the second night of real sleep, my voice issues eased.
“Your voice is coming back. You’re beginning to sound a bit snarky again,” one of my seniors told me.
“Ahh! That’s what I was going for…” I croaked.
Today is Day 13 with laryngitis. I am close to fully recovered. I no longer sound like Minnie Mouse but I don’t yet sound like me. Well, somewhat snarky, apparently, which is pretty close.
I am no longer wearing a Lone Ranger mask or frightening people — or frustrating myself — with my symptoms.
“Hi-Yo, Laryngitis! Away!”