What You Should Know About Your Common Cold

A couple of weeks ago I trudged into my doctor’s office for my annual blood pressure checkup.  I take Lisinopril daily to control my blood pressure.  Every year just before my prescription runs out I go back to the doctor, have my blood pressure checked, pee in a cup and have a needle rammed into my arm so I can deliver a nice, warm batch of red stuff to be analyzed.  Simple stuff, no big deal.  This time, though, I almost had to cancel my appointment because I came down with another nasty cold the day before and I was miserable.  Yeah, I almost cancelled my doctor appointment because I was sick.

I’m not used to catching a cold.  Until I started working where I work now, I might have missed one or two days of work each year from being sick to the point of needing to stay home.  I’m talking about the common cold here.  For nearly three years I have worked in what can be called a sick building.  Usually a sick building involves poor air ventilation and filtering.  Where I work we take that a step further – we have mice running around, trash that rarely gets emptied and a building that never gets cleaned.  The work areas are never dusted and the floors are vacuumed once per year.  It’s so bad I won’t even use the restroom – I go across the street to Walgreens instead.  I work in what used to be a manufacturing facility but in reality it is an old warehouse and the ground floor is a recycling center.  The backyard of the building is a trash dump.  Yes, this is where I work.  We cover all that up with a business casual dress code.

The result is I get sick at least four or five times each year and usually it is a hell of what seems to be a cold and it puts me on my back each time, making me miss work.  I hate having a cold because I don’t know what to do once I get one, because up until the past few years I never GOT one!  I have a very high threshold for pain.  You can hit me with a car, smack me in the back of my head with a baseball bat or poke shish kabob skewers through my mid section and I can take it.  But the colds I get from working where I work are a different beast.  They are always the same – they start in my head, they move into my throat for a few days, then they spend four or five weeks lounging in my chest.  There is nothing like a solid four or five-week cough that seems to last forever and makes your stomach hurt from the muscle convulsions.

While spending quality time with my doctor I asked him what the best medications were for my Sick Building Syndrome and he quickly recommended Pseudophedrine.  Ah yes, the famed Pseudophedrine, our old pal.  You know him well – he’s the main ingredient in Mucinex and Sudafed!  Since I’ve become a walking petri dish the past few years I’ve been experimenting with over-the-counter cold remedies and Sudafed has always seemed to work.  So I made my plan: once I was finished donating my bodily fluids down in the lab I was heading to my nearest pharmacy and scoring huge doses of my remedial buddy Pseudophedrine.  I’ll get home, take one of each and be on my way to being able to breathe again.

Um, no.

I can remember the days when you could buy cold medications right off the shelf.  But I noticed a few years ago that some meds could only be purchased at the pharmacy.  I knew it was because of those darned wackos who were crafting meth in their basement.  I pulled the pieces of paper with the product descriptions and SKU from the shelf and took it to the pharmacy counter where I was immediately told I couldn’t purchase Sudafed and Mucinex-D at the same time.  Yes, I gave them my driver license, yes I am well passed 21 years of age, yes I have a debilitating cold, yes, my head is like a bowling ball and I’m about to die, but no, I can’t buy the medications I need to be able to think clearly and function as a human.  At first I figured it was a state thing, because Massachusetts has to be involved in every facet of my life and they always know what is best for me.  But after doing some research I learned that in this case, it was the federal government poking their nose into my well-being.

Here’s the deal.  In 2005 Congress passed the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005.  This act sought to regulate sales of certain legal over the counter drugs to stem the tide of people using them to create illegal drugs such as meth.  And, it is part of the Patriot Act.  There seems to be even more to this act than just looking out for our best interests.  Apparently there might be some special interests being played to by our own government and a few drug manufacturers.  Gee, who would have ever thought?  For more on that, read this interesting information.

At the pharmacy counter I was still trying to get a grip on my sudden sadness brought on by someone telling me I can’t feel better.  It’s not like a cancer diagnosis but it is disconcerting to know that someone or something is dictating how I can treat myself with drugs that have been approved by the FDA, are legal, and available for sale to the public.  I’m over 21 years of age, I am responsible for myself and I can read and understand the dosage instructions on the package.  However, I can’t be trusted to resist the urge to build a meth lab in my basement and take the time to extract ingredients from my medications.

Here we go again with the responsibility issue.  If someone of legal age wants to buy over the counter medications and make meth in their basement, more power to them.  If they get caught, it’s their responsibility.  If they sell their meth to someone and the buyer overdoses or does something stupid under the influence of it, that’s their problem, that’s their responsibility.  People are always going to be doing things that break the law.  The law holds them responsible.  If you are stupid enough to get caught up in that racket then you most likely will get what you deserve. 

It’s not up to the federal or state government to dictate regulations on something that is legal.  I can walk into a beer store and buy as much beer, wine and liquor as I want because I am of legal age.  I’m not stupid enough to drink four bottles of tequila and get behind the wheel of a car but if I was and I got caught, I will be held responsible.  Coffee is legalized caffeine and I can drink as much of it as I want.  If I decide to drink an entire keg of coffee at work and then go on a caffeine-induced tyrade then I will be held accountable.  If I want to go to my local hardware store and buy a fifty gallon bucket of rubber cement, boil it down and smoke it in a crack pipe and then take flight off the roof of my house, I’m going to suffer the consequences of my landing.

But damn it, if I want to make my nasal passages clear so I can breath and get the congestion out of my head, then I damn well better be able to take any form of legal medication I can to make myself feel better!

And the kicker at the end of my story is…the kid working the counter at the pharmacy, who didn’t even appear to be 21 years of age, told me that I could buy one product, leave the building, come back in…and buy the second one.  I just couldn’t buy them together at the same time.  Now THAT policy sure would stop me from working in a meth lab in my basement!

Note to idiot pharmacy counter worker: In Massachusetts you must wait 24 hours before purchasing the second dosage.

Note to those who buy Sudafed, Mucinex-D and other products that contain Pseudophedrine: Each time your driver license is scanned at the pharmacy counter when you buy these products your information is being entered into a federal database.  They are tracking how often you purchase these products and the dosage you’re buying.  When you exceed their established threshold you will be flagged as a potential basement meth manufacturer.  Congratulations.

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