Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Fighting a Cold in Egypt

It's that time again in Egypt that we wait around for all year. The nights are cooler. The days are still warm, but the sun doesn't shine quite so bright. In short, it's the "most wonderful time of the year."

Okay, well so it's not Christmas (yet). Not that Christmas in Egypt is anything like the white Christmases I grew up with in Alaska.

By the way, don't you just love this snow scene? Doesn't it make you just want to go out and go sledding?

But the one thing I hate that the change in the weather does bring is the dreaded cold virus. Maybe it's because people don't dress quite as warmly as they should. Maybe it's because they don't cover their mouths like they should when they cough or sneeze in public. And maybe, just maybe it's because they forget to wash their hands afterwards when they do...

Because even though many people in Egypt might believe that sleeping with the air-conditioning on can cause a cold. It CAN'T!

You catch a cold, as in a virus, from another person. Maybe it's something they've touched. Maybe their germs have traveled through the air over to you (due to the lack of covering their nose and/or mouth). Maybe it's when they kissed you hello.

I hate having a cold.

The good news is that fighting a cold in Egypt isn't as hard as you might think. I know that finding medicines when you live abroad can be a bit of a headache, especially if you're from somewhere like the States where there's always a newer and better pill on the market to cure what ails ya.

I know that (especially if you're new here) you might assume that Egypt doesn't have any medicine that you'd want to take. I mean, who knows WHAT they have hidden away in all those pharmacies on practically every corner here in Cairo... or how LONG it's been there?

But the good news is that if you have a name, you can write it down and give it to the pharmacist, well, if they have it, he or she'll sell it to you. No prescription required. Just make sure you check the expiration dates.

Here is the low-down on what's available in Egypt for fighting a cold:

  • Claritin: A non-drowsy antihistamine. I brought loads of this in liquid gel form back from the USA recently. Great for all ages, be sure to check the package for dosage.
  • Tavegyl: A mild antihistamine, the drowsy kind. My OBGYN prescribed this for me while I was pregnant. You have to be careful about medicines if you're expecting.
  • Physiomer: A saline nasal spray. The best prevention method out there, especially for children (even newborns). And it will work wonders to clear that blockage in your nose in ways that blowing alone can never do.
  • Halls: Throat lozenges. Helpful if you have a sore throat. Egyptians eat these as candy (seriously!) so you'll find them just about anywhere.
  • Vitamin C: The most common form is effervescent tablets that dissolve in water.
  • Cough syrup: Ask for this at the pharmacy and they should be able to give you something.
  • Tissues: Sorry no special tissues with lotion are available in Egypt, but small packs of tissues are available just about anywhere (even at the little kiosks down on the corner).  
The great news is that winter is the season for oranges in Egypt. You'll find oranges, tangerines, grapefruit and even mandarins. And, of course, lemons are available all year round. So I recommend that you keep your kitchen stocked with these fresh fruits as the cold season comes round.

And everyone knows that natural Vitamin C is better than taking the tablets, right?

But in case you're tired of all that orange juice, did you know that the following fruits and veggies are good sources of Vitamin C too?
Kiwi (imported year-round)
Papaya (not in season now)
Tomatoes (available year-round)
Cantaloupe (a summer fruit)
Strawberries (just bought our first bunch last week)
Brussel sprouts (available frozen)
Broccoli (coming into season)
Sweet green pepper (available year-round)

And the one thing I know I need more than ever when I come down with a cold is SLEEP. If it's one thing I know after 7+ years of living abroad it's that I need more sleep than I ever did back home. And when I'm sick, well, nothing works better for me than a few hours extra of sleep.

But that's just me.

And if all else fails, just ask the pharmacist. The good thing is that in most pharmacies the pharmacist will most likely speak English. So if you need medicine for a certain ailment (sore throat, cough, runny nose, etc.) just go in and tell them you need something for... fill in the blank... and they'll probably be able to give you something for it. It might not work as great or as quickly as what you had back home, but it'll work... eventually.

What about you? Do you have any great home remedies for treating a cold? 


  1. Good blog. So true about the Air conditioning part!!!
    If I may, let me add two extra hints that will help to prevent a cold.

    1 - Mustard on your sandwiches. There is a powerful antioxidant in mustard that will help to boost your immune system.

    2 - Using coconut oil in cooking will also help boost your immune system!

  2. Hi Suz! That's really interesting I've never heard that about mustard or coconut oil before. Where do you buy coconut oil in Egypt?

    Thanks for the tips. =)

  3. Oh God I pray pray pray pray PRAY that I don't get a cold this winter. I already had it in the summer! Thanks for the tips, will get right on it!

  4. Yes me too. I really hate a summer cold too. =) But now you have to really watch out for other people who are sick. That's where Physiomer has worked wonders esp for my son. =) Good luck!


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