Does chicken soup help fight the common cold?

Some of my friends swear by it. My colleague Jeff and my old pal Joey call it Jewish penicillin. And when I lamented the lack of a true cold cure on Facebook last Monday after three days of blowing my nose, three of four responses recommended, among other things, that I eat/drink chicken soup. (The other response from former colleague Alan recommended “Gin, Lemon juice, tumeric, honey in hot water,” which might be an option to explore for a future cold.)

I had decided to fight this cold the way health authorities have been advising all along: stay home, get plenty of rest, drink plenty of healthy stuff, and don’t take any cold medications (because they can prolong a cold) — except some Aspirins for headaches.

And blow, blow, blow my nose, gently in my bed.

By day three of the nasal outpouring, I decided to see if there was anything to the Jewish penicillin claims or if it was a cultural myth? I googled the question: Does chicken soup really help fight the common cold?

Well, yes it does, according to many articles. It isn’t a cure, of course. But it helps the immune system gain the upper hand on cold viruses. I suspect any number of soups would accomplish the same thing, really. But I wanted to test the chicken soup theory.

Since I don’t have a Jewish mom to whip up a pot of chicken soup like some of my friends do, I decided to go buy some: six tins of “Hearty chicken soup.”

The proof would be in the pudding, er, the soup: Would it help me get rid of the first bad cold I’ve had in more than three years?

It did.

By Friday, the cold was all but defeated, fewer than six full days since the onset of symptoms. No lung congestion, no coughing — which is a first for me in my battles with the common cold during my lifetime. The bed rest, the chicken soup and the zinc pills seemed to have done the trick.

During colds gone by, I seldom took to my bed for four days. At most, I might have taken one day off work. I felt I was needed there too much, so I went to work and sneezed and blew my nose and hacked. I took various cold medications, which seldom gave more than a few hours of relief and ultimately interfered with and prolonged the whole process. My colds always lasted at least two weeks or more, sometimes leading to bronchial infections (google sources say a cold if treated properly should last 7 to 10 days from the time you pick up the virus).

So, no doubt in days of old, I passed the cold virus on to colleagues and many others who came within my orbit.

Personally, I hate it when colleagues come to work with a cold in the contagious stage — the first four or five days of symptoms. No matter how hard they try to keep it from spreading to others, they always slip up: a contaminated hand on a door handle, for example. And the sneezing, hacking and nose-blowing disrupts the workplace to varying degrees.

We live in a society that seems to expect you to go to work when your cold is still in the contagious stage, even though the medical community advises against it. Many of us feel we are indispensable — a myth, as my old colleague Garry Steckles once pointed out: “The graveyards are full of indispensable people.” (R.I.P. Garry, who died recently.)

Yet if we went to work knowing we had contagious chickenpox or measles or worse, we might be disciplined or dismissed for deliberately putting colleagues (and their families) at risk — and maybe even arrested for some form of viral assault.

Viral terrorism?

Well, we’ve all heard of germ warfare — in a much larger context, of course.

But who’s to say that so-and-so didn’t deliberately infect a colleague with a cold virus?

Can we be sure the person who goes to work with a cold in the contagious stage isn’t purposely spreading the virus?

No mistake about it: If we go to work with a cold in the contagious stage, we are knowingly spreading the virus. It’s thoughtlessness, selfishness and ignorance, if nothing else. But if we aren’t doing it on behalf of, say, ISIS, then we’re not considered terrorists.

There may be a fine line there, but the end result is the same: The cold virus is spread to a lot of people, who in turn give it to a lot of people . . . A lot of lives are disrupted.

You all know that we live in very politically correct times. So it is not a stretch of the imagination to think that people will soon face criminal charges for deliberately infecting colleagues and others with cold viruses.

Just sayin’ . . .

There’s a lot to be said for bed rest and chicken soup when you’ve got a cold. You recover quickly, and you spare your colleagues a lot of grief.

— Jillian