Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sick Leave

I almost achieved the great feat of blogging about my entire holiday on consecutive days, but unfortunately the illness that has been bugging me since my return finally caught up with me and I have been taking it easy in the evenings until I recover. In all honesty, I haven't been that sick, but I firmly believe that I suffer from the dreaded Man-flu, an apparently minor affliction that nonetheless renders me unable to perform any household chores, prepare food for myself, or locate medication without assistance from the amazing woman in my life.
In any case, I am not one who reaches for the pills at the first sign of a cold. It would seem to me that many medications treat the symptoms (headache, congestion, cough, etc) but do nothing to treat the cause (bacterial or viral infection), and speed recovery.
Still, to prevent me from taking out my frustration at being unwell on those around me, I will at some point reach for a random blister pack of caplets lying at the back of the medicine cabinet, covered in dust. On Tuesday my search produced a half-full box of Aleve, cold and sinus. These contain a mixture of Naproxen for the pain and fever, and Pseudoephdrine to relieve congestion.

Naproxen is a Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID), which means it inhibits the Cycloxygenase (COX) enzymes that produce the biological substances called prostoglandins. This group of chemicals mediates inflammation (among many other things) and thus by blocking their production, NSAIDs reduce swelling and the associated discomfort. I couldn't find any evidence that Naproxen has any advantages over Ibuprofen. They have very similar chemical structure and appear to carry the same risks and benefits. Naproxen was developed almost twenty years after Boots Co. formulated Ibuprofen.
Psuedoephedrine (available on it's own as Sudafed) has a much more interesting chemistry, as it can be readily converted to Methamphetamine, the recreational drug.
Sudafed works by activating alpha-adrenergic receptors, having the effect of reducing swelling and mucus excretion in the nose and throat. The molecule has two chiral centers, which allows for four different configurations of the drug. Sudafed is comprised of (-)-Psuedoephedrine, where both chiral centers are in the left-handed configuration. It is this form that can be converted into the psychosimulant drug. Interestingly, Pfizer hold the patent for (+)-Psuedoephedrine (which when converted to methamphatamine is in a form not active on the central nervous system and found in Vick's inhalers), but for some reason they have decided not to produce and market the compound.
I didn't precisely follow the instructions on the Aleve packet. They prescribe "1 Caplet every 12 hours". I took 1 caplet. That was it. I prefer to rely on natural remedies.

Don't worry, I'm not about to proclaim that druidic formulations are more effective that pharmaceuticals. But a cup of lemon ginger tea makes me feel better, and doesn't come with the risk of stomach bleeding. I also occasionally wear a magnetic bracelet (by Bioflow), although I would struggle to explain why. I don't believe it has any specific physiological effect, but it didn't cost me much, and I like to keep people guessing.
Hopefully I will soon be well enough to conclude the tale of our adventures in England. Tonight I will be using the most powerful medication know to man: Chicken Noodle Soup. Complete recovery is almost guaranteed!


  1. Martha9:14 PM

    Gosh, I still understand most of that chemistry! Although I don't think I could trot it out like that any more. Not that I ever could really, as organic chemistry is Evil and involves far too much thinking in 3D and twisting structures around in your head. Hope you feel better soon.

    Oh, and thanks for the Body Shop voucher! I will smell very nice very soon... Looking forward to using it.

    Love your big sis.

  2. Andy Mash11:00 AM

    Never under-estimate the placebo effect!