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Ah-Choo! The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold, Jennifer Ackerman

2010/11/08

The inside flap of this book warns: “‘Ah-Choo!’ contains thought-provoking and hilarious insights into the history and biology of the common cold, including bizarre historic remedies. Reading may include … long periods of being able to talk about anything else.” Fortunately, my bf is nerdy in a sciency way and doesn’t mind my reading random and sometimes gross facts about colds.

This lively book addresses a variety of topics regarding the common cold, quoting throughout from Charles Lamb’s writings on colds. Ackerman quotes numbers (colds are responsible for 189 million missed days of school and 1.5 million trips to the emergency room), relates her adventures participating in research studies which inoculate subjects with viruses, and discusses common misconceptions regarding colds and their transmission. Historic studies of colds and illness are cited, as well as plenty of modern studies of varying grossness, such as the one which instructed volunteers to play poker with materials that had been slathered in contaminants, or the one which measured nasal emissions by weighing bags of sodden tissues. No one should really be surprised to find that the doctor’s office, jungle gym, elevators, banks, the office, and day-care centers are full of germs. The book goes on to discuss symptoms, popular home remedies, pills, syrups, and preventative measures.

While this is not exactly dinner-table reading, it is certainly full of fascinating tidbits, and is highly recommended for the ailing person curled up on the sofa with a box of tissues and a bowl of chicken soup. It might be even more entertaining in the hands of said ailing person’s spouse, children, or siblings, who will gleefully inform the patient of the mechanics of their illness.

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