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by Jeff Wilkin

Type A To Z

A Daily Gazette life blog
Features reporter Jeff Wilkin on pop culture
 

Take Your Medicine

By Jeff Wilkin
Monday, February 10, 2014

I’ve been fighting off a cold for the past few days. I’ve got the usual symptoms — nasal congestion, general lack of energy and the occasional loud sneeze. When winter lays me low, my voice also goes low, and generally dips a few octaves.

I have been giving my cold to Contac, the transparent capsules filled with tiny yellow, pink and white granules. They’re supposed to relieve cold and flu symptoms until the body — through rest, plenty of fluids and taking it easy — rallies and recovers from germ warfare.

Didn’t have any Contac in the house on Saturday, but I did have a few sleeves of Theraflu, which is supposed to be a little tougher. You dissolve Theraflu in hot water and the instructions say to sip it all within 15 minutes for maximum benefits.

I wondered why someone wouldn’t just chug the whole eight ounces and get it over with. My first taste brought back the unpleasant memories — Theraflu is one vile drink.

That’s why people don’t savor Theraflu. It just tastes lousy — like an acidic, sour, warm lemonade. The marketing team insists my tastes buds should be registering “natural citrus flavor” but that is one false claim.

Other medicines use similar persuasions. Vicks’ DayQuil, the daytime version of the company’s more potent NyQuil — the stuff that just knocks you out — is also advertised as a citrus-flavored formula. I think the Vicks guys knew better than to slap a flavor label on Nyquil, the thick, deep green syrup with the pure medicine taste. If I was writing ad copy for the product, I’d come clean with the crummy flavor right away by writing something like, “No oranges, lemons or cherries — NyQuil ... when it’s time to get serious.” It could be like a “Raid” commercial — always remembered the animated bug routed by the towering can of insecticide — for colds.

Maybe chemists are thinking psychologically. If someone thinks the medicine is going to taste terrific, they don’t mind gulping down a few spoonfuls. The harsh reality is DayQuil tastes like oranges and grapefruits the same way Sam Adams’ fine Boston Lager tastes like Genny Cream Ale. Neither are accurate assessments.

It’s been going on forever. I’m thankful I wasn’t a kid during the era where mothers forced children to take cod liver oil for good health. Folks who manufactured cod liver oil didn’t even try to bolster appeal with claims cod liver could taste like apple slices or chocolate pudding. No kid would have ever bought in.

It was bad enough my mother named Robitussin, a potent cough syrup, as top gun in her winter arsenal against the flu. Scoring a sick day as a 10-year-old meant unexpected perks like comic books from the drug store, lunch in bed, an afternoon on the sofa watching game shows and a whole day in your pajamas ... but it also meant afternoon and evening doses of this cough suppressant that mad men at Robitussin determined was “raspberry-flavored.”

Raspberries? In the deep red muck of a cough syrup? The taste has stayed with me for so long that 50 years later, I still avoid raspberries.

Funny how the cough drop people have kind of solved the case. I’ve got a couple bags of Halls “mentho-lyptus,” “vapor blend” drops in my desk, and while they are not perfect citrus flavors, they are close enough that you don’t mind the medicine taste. My Bayer aspirin pills come in orange and cherry flavors, but I’d never know it. I just swallow these guys with water.

I guess it’s really just part of dealing with winter. I think the liquid-filled capsules aren’t as potent as the medicine you pour onto a tablespoon or into a miniature shot glass. I’m hoping that if I hate the stuff, the cold and flu germs are hating it more, as they slowly dissolve in a faux grapefruit-flavored pool of death.

 
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