Friday, February 10, 2012

Thoughts on the winter germs


Germs, germs. Where do they come from? Everywhere.

There were 28 guests from almost everywhere the other night in our house for dinner. Add another 50 people or so the following afternoon when we hosted tea. As near as I could figure out they came from 23 different parts of the world on 23 different airlines carrying at least a dozen strong and highly infectious microbes. One couple had traveled halfway around the world from western Australia on the Indian Ocean. They survived the long trip to eastern Australia then a 14-hour flight to San Francisco and another flight to Bozeman, Mont. I figured they carried at least 10 gazillion different microbes waiting to jump aboard anyone from Montana as soon as they were within breathing distance. If our guests were all having a grand old time, imagine how the microbes were doing! Those infectious germs met all kinds of new friends. They instantly started propagating just for the fun of it, leaving all manner of breathing problems behind them.

Anyone living full-time at 7,000 feet above sea level is wide open for such bugs. Remember that when the site for Sun Valley was selected in 1936, one criterion was that the resort not be above 6,000 feet.

People complain when they first try and sleep above that magic altitude. They have trouble breathing because of the lack of oxygen. But it can be avoided if you take two aspirin a day for three days before you go to altitude and for three days after you get there. This thins out your blood so it can get more oxygen from your lungs. I've been doing it for years and have been able to get a lot of sleep the first night at altitude. I think it also helps fight off those 10,000 different bugs and stuff floating around the living room.

My wife hasn't been so lucky because she never stops working to sit down and rest or take a nap like I do. I figure if it has waited my entire life without being done, it can wait another hour or two.

If you can't handle aspirin, there are even better ways to get used to the altitude. Have your doctor give you a prescription for Diamox. That's what I use because I'm taking Coumadin, and aspirin has a very negative effect with it. If you take Diamox for three days before and three days after you go to a ski resort, you shouldn't have any problem breathing. That first morning when the sun is out and the snow is perfect you'll have had a good night's sleep and you can crank out 15 or 20 lift rides—provided you have done your exercises before your trip.

Back to the germs: They thrive in the warmth of a mountain house. Let's say they've come all the way from Australia—they would certainly rather jump from the person who carried them here over to you, inside the warm house, instead of going outside in the cold and having to hunker down while being carried around by someone skiing or snowboarding.

Let's say you're an Australian germ that has traveled halfway around the world to Montana. First of all, you would talk with a funny accent. Based on the macho reputations of Australians, you would have to prove how strong you were. The best way for you, the germ, to prove your strength would be to infect as many people as you can in as short a time as possible. That's right, whether the germs have been Australian, Japanese or French, my wife has been flat on her back for the last week.

How to fight the germ invasion? Well, after every evening with people and lots of hand shaking, I wash my hands thoroughly and then take a cup of hot water with a product called Airborne dissolved in it. So far this winter I have been able to dodge the many germs that have come my way. If it is a potentially bad night with lots of people in a crowded room I drink the Airborne followed by a glass of water with a dose of Alka-Seltzer Plus in it. It's February, and I'm not even on commission with Airborne or Alka-Seltzer, but so far it has worked for me. What works for you?

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