Hello, from the Land of the Common Cold.
I’m sure you’d prefer a greeting from the Land of the Lost, or even the artery-clogging Land O’ Lakes, but I’ve gotta work with what I’ve got, OK?
And right now I’m working with the sensation of having shoved every piece of broken HI-5 glass into my ears, nose and throat so that my facial orifices will forever ooze aching tears. Damn those cute rhinos! (Kidding. I like rhinoceroses, but dislike acute rhinoviruses.)
I’ve spent the last few days hobbling like a hunched Skeksis from The Dark Crystal, back and forth between the bathroom when—lungs conspiring against every breath—I must hole-in-one great green golf balls of mucus down the drain. Or, when spreading malaise about the office, hock ‘em into an empty root beer can: the consummate clickety-clacker’s equivalent of a trucker pissing in a bottle.
As is the case with most bad things, I’m getting pretty good at it. There’s no such thing as bogeys for my boogies; and if there was a Mucus Masters, I’d be sporting a jacket the color of my loogies.
It’s the sort of nasty feeling that makes you think that other nasty feelings—heartbreak, crushing disappointment, chemotherapy—really aren’t that bad. That is, if you can manage to think at all.
But what I can’t help but think is how impressed I am by human mucus membranes. How the heck are they so productive? Where does it all come from?
Enter the omnipotent Internet. When modern man’s sick, he’s but a couple clicks away from the latest, greatest miracle pharmaceutical or long-lost remedy of Amazonian lore (just be wary of contracting hypochondriasis). Of course, to rest and ingest loads of liquids is the only real fix; but in lieu of that (and so that I can quickly finish this issue and crawl back into bed), I’m going to fix myself on the topic of having da hanabatas.
So, Wiki starts out by saying that mucus is produced by mucus cells found in mucus glands. Riveting, I know.
It gets better. Wiki goes on to say that “it is a viscous colloid” (i.e. “a substance microscopically dispersed evenly throughout another one”) which “contain[s] antiseptic enzymes such as lysozyme, proteins such as lactoferrin, glycoproteins known as mucins… immunoglobulins, and inorganic salts.” And further, that “the average human body produces about a liter of mucus per day.”
Alright, now we’re getting somewhere!
Ooh, ooh. Here are few more fascinating tidbits:
• “[Various] invertebrates also produce external mucus… (that) may play a role in communication.”
• “mucus does not digest in the intestinal tract, so mucus commonly appears in fecal matter whether its origin is from the intestines, or swallowed”
• “[M]ucus protects the olfactory epithelium and allows odors to dissolve so that they can be detected by olfactory receptor neurons.”
Speaking of hanabatas, back in my hanabata days (an equivalent Pidgin term is “small kid times”) I read a letter to The Tick in an early issue of Nickelodeon Magazine that chastised the grossness of opening-up Kleenex wads once you’ve blown into them, to inspect your boogers. Since then, I adopted a no-look rule. But from all this Googling, it turns out, looking at snot says a lot:
• White or clear mucus may indicate an allergy, acid reflux, or excessive dairy consumption.
• Yellow mucus may indicate a viral infection. Dark yellow mucus may indicate a chest infection like pneumonia or bronchitis. Dark yellow phlegm may indicate an infection of the lower respiratory tract. Light yellow phlegm may indicate an infection of the upper respiratory tract.
• Green mucus may indicate bacterial infection. Green mucus is so-colored by an enzyme found in white blood cells called myeloperoxidases. Since white blood cells attract/attack bacteria more than they do viruses, green mucus is typically an indication of bacterial infection.
• Blood-streaked phlegm can be common with bronchitis, or may be indication of a raw throat or lungs, and so is common with smokers. But if you can’t chalk it up to cancer sticks, don’t be fooled into thinking you’re hacking up blood and on the verge of death—sometimes food dyes (e.g. cherry lozenges, Kool-Aid, Red Vines) can scarlet your spit—and thus, your mucus. However, if it is indeed blood—especially if the blood is excessive—it could be something really serious like tuberculosis. (I had bloody mucus once and it turned out to be leukemia, so you never know.) Also, pink mucus can be common with asthmatics.
• Brown or Gray—Typically caused by smoking, pollution or dirt (especially if the texture’s grainy).
Enough yaking about yuk. What can we learn from all this? Well, in as far as fixing the ick goes, not much more than we knew from the onset:
We already know to avoid histamines which cause inflammatory immune responses. We know to avoid dairy products (casein is a protein in mammalian milk–which is also used to make glue). And we know that mucous harbors bacteria, so like the goopy stuff from the nether region, spit–don’t swallow.
Yawn. All that’s even more boring than being consigned to bed without the wherewith all to read or watch TV. I suppose there’s always robo-tripping (you know, recreationally overdosing on cough medicine), just to make things more interesting. I mean, who cares about risks like erectile dysfunction, diarrhea and death?
Whatever. All this mucous is muddying up my brain and I’m due to putt another planet of sputum into my trusty root beer can. Polite golf claps are appreciated.
So consider this column sealed with an infected kiss. And if I survive, I’ll see you next week: same time, same place–just hopefully a little healthier.
To read more Kula Kid with links and photos and stuff, and to leave comments, visit mauifeed.com/kulakid