I have a cold…again

I have a cold…again

I have a cold…again.

I hate having a cold.  This one started just two weeks after my last cold finally left my system.   I’ve been cycling through colds separated by brief hiatuses (hiatusi?) for several months now.

It’s not hard to figure out why.  It’s an occupational hazard. Two and a half years ago, I was shanghaied into a new job.  Grand-parenting.  My official title is “Grandfather,” but never one to stand on ceremony, I prefer the  informal, “Pop.”

For the first 63 years of my life, I was not qualified for this job.  My resume was strong but it lacked one absolutely-mandatory-no excuses-accepted qualification – a grandchild. I was an honorary Grandfather, a title I still proudly hold, but in order to qualify for the bona-fide Grand Certificate and the 401K opportunity* that come with the real thing, I needed one more credit.

*[Update: I just learned there’s no 401K opportunity, but I’m expected to establish a College Fund for each grandchild. Shanghaied again.]

Finally, in late 2014 my wife Doris and I were invested with full rights, privileges and responsibilities of Grandparenthood. Our names were added to the on-line version of the Official Grandparents Directory/ US Division/ New-bees Chapter: www.diaper-changers (the national equivalent of the British Division’s famous www.nappy-changers).

There are now three acorns after my name and Doris’s.  So far all of our acorns reside under one roof.  For  good reasons, Doris and I were enlisted for temporary duty to assist in acorn management under that roof.   At least for the time being, we are a household of seven family members, two of  whom typically labor weekdays nine-to-five in “Day Care.” (Their artwork and paper hats can be stunning.)

I’ve learned that it is wise to inquire as to how many other acorns are in a Day Care. The chance that one of our acorns will catch another one’s cold and bring it home for us all to share is inextricably related to the number of acorns there. We are vulnerable to colds incubated in Day Care for export as well as the home-grown kind. Only a miracle combined with a total ban on kissing might break the cycle of colds passed around in our present environment.

Tired of grabbing tissues to clear mucus from my stiff upper lip, I recently decided to buy an over-the-counter cold remedy.  I was amazed at the number and variety of cold remedies on Walgreen’s shelves.  Each item’s label listed the specific combination of symptoms that the remedy was supposedly designed to manage: congestion, headache, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, general aching, fever, sleep deprivation, halitosis.

(Okay, one of these wasn’t among any product’s targeted symptoms – can you find it?)

Amazingly, each product touted its prowess with typically only three or four among the universe of cold symptoms.  I found not one product claiming to relieve all cold symptoms; the most I saw was five.

I guess if you have six or more symptoms you should go to the hospital, not the drug store.

Before going out to buy a cold remedy, I suggest you should list and prioritize your symptoms.  Not including the mystery entry, my list of ailments two paragraphs ago names nine different cold symptoms.  Among products with labels advertising special effectiveness for three symptoms, there are exactly 84 possible combinations of three symptoms that could be offered. (So says a permutation calculator on the Internet.  Impressed?)

This inventory of 84 possibilities is considerably more than the 50 or so cold relief products on Walgreen’s shelves.  I suspect some odd combinations of symptoms, like headache, general aching, and halitosis, didn’t make the cut.  Nonetheless, if you are hunting for a remedy to cure your three most acute symptoms, your hay stack is 84 differing three-symptom combinations and the needle you seek, may not even be in a store that stocks only 50 or so combinations.

Make sure to bring your glasses when you go to buy; symptoms listed on the front of the package are alphabetized on some labels, but not all. No uniform code of for symptom labels addresses this issue.  Finding a package claiming to have been made for your three priority symptoms could take some time. Plan accordingly.

Alternatively, however, you can look at the lists of ingredients in the various products, like I did. There you may be surprised to find, despite the symptoms listed on the front labels, most of the mainstream cold products list the exact same active ingredients in the exact same proportions!

So why do manufacturers put the same ingredients in so many different bottles?  Well, if you see a product that appears to specialize in Runny Nose, Sneezing, and Congestion, and those are your symptoms of greatest concern at the moment, wouldn’t you choose it over other products touting their effectiveness against symptoms you don’t have?  If you don’t know the pills are essentially all the same, wouldn’t you be willing to pay more for a product that appears to have been customized specifically for YOUR symptoms? Wouldn’t that increase the product’s profit margins?

In the end, it appears that the only thing associated with a cold remedy that has been customized is its label. 

This slick trick is a shining example of American Marketing Ingenuity at the Top of its Game.

This is what Makes Money for investors, which is what Makes America Great.  

Let’s see China, Russia or North Korea top that!