That time I unintentionally took interacting cold medicines

Graphic by Dominique Barquero

Graphic by Dominique Barquero

Cold and flu season is rapidly approaching. From about November to March, we have to be on guard and shield ourselves from potentially contracting contagious illnesses. We’ve all had that great internal debate before: am I too sick to go to class? Or even better: I know I’m too sick to go to class, but do I actually want to miss it?

Last fall, I fell victim to a pretty severe cold. Not wanting to miss school, I went ahead and stocked up on various cold medicines, cough drops and teas to expedite my recovery.

One fine morning, I took two different cold medicines in order to combat my illness. I won’t name any names, but one was a cold and flu medicine and the other was for cough.

I knew I didn’t want to miss class and that I wanted to feel better in order to be more productive in my schoolwork. I didn’t see anything wrong with taking these two medications together, though I definitely should have read the labels a bit closer.

I was sitting at a table (with other students, mind you) in my PSYC 212 class when I started feeling bad, a slightly different kind of bad. I initially chalked it up to me being sick and tried to push through and listen to the information-heavy lecture. I felt very lightheaded and weak. It progressively got worse, and I struggled to keep my head up, propping it up on my hand.

I swore that I would pass out and was growing increasingly more anxious as the minutes began to feel like hours. I had to get out of there. I felt as though I was in a fishbowl, and I can only imagine the way I must have looked to my classmates sitting at the table with me.

I tried sipping at my water bottle pretty consistently, as though that would solve all my problems. Hydration is key, right? I really felt like I would not make it through my 55-minute class. I ended up texting my friend in a panic, asking him if he was on campus, and sure enough, he was. I asked him if he could please wait in the lobby of Polk Hall for me after my class was over to retrieve my disoriented self. 

I (quite miraculously) made it through class, and my friend was sitting in a chair in the Polk lobby smirking at me. I knew he’d make fun of me for it later. I knew he thought the situation was hilarious, but I was just grateful to have someone around me that knew what was going on and could help me out. I did not feel safe walking to my car and crossing streets on campus alone in that state. 

I remember walking together through groups of other students. I was trying to talk to him animatedly and appear “normal,” which is hilarious. I quite literally proceeded to spend about five or six hours reclined in the front seat of my car, alternating between listening to music, making several phone calls to my mom and live-tweeting my experience.

When I finally felt better, what seemed like years later, I made my way home and took a nap. I definitely earned that nap. Looking back, I think this experience was kind of hilarious, but at the moment, I sort of thought I was dying.

I’d like to thank my friend and my mom for supporting my dazed self on that strange fall day. 

I learned a lesson in prioritizing my own health and wellbeing. Missing one day of classes to be sick at home would have been much better than laying in my car all afternoon, feeling anxious, dizzy and generally, in a heavy fog—even if it made for an amusing story to tell. And please, whatever you do, do not mix cold medications. Read the labels and the ingredients. Don’t be a Whitney.