No Cure for the Penn State Plague

When I imagine getting the cold it’s in the middle winter and I’m snuggled up in my bed drinking hot tea and eating chicken noodle soup.  Never would I have imagined getting the cold when it’s still 80 degrees outside and I’m in wedges and a sundress, but that’s the beauty of living in a 10×15 room with another person on a floor housing 40 other people.  Much like a good percentage of my fellow Penn State freshman, I have caught the “rush/freshman/PSU plague”, and the only thing getting me through it are my mini packs of tissues, NyQuil, DayQuil, and a big bag of cough drops. But after over a week of hacking away in bed, unwrapping strawberry flavored cough drop after strawberry flavored cough drop and religiously taking pills but never feeling any better, I began to wonder, what do all of these products actually do?

6326213577_f92198b6a1The first article I read explained the role of cough drops.  Author Dan Myers listed the five most popular brands of cough drops (Cepacol, Halls, Ludens, Fisherman’s Friend, and Sucrets) and basically relayed the unsurprising information that cough drops do nothing to get rid of a cold.  In fact, the only thing these products do is contain ingredients (menthol, acetaminophen, some natural ingredients, and antihistamine) that will numb your throat, therefore lessening any irritation or pain in your throat and relieving the need to cough.

While I never truly had faith that cough drops helped get rid of a cold, I did have faith that the ingredients in NyQuil and DayQuil were there to help me out. But, after reading through the NyQuil page on though, I found that NyQuil and DayQuil are basically just glorified versions of cough drops.  They too contain acetaminophen, a pain reliever, and dextromethorphan, a cough stopper, but in addition, they contain something called pseudoephedrine.  According to, Pseudoephedrine is a chemical that works as a decongestant by basically keeping the blood vessels in your nose from becoming larger and causing the nasal passages to become congested.  Both NyQuil and DayQuil also work to relieve other symptoms of a cold such as aches and pains.  This time, though, I was mildly surprised to find that none of the ingredients work to stop a cold.

It’s common knowledge that the bodies immune system is the first thing that works against a cold, so even though I’ve never taken them, I wanted to know if immune system boosters actually work too? Before looking into it, I googled how the immune system works against a cold virus.  WebMD quickly informed me that once the bodies immune system senses the virus in ones throat and nose, white blood cells are sent to fight it off.  Usually those white blood cells aren’t able to fight it off which is why you end up getting sick, but that’s why people take immunity boosters; To help their immune system get the virus the first time.  I found a list of the most common immunity boosters and read through to only find that, once again, not a lot of data has proven that these pills are effective.  The two that I’ve heard about the most are Emergen-C and Airborne, but according to this article, none of the ingredients and vitamins in any immunity booster have been proven as effective.  Apparently, even the long-term myth that Vitamin C helps cure a cold is a myth!

Now, maybe I was naïve for believing that these products would actually make me better but I was fairly surprised to see that all of these products that have always been advertised for fighting a cold don’t do too much in the end. Regardless, I’m definitely not saying these commonly used products don’t have a use, for they absolutely provided short term relief.  But, if you’re looking to wipe out a cold completely, it seems that all you can do prevent and fight against a cold is cross your fingers you won’t get it, take care of yourself and, of course, sleep.


Cough drops:

Immunity boosters:






3 thoughts on “No Cure for the Penn State Plague

  1. Rebecca Jordan Polaha

    I completely understand how you feel right now! Never would I have thought that I would get strep throat the first week of classes. I think it’s annoying how we can try to prevent from getting sick as much as possible, but still end up getting the Penn State plague anyways. I took Emergen-C as well and felt no effect.

  2. Grace Ellen Leibow

    This is probably the most relatable post on this blog, because I, too, have been struck by the dreaded Penn State Plague. The past week and a half of relentless coughing, sneezing, and dirty tissues has definitely been a burden as midterms approach. Each day, I wonder about what the best type of medication to take is, asking around for some sort of pill or liquid. However, 90% of the time, I’m simply handed a cough drop. And to be honest, the temporary relief of the cough drop is often more powerful than a giant DayQuil pill that barely fits down my swollen throat. I actually found an article with a really handy, fun solution: PlaguePacks, a small Penn State Plague survival kit created by two Penn State students last year, that is purchasable, and contains all the immediate tools to surviving a bout of the Plague in one convenient pack. You can read more about it here.

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