The Cold Season


I have made a decision not to write my letter about the weather this time, as the title may suggest, although it is somewhat related. With autumn firmly establishing itself in the city, the weather has become rather uncertain, with sunny days followed by sudden rains. You never really know what to wear and sooner or later you are simply bound to catch a cold. Some members of our staff have already fallen victims to the annual cold season and others are trying to fight it off.

When I was younger, I usually conformed to the rule that a cold that is treated takes seven days while an untreated one takes a week, so I just waited until it passed. But if I had to stay in bed, then my mum usually resorted to some tried and tested practices of home medicine. A cough was cured by a hot drink made of milk, honey and Vincentka - salty mineral water. A sore throat was soothed by an extract taken from a raw onion macerated in honey. (Really delicious...) And if that didn't work, gargling salty water would definitely do the trick. But the best home cure was a proper chicken soup - the so-called Jewish penicillin.

Not that there weren't pharmacies in the old communist days, but they were simply not the most exciting place to visit. That has of course changed with the liberalisation of the market, when people discovered that even medicine was a subject of business. One of the first popular commercial medicines that arrived from the West in the early Nineties were the so-called "svedske kapky" or Swedish drops, which claimed to cure everything from a minor cold to back aches.

Nowadays, the choice of medicine is almost inexhaustible. There are some 2,500 pharmacies in the country and according to recent statistics, every Czech, including babies, spends there more than 6, 000 crowns a year. Czechs also visit their GPs more than anywhere else in Central Europe, some 15 times a year.

I for myself try to resist the marketing trap, but I have to admit it's not easy. When I enter the chemist's, I get enchanted by all the pills in various colours, sizes and shapes as well as by all the ointments, syrups and drops in shiny covers. And although I go to the pharmacy resolved to buy the cheapest variation of paracetamol I usually end up with the expensive soluble one with lemon or cranberry flavour.

In fact, when I finish this letter, I am heading straight to the chemist's. While I was writing, my nose started running and my throat is getting sore. Perhaps it is just the power of imagination or perhaps we Czechs are just a bunch of hypochondriacs. Nevertheless, I have to admit I sort of enjoy yielding to a cold just once in a while and stay at home, muffled up in sheets. Provided of course that there is someone to look after me.