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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Expat Living: The Misery of Costa Rica’s Industrial Strength Flu

It’s that time of year. The afternoons are overcast and rainy, darkness falls before 6 pm, and everywhere you go, you hear the sounds of sneezing, wheezing, coughing, noses being blown and loogies being hocked up. No matter how healthy you may consider yourself, once the Costa Rican gripe – especially the rainy season variety– invades your system, time is the only cure.

Right now, I am in the second week of what I call the Industrial Strength Gripe (ISG).This is far stronger and more intense than your garden variety gripe, which can come and go in a few days time, scarcely interrupting your life. This latest bout of ISG began as it typically does, with a bit of a sore throat and burning nostrils. Quickly, it morphed into full-blown congestion, blocking the senses of taste and smell.

The first few nights sleep came fitfully, as I could only breathe through my mouth, and every hour so I awoke half choking with what felt like a mouthful of dust. Then it made its way into my lungs. With every deep breath came a creaking and rattling within that was like a perfect soundtrack for Halloween weekend.

At that point, life goes on hold. No gym workouts, no hikes, no ocean swims, no visiting friends, just the act of getting up in the morning and making the bed becomes a great accomplishment.

The body becomes a fluid dispenser, liquid flows out from every orifice, and the only thing you can do is drink all the water your body can tolerate so you don’t dehydrate. Hunger is a constant. I don’t know if it is because the body is working so hard against the illness, but within a couple hours of a full breakfast (one I can barely taste), the stomach is empty and growling again, in harmony with the raling lungs.

After more than a week suffering from the ISG, I put myself on a regimen of raw garlic, raw ginger, hot lemon tea, and daily doses of a medicine Ticos highly recommend, called Tabcin. There are actually two types, Tabcin by day and Tabcin by night. They both come in doses of two– a pair of solid little capsules that are like swallowing small rocks as they stick in your throat and are only finally dissolved by gulping several glasses of water.

But they do provide some relief. Well into the second week, it is finally receding, but I still feel more contagious than I ever felt back in the days of Covid. With this, and all types of colds and flu, one is actually contagious for a couple of days before feeling the first symptoms. The first few days are the worst for the likelihood of infecting others.

It is ironic that during the worst of it, I really felt that I should wear a mask when going into a public place, but like so many, I got burned out on wearing the masks back in 2021. We live in a beautiful but unforgiving place, one where infectious microbes reproduce and invade your system 24/7/365. The one benefit of getting nailed with the ISG is that your body’s defenses are strengthened, and with a healthy lifestyle, you should be good to go– at least until next rainy season.

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