La crève

La creveJ’ai chopé la crève.

Caught a nasty cold. None of your average, run-of-the-mill sniffles for me. I do things with gusto.

Interestingly, this French slang word for ‘rhume’ finds its roots in the verb ‘crever’, meaning to pop or burst (as in a flat tire) as well as to pop one’s clogs or kick the can.

It started on Christmas Eve. A low-grade flame in the chest, nothing more. I was fine for the first couple of days, amped by holiday spirit and frequent doses of champagne and single malt. But by Monday last week I was flat out. Coughing up a storm and a head so injected with fluids I had to breathe through my mouth while applying multiple tissues to my nose. It felt like I was drowning.

I hadn’t had a cold like that in years. What the heck happened? Random bad luck or the year-end flushing out of various demons? A few days before I had been to a concert in a church, a place where I would normally never set foot unless to sightsee. I am a sucker for Christmas music, though, and was also scouting out a choir to join in the new year, one of my resolutions to do more things that bring me joy.

Next to me in the crowded church sat a woman who was snorting and hacking away, clearly in the throes of a miserable cold but oblivious to the fact that she was spreading germs while ruining the concert for others with her coughing. It is not done in France to avoid people with colds but after half an hour I couldn’t take it any more, so I got up and moved to the back. The damage was done, however, as 48 hours later I came down with the same symptoms.

The French don’t suffer sickness in silence. They run to the doctor at the first symptoms for a prescription and then to the pharmacy for a boat-load of drugs. Unfortunately they also don’t keep their cold germs to themselves. People go to work and social events with full-blown symptoms which they’d be better off hiding under a blanket for a few days.

I didn’t go to the doctor, nor take any drugs beyond a bit of paracetemol. I am no martyr but I don’t believe in miracles. La crève requires bed rest and plenty of fluids, which is what I gave it (mostly without alcohol). A week later it is almost gone.

So I am starting out the new year with renewed health, and a determination to stay that way. A couple of dry weeks, plenty of garlic and ginger, early to bed and lots of exercise. And if any of you have colds, please stay the hell away.

How’s your health this season? Please share your tricks and tips for keeping the cold germs at bay!


  1. poshbirdy · January 7, 2016

    Poor you. There is definitely a nasty strain of La Creve around at the moment. Hubby just had a day off (unheard of) and I can feel myself going downhill today. Get better soon (and eat plenty of onions, garlic and chilis)!

    • MELewis · January 7, 2016

      Sounds like a good defense strategy. Hope it works to keep the evil germs from gaining too much ground. Courage!

  2. A.PROMPTreply · January 7, 2016

    Oh my…..awfully sorry for you but glad to hear you’re on the mend….I don’t have many tips though my mother swears that taking zinc when you feel the symptoms coming on is THE THING to do. Have also heard that Vick’s on the feet helps with breathing if you’ve missed the zinc and end up in full-blown La creve. Stay well.

    • MELewis · January 7, 2016

      I did not know about zinc but will give it a try. As for the Vick’s, I always put it on my chest but the feet? That’s a new one!

      • A.PROMPTreply · January 7, 2016

        Bottoms of the feet and then put socks on while you sleep. Funnily enough, there was actually an article in the news on this very thing just yesterday. Strange huh? Anyway, continue on your upward trend!

  3. Katherine Wikoff · January 7, 2016

    I’m a zinc believer, too. Seems to work really well for me.

    • MELewis · January 7, 2016

      Interesting….will definitely check it out! Hope you stay well!

  4. Suzanne et Pierre · January 7, 2016

    Glad to hear you are feeling better. La “crève” is never much fun and you are right that the French are a tiny bit hypochondriac and do take too many drugs (the legal ones, I mean). I had a mild cold during the holiday season but nothing that would qualify as “la crève”…Good luck in staying healthy in 2016! (Suzanne)

    • MELewis · January 7, 2016

      It’s one of those unpleasant things that you just have to get through. I think we need a good cold snap to kill off some of the evil microbes! Hopefully you will avoid anything more serious with your wintry weather. Thanks for your well wishes!

  5. George Lewis · January 7, 2016

    Wash your hands a lot ,especially when they are about to go near your mouth and stay away from people ,especially children they are Petri dishes of germs

    • MELewis · January 7, 2016

      I used to be much better at frequent handwashing when I was constantly exposed to germs by going out to the office every day. Now that I work from home most of the time, I may have gotten sloppy…but the fact is I am still exposed to the germs by the other members of the family who are in contact with the outside world. So a hand-washing campaign (plus zinc) is in order for the new year!

  6. Osyth · January 7, 2016

    One word. Echinacea. I worked for a woman who never ate (except for the tiniest morsel of smoked salmon occasionally) , drank only champagne and diet coke and snorted …. you get the picture. She was wrathe thin with enormous hair and slept about 4 hours a night. She took Echinacea unfailingly every day and was NEVER ill. I am not so disciplined but when I remember to take it I get no colds. This season has been hectic and I forgot and then got into the habit of not taking it and guess what – first cold in years. I rest my case but more than that I urge you to rest yourself until you are properly healthy. The world is poorer when you are not on form!

    • MELewis · January 8, 2016

      Thank you, dear Osyth! Your former boss sounds like quite the character. I think you and I must share a checkered past – or at least one that includes multiple lives! As for echinacea, I’ve heard many people swear by this supplement but never taken it. Time to give it a try. 🙂

      • Osyth · January 8, 2016

        I’m sure of that and quite pleased to be chequered! That boss was basically a beehive wearing Maggie T …

  7. roughwighting · January 7, 2016

    I felt your pain as I read this post. I HATE colds. I flew from one US coast to the other early December, and of course received a gift from the woman sitting next to me. Yes, a cold. I fought it off as hard as I could without the benefit of rest or drugs since I was visiting. My main defense from getting worse or spreading it is wash wash wash hands constantly. So I have very chapped hands right now, but am cold-free.
    Here’s to your health for 2016!

    • MELewis · January 8, 2016

      Oh, flights are tough. There’s just no escaping the germs within that contained space. Once I had to do a transatlantic flight with a heavy cold and it took three days before my ears cleared. Yuck! Your strategy sounds like another argument for frequent hand-washing. Here’s to good health all round for the rest of the year!

  8. davidprosser · January 8, 2016

    Let’s hope the old year made sure you’re now germ free in the New Year. May 2016 ensure you are sneeze/cough free and due a few treats to make up for what you had.
    xxx Huge Hugs Mel xxx

    • MELewis · January 10, 2016

      Thanks for your well wishes, David. I really have nothing to complain about – feeling better and enjoying more than my share of treats. Makes me realize how tough people with chronic health issues have it. Here’s to staying healthy in 2016! Bises xo

  9. coteetcampagne · January 9, 2016

    1000mg vitamin C the SECOND you feel the first symptom, then another 1000 mg 12 hours later.
    May not always avert it but will reduce length and severity dramatically; promise

    • MELewis · January 10, 2016

      I really must stock up on these medicine cabinet basics. Next time I will be prepared to fight the evil germs! Merci for the tip, and stay well!

  10. Lisa @ cheergerm · January 10, 2016

    Ewwww. Poor you. I am a big believer in vitamin C powder and a herbal immune booster during winter.. Yes, colds will hit every now and again but us women don’t usually suffer/complain to the same extent as those with ‘men flu’ do….

    • MELewis · January 10, 2016

      Thanks Lisa! It’s all over but the odd sniffle now, time to stiffen my upper lip and stock up on the C and other goodies. It seems that real winter is upon us now, so that should kill off a few of the nasties. 😉

  11. midihideaways · January 11, 2016

    Hope you’ll be spared any more colds this winter!!

    • MELewis · January 11, 2016

      Thanks, after that brush with misery I’m certainly going to do what I can to stay healthy! 🙂

  12. minerva · January 11, 2016

    Hope you’re feeling better now. I had a similar cold right at the end of term – it was really nasty and lasted for what seemed like weeks. It was the first time I had to take time off work for several years. Wishing you a bug and germ free 2016 – may the year be kind!
    Alison x

    • MELewis · January 14, 2016

      Merci, Alison! It has been a bad year for germs, I think, as both husband and I have been down with colds and a cough that would not quit. Maybe the milder temps? In any case, I hope your wish holds true for all of us! Bises x

  13. acflory · January 12, 2016

    Meh, how miserable for you. 😦 The Daughter caught something similar half a world away so I know how bad you must have felt. Apart from the cold and flu tablets, millions of tissues and lots of chicken soup, I got her to pain a 2 centimetre circle of iodine on her skin to help ‘feed’ her immune system. Not sure what worked but she’s completely over it now.
    I managed to avoid the cold but picked up a nasty 12 hour gastric bug via some party food. The nicest thing I can say about the experience was that it was cleansing. 🙂

    • MELewis · January 14, 2016

      Wow, that is quite the original home remedy – even beats the Vicks on the feet! Glad to hear your daughter got better and that you managed to avoid the cold. The stomach bugs are also nasty and unfortunately a frequent reality. So far so good for me, let’s hope we both stay away from the nasties! Many thanks for your wishes! xo

      • acflory · January 14, 2016

        lol – I second that! Don’t want to feel that miserable again for a long, long time. 🙂

  14. jackiemallon · January 16, 2016

    Funny because, unlike France and indeed other parts of Europe, here in the States people are very attentive to stay home if they are sick, and bosses will send you home if you are seen sniffling. I think it’s because trips to doctors for minor things like a cold can cost plenty in the US.

    • MELewis · January 17, 2016

      How true! I think you guys have it right, Jackie – it only makes sense to avoid contact with others when in the viral stages. But the French don’t recognize the cold virus or germs in general as being the source of the problem. There is a deeply held belief here that cold causes colds – which is why people are so obsessed with keeping warm in winter and refusing A/C in summer! 😉

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