Friday, February 3, 2012

I Want a New Drug

One of the unexpected drawbacks of moving overseas is having to figure out how to take care of yourself when you are sick.  I can't just hop in the car and pick up some NyQuil or Advil.  First of all, I don't have a car.  And secondly, you can't get NyQuil or Advil in the UK.  In fact, the first time I walked into a Boots (the UK equivalent of CVS), I was mystified by the array of unfamiliar over-the-counter (and behind-the-counter) drugs.  If they weren't arranged by function -- pain relievers, colds & flu, allergy -- I would be at a total loss.  There were a few familiar products, like Sudafed, and some allergy medications I recognized, although Claritin and Zyrtec had swapped vowels and became Clarityn and Zirtek on this side of the Atlantic.  As for Advil or Tylenol, even ibuprofen and acetaminophen are unknown here, where the pain reliever of choice is something called paracetamol.

So when I woke up Monday morning with a bad cold, I was glad I had some cold medicine on hand that I had brought back from our last trip to the US.  I didn't have the energy to walk the mile-long round trip to Boots, nor did I want to venture outside in the freezing cold weather that had just descended on us from Siberia.  (It doesn't help that they use Celsius here, so the temperatures have been negative numbers.)  I was fine for a few days, but what I really needed was something to help me -- and Josh -- get a decent night's sleep.

While you can't get NyQuil here, I remembered a funny conversation I'd had with several fellow AWC ladies about over-the-counter drugs, in which someone had mentioned that they always bring NyQuil back to the UK with them when they visit the States.  Then someone else said that she actually prefers a cold medicine they have in the UK called Night Nurse, which she takes with her when she goes to the US.  Another woman, who is from Canada, said she used to buy over-the-counter drugs when she visited her son in NY, while a third woman, who lived north of Seattle, said she and her friends used to drive across the border into Canada to buy drugs.  I guess the grass is always greener...

Anyway, by Thursday I was feeling well enough to go for a walk, so I bundled up and hoofed it to Boots to buy some Night Nurse.
Night Nurse, the NyQuil of the UK
 I also stopped at M&S and found the closest thing to chicken noodle soup I've seen so far. 
Chicken Noodle Soup!
Chicken noodle soup is not common here, and it's very rare to find soup that doesn't have cream or tons of onions in it, so this was a real find.  When I got home and took a closer look at the ingredients, I had second thoughts...
Anchovy extract?  Beef gelatine?
OK, so it was an Asian-style soup.  It wasn't bad -- definitely the right kind of soup for a cold -- but it didn't hold a candle to my friend Rob's home-made chicken soup.  I don't know if it the soup did me any good, but the Night Nurse certainly helped me sleep better last night.  I'm glad I at least found a suitable NyQuil substitute, if not an adequate comfort food.  I'm feeling a bit better today, but with this extremely frigid weather, I'm tempted to try another British cold remedy -- a hot-water bottle.  Yes, they still use those here!


  1. paracetamol is how the Brits spell acetaminophen.

  2. I didn't know that! Thanks for clarifying.

  3. Glad you're feeling better! Even though Canada is much closer to home than the UK, I remember that we had lots of confusion about what medicines to buy there when we were sick! I wonder whether it was Night Nurse or the lime juice and fish sauce that made you feel better? :)

  4. Ibuprofen is certainly available, either by name, or as some fancy brand like Nurofen. Much cheaper, and exactly the same stuff, if you buy generic ibuprofen from the supermarket.


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