The crud is a disease very much like a cold or a light flu, characterized by lack of energy, persistent cough, headache, congestion, sore throat, and possibly a mild fever. What makes it the crud is its persistence — while a cold might last a few days, the crud tends to hang on for a week or two. Many places have their own local version of the crud: here in Mississippi it's called the Delta crud, Oregon has the Portland crud, and even Antarctica has its McMurdo crud. It seems to occur in cold, wet weather, especially when the temperature swings high and low over the course of a few days, particularly in the spring or fall. The "crud" itself refers to the accumulation of disgusting fluids everywhere in your body they can accumulate.

Going through the crud is an uncomfortable and exhausting experience. Your nose runs, your eyes accumulate gunk, post-nasal drip makes your throat sore, you're coughing up phlegm (sputum) from your lungs, and it never seems to end. For me, it's worse in the morning, when a night's worth of post-nasal drip has been irritating my throat for the last eight hours. It's generally not enough to make you stay home from school or work, unless you have a particularly bad day, but you'll definitely want to wash your hands thoroughly and try to avoid contact with other people. Consider working from home if you can, but staying home for two weeks for a persistent, low-level annoyance just isn't worth the bother.

Treating the crud is similar to treating a cold or congestion. Expect to go through a lot of throat lozenges and facial tissue. Drink plenty of fluids, especially hot ones like chicken soup and tea which will soothe your throat and break up the congestion. Over-the-counter medicine is helpful to control the headache, congestion, sore throat, and cough. You probably won't have much appetite but don't forget to eat regular meals to keep your strength up. The crud generally doesn't involve nausea or vomiting so at least that won't be an issue. The key seems to be preventing the post-nasal drip, usually by clearing the congestion or thinning the mucus.

The most popular treatment for the crud, however, is the hot toddy. There are many recipes, but it's generally:

  • one or two shots of a brown liquor like whiskey or brandy,
  • a tablespoon or so of honey,
  • fresh juice squeezed from a whole or half a lemon, and
  • some kind of earthy spice like cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves.
  • Pour all that into a mug and fill it the rest of the way with boiling water.
Stir thoroughly until the honey dissolves, and inhale the aroma while you wait for it to cool to help break up the congestion. Taken about an hour before bedtime, it does a wonderful job of soothing your sore throat and helping you sleep, but the truth is it doesn't actually do anything but make you feel better for a while. You'll still be sick tomorrow morning.

I should mention that feeling "cruddy" due to having a cold or the flu is distinct from having The Crud. They come from the same meaning of crud, that is, the disgusting, half-dried mess caused by uninhibited mucus production, but you have to feel cruddy for at least a week before you can say it's the crud.