1612: Colds

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The contagious period ends right around when you start to sound sick over the phone, which is probably evidence of cold viruses evolving to spread optimally in the workplace.
Title text: The contagious period ends right around when you start to sound sick over the phone, which is probably evidence of cold viruses evolving to spread optimally in the workplace.


The typical symptoms of a cold are a sore throat, blocked or runny nose, sneezing, and coughing. Slightly less common symptoms can include headache, aching muscles and fever.

The earlier symptoms to occur following infection are generally the more unpleasant-feeling symptoms: headache, aching muscles, sneezing and feeling cold. However, these symptoms are also those which are least obvious to other people, and so elicit very little sympathy.

Within a few days, these symptoms start to subside, while a cough and runny nose start. These symptoms generally feel less unpleasant, but are much more noticeable to others, and so more sympathy may be given. The cough may lead to a hoarse voice, making the patient sound very ill; ironically, at this point, it may be easier for an employed person to phone in sick, but it is less desirable to stay off work.

But it is now when the patient sounds hoarse that others give the sympathy that was really needed when the patient was feeling awful during the first couple of days. And to Randall this is the worst about colds, that the patients first gets sympathy when it is no longer really needed.

The graph shows the above-mentioned facts as two curves, one that indicates how bad the sickness is, really bad on day 2, but much better already on day 3. And the other curve how bad the patient sounds due to the hoarseness and the coughing. And this curve first peaks around day 4-6 when the sympathy is no longer needed.

The symptoms of the two periods are listed below the curves indicating which periods are affected by them.

In the title text Randall muses about the fact that contagiousness ends around the time when hoarseness begins. This is the time when employers ask sick employees to stay at home in bed when they call in to the office, because they sound so hoarse. And also the time when coworkers will stay clear of those who do come in. But then it is too late, since everyone is probably already infected by then. Randall thus suggests that this is evidence that the cold virus has evolved to spread optimally in a work place. Since the cold virus is much older than offices this is unlikely. But it will always spread better in places where many people are close together; and since we are more inside in the winter, this is the main reason why it spreads more during cold periods. However, viruses do evolve very quickly so it may not be unlikely that some of them has already adapted to our present way of living.

Another thing that Randall doesn't like about cold is that no medicine works, and the one that relieves you the most is hard to come by. This was the subject two weeks later in 1618: Cold Medicine, and this suggests that it is actually Randall himself who has a long lasting cold.


[A graph is shown with two curves. The Y-axis indicated how you feel, with three levels indicated with small ticks on the inside of the axis. These are labeled to the left of the Y–axis. The X-axis gives the time. The unit is given (days written in gray text) to the left and then the number of days are noted below the axis for each of the eight ticks on the inside of the axis. Both curves begin at the lowest level just off the Y-axis. One curve, indicating how bad you feel, rises rapidly, reaching its maximum in less than two days only to fall off almost as rapidly, ending up on an even lower level than it began with before day 5. The other curve, indicating how bad you sound, start out by staying constantly low, first rising on day 3, when the first curve are drooping down. They cross between day 3 and 4, and first then does the second curve rise, reaching its max around day 5, not as high a maximum as the first curve, but it stays up longer, falling only moderately off even after day 8, where it reaches the middle level on the Y-axis. Above the two curves are two line intervals that indicated when you need sympathy and when you get it. This text is written on the broken line. All this is in gray text. Below the X-axis are the symptoms listed for the different time period. These are written in white inside gray rectangles. The rectangles are a different length depending on how many days they last. And they are in two layers.]
The worst
[The X-axis, with the unit written in gray just below Fine from the Y-axis:]
Days: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
[Labels for curves:]
How bad you feel
How bad you sound
[Gray text on the two gray lines above:]
Need sympathy
Get sympathy
[Text in white on gray below, first the three to the left (one above two below), then the two to the right one above the other:]
Skin crawling
Sore throat
The worst part about colds

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Just like I have it now. I'm on the day 6 I think... ;-) --Kynde (talk) 12:42, 4 December 2015 (UTC)

I'm feeling tired and heavy, did you do this to me!? Xseo (talk) 13:44, 4 December 2015 (UTC)
@Kynde: You poor, poor thing ;-). --DaB. (talk) 13:48, 4 December 2015 (UTC)

Cold viruses evolve so quickly that every year your immunity to last year virus is useless. Also note that the "people will stay clear of you if you do come in" behavior is older than offices: visible (and audible) symptoms make people avoid close contact with you, therefore it is advantageous for the virus to avoid causing them as long as possible. -- Hkmaly (talk) 13:50, 4 December 2015 (UTC)

I'm not familiar with the "skin crawling" symptom. Is that just a weird name for some other symptom? 14:25, 4 December 2015 (UTC) Gus

I get that every time I have a cold. I had a cold not long before this comic was published and I knew immediately what it was referring to. No one else that I know has ever experienced this, and no one else online makes any reference to it. Believe it or not, this comic is literally the only reference that I have seen to a particularly unpleasant symptom that I get every time I have a cold that no one else seems to get or even know about. 17:59, 23 November 2017 (UTC)
Incomplete notice says "First draft please improve if you can. Change from second person to third person."

So I should change it to say "First draft please improve if he can"?

-) 23:46, 5 December 2015 (UTC)

I think "skin crawling" refers to the chills you get when you have a cold, like the chills you get when something craws on your skin. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Skin crawling means (I think) you feel like you have ants crawling on your skin. I have felt that at times, however I didn't recognize the phrase right away - it took a bit of thinking (my first language is not English). 08:07, 9 December 2015 (UTC)

official transcript shows transcript of comic 1610, same with 1611 showing 1609 23:48, 9 October 2023 (UTC)