Saturday, February 7, 2009

Water will wash away the cough

Sometime between November and late April, a rib-cracking cough will track me down and shake me senseless for weeks. This is not an exaggeration. There are some things I do exceptionally well, snot and coughs being among them.

We have five vaporizers in our house. All are functional and all get used. There is a box of Kleenex in every room. We regularly stock packages of tea with names like Breathwell, Throat Soother, and Herba Tussin. I believe in the restorative power of Vick's VapoRub and Halls lozenges.

I have had pneumonia four times and bronchitis more times than I can remember. In my 30s, I acquired asthma, although I tend to ignore it unless I start to sound like a creaky sofa when I breathe.

At the moment, I'm getting creaky and I've started coughing. It's not the barky cough of bronchitis, nor is it the gravelly cough of pneumonia. This is more like a smoker's cough. My husband is sure I'm going to hack up a lung. I told him not to worry--it's just TB. He he. Um, he missed the joke since I spend quality time nearly everyday with people being treated for TB. I have much more faith in the public health system than he does.

I told him that I'm fine. I will be, as long as I don't get bronchitis. Here's the thing. If you look at any cough medicine or decongestant, there is a warning that says you can't take it if you also take an MAOI. That never meant anything to me before, but a rather large dose of an MAOI makes its way through my system on a daily basis. Prevention is key, and water is my solution.

I have assembled my water-based defense arsenal. For those who prefer home remedies, water has a lot going for it. Here's what I know for sure:

Hot tea. The liquid keeps your bodily fluids flowing and the heat opens your sinuses and dilates the pathways in your lungs. Ahhh!

A vaporizer is a must. You don't need the menthol stuff that adds aroma to the steam. Plug in the vaporizer at night, and let the warm mist crack open the crap in your chest faster than a crowbar. Low-tech. Effective.

The neti pot used to be for hippies, granola heads, and Ayurvedic yogis, but then came Oprah. Once the neti pot was hyped on Oprah, it went mainstream (no pun intended). I've been using one for years. You pour warm saline solution up one nostril and after you gag for a few seconds, the water exits via the other nostril. There's a lot of coughing up phlegm and nose blowing, but once you've experienced nasal hygiene like this, you'll wonder if the Kleenex people plotted to hide this ancient therapy in the interest of cornering the snot market.

Hot showers are soothing, sure, but it's the bulk steam that does the real work. As your muscles relax, you allow more air into your lungs. Sinuses open, and steam fills your lungs. This loosens mucous and moisturizes the bronchial pathways. That makes it easier to get the crap out without having to deal with that blobby green guy in the Mucinex commercials.

Today I'm trying something new. It's a ceramic pod called a Himalayan Salt Inhaler for Wellness. It contains 250-million-year-old salt harvested from the Himalayas. It seems that this salt is more therapeutic than the French sea salt I use for cooking or the Mortons we use for all other salt applications. Apparently, only 250-million-year-old salt will do if you're going to treat your respiratory misfortune with salt air. So much for a trip to the Coast.

I will be very disappointed if I do, in fact, hack up a lung.


Anonymous said...

I hadn't heard of the Himalayan Salt thing before. Is the secret in the 250 million year old salt or the gizmo that delivers it? How does it work?

My mother sent me a neti pot but it won't surprise you that the name alone made me hide it in some dark cupboard where I'm unlikely to encounter it. :-)

Ethereal Highway said...

I hope you get well soon, May. I know the misery. My household has been pounded unmercifully with various contagious pestilence this year. I'll be glad when it's all over.

May Voirrey said...

I definitely have the flu.

As for the Himalayan salt inhaler, I hadn't heard of it eiter. I received it as a gift. I have no idea if it's quakery or therapy. You just hold it, put your mouth around the top part, and breathe normally. It tastes salty. I believe there is supposed to be a benefit from the salt air. The Himalayan salt is supposed to be purifying. It hasn't done a thing for me yet.