Spring is here! While many may rejoice at the arrival sunshine, longer days, and spring blossoms, others of us see spring as both a blessing and a curse. Sunshine and flowers mean drier air filled with allergens to attack our sinuses and make us suffer. The warm weather brings people out from the woodwork. We are more social, we date, we frolic in the park, and we spread germs. Enter Cold and Flu season the sequel. Being sick is never fun, but it is especially annoying when you are a dancer. Either you are too sick to take class, or you drag yourself to the studio only to feel like moving death the entire duration from pliés to grande allegro.
I finally lost my battle last Sunday against the flowers and the germs after a stress-filled week and a fun filled weekend. Finally, on day five of feeling like my sinuses have been taken over by a colony of slime monsters, I called out of work and dragged my feverish, coughing, aching, sneezing self to the health center at NYU. I have what, it seems, half of New York City has: a cold/flu with a side of spring allergies. Turns out I had been doing a lot of the right things but not enough. If one is going to wage war against the disgusting spring combo of virus and pollen one must do it properly. I left the nurse practitioner with a bag of goodies and a sheet (fully explained and hi-lighted) of remedies. After a day of rest and using the recommendations of my new friend, Mike, RN, I am already feeling like I can enjoy the sunshine, blossoms, and ballet once again. Here is what was recommended to me:
1. Gargle (with an antiseptic mouthwash)
- 5 times/day for recovery, 2-3 times/day for maintenance.
- Gargling with an antiseptic mouthwash helps to kill the germs in your mouth (Which is huge in preventing the spread of your illness to others) and is soothing at the same time. An added bonus, If you get a minty one, it helps open your sinuses as well.
- I bought the Walgreen’s brand antiseptic mouth rinse ($2.79). It comes with a free smaller 8.5 oz bottle that is perfect to carry throughout the day.
2. Drink lots of clear fluids
- Do this throughout the day. The more the better
- Water, tea, chicken broth, and juice are all great.
- No, coffee does not count.
3. Saline Nasal Spray
- 5 times per day for recovery, 2-3 times per day for maintenance
- The spray helps get the saline into your upper sinuses. It will moisten irritated tissue and help relieve inflammation.
- I also use a neti pot. Neti pots are great for clearing out the nasal passages but to not get the upper sinuses.
- A combo of the neti pot in the morning and evening, and the nasal spray throughout the day works wonders.
4. Steamy showers
- Taking a steamy shower in the morning when you wake up and in the evening when you go to bed will help open your sinus passages.
- Take the saline nasal spray into the shower with you. The steamy shower makes it more effective.
5. Wash your hands
- As much as possible
- This won’t necessarily help you get well faster, but it will help prevent spreading your germs to others and will keep you from catching a different bug. (Think of all the people who are sick like you who have been touching the barre. Do you really want to touch that, then eat a sandwich? No)
6. REST (It was in all caps on my educational sheet too)
- When the nurse hi-lighted this one, I laughed. He said that it doesn’t have to mean that you take a full sick day. Take the time to take care of your self during the day. Here is an example: before technique class, be sure to have your water with you, gargle some mouthwash, and use your nasal spray, then repeat after class. Maybe use your time on the subway to do some mind relaxation. Get to work (or school or rehearsal) twenty minutes early, sit, relax, and have a cup of tea then repeat the gargling, spraying and washing.
- Part of resting means resting your brain as well. Remember that stress hormones suppress the immune system. The more stressed you are, the harder it is for your body to fight off viruses and deal with allergens.
7. Over the counter medications
- If all else fails, over the counter medications can help take the edge off. Here is a list of helpful medications and what they do (this is from the list that was supplied to me by a health care professional. Do not take these medicines if you have a history of bad reaction. If you are unsure or have adverse side effects, talk to your doctor.)
- Best to take in the morning to drain sinuses
- “used for the temporary relief of nose, sinus, and ear congestion.
- “Works by decreasing swelling of nose and ear tissue”
- Best to take at night because it dries out the sinuses (also because one of the side effects is drowsiness)
- Brand names: Benadryl, ganahist, sominex, unisom, Tylenol PM
- “Hlps to relieve cold symptoms and inflammation of the nose due to allergies, non-seasonal runny nose, and sneezing.”
- Ibuprofen (Advil)
- Naproxen (Aleve)
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)