Archive for Survival Tips

#1 Metallic Element for Winter: Zinc Fights the Common Cold

December 13, 2011  |  Survival Tips  |  , ,  |  6 Comments

Sinus Sister cozies up to the Periodic Table

Could it be true? Does zinc, or “Zn” to fans of The Big Bang, help fight the common cold? Or is it more marketing hype? I scoffed at the rumours, unwilling to buy yet another supplement. My nightstand already looks like a triage station. Yet, why not ask around? In the name of science—okay, in the name of not-being-sick—I found answers on Savvy Health, an authoritative blog by hottie Dr. Kim Foster. Here’s what I learned from Kim:

Does zinc help or is it hype?
Zinc seems to shorten the duration and severity of the common cold, in otherwise healthy people.

When should you take zinc?
As soon as you start to feel crappy (my word, not her’s). Because most viral replication happens within the first 24 hours of symptom onset, you’re going to get the most benefit from zinc if you start taking it on Day 1. That said, taking it within the first 3 days may still have benefit.

How much should you take?
Aim for at least 75 mg/day of zinc. The studies showing the most benefit used 75 mg as a minimum dose. Sinus Sister killed a cold, flat, with double that dose, but listen to Dr. Foster.

What form should you take?
It seems that contact time with zinc is important. Zinc lozenges appear to be most effective when you dissolve them slowly in your mouth (slowly, here, is sucking on a lozenge for 20-30 minutes), and doing this every 2 hours. Sinus Sister is too impatient to keep a lozenge alive for 20-30 minutes, so she burned through a small bag of lozenges in no time. Again, listen to Dr. Foster.

How does zinc work?
The exact mechanism of zinc is unknown, but it’s thought to assist T cells (a subset of white blood cells) which kill virus-infected cells.

Any potential harm?
Intranasal administration of zinc is not recommended–this has been linked with a loss of the sense of smell, which can be permanent. Yikes. And don’t overdo it with zinc. Large doses (more than 300 mg per day) can compete with copper and manganese absorption, and can interfere with T-cell function. It can also chelate some antibiotics and cause drug-drug interactions.

What about using zinc for prevention?
Yep, it seems to be helpful for that, too. Supplementary zinc taken on a daily basis appears to help prevent pesky colds from striking in the first place. In studies, children receiving supplements for at least 5 months had fewer colds and fewer absentee days from school.

All Clean Down There: U.S.A. National Handwashing Awareness Week

National Handwashing Awareness Week Infographic National Handwashing Awareness Week 2011 [INFOGRAPHIC]
Via Certification Map – Teacher Credential & MAT@USC: Teacher Certification

#1 Tip to Avoid Death-By-Neti-Pot: Addressing the Neti Problem & Shoving Things into Our Orifices

Sinus Sister addresses the neti problem

The Villains: neti pots are the much-maligned wee teapots people use to rinse their sinuses. Not everyone is familiar with this ancient Indian technique, but when Dr. Oz featured neti pots on T.V. last January, they got a big shove into the mainstream. Neti pots are not yet ubiquitous like my beloved Tylenol Sinus, but they will soon be as accepted as thermometers—another health tool that gets inserted into our orifices.

So what’s the problem? They can kill you. This year, two Louisiana residents died after neti potting. And they weren’t idiots who rinsed with paint thinner. They used tap water, which delivered the so-called brain eating amoeba (Naegleria fowleri) into their system. It wasn’t pretty.

#1 Tip to Avoid Death-By-Neti-Pot: use distilled water. Alternately, boil tap water for 10 minutes and let it cool before use. Make sure to rinse out your neti pot and let it dry in the open air (not your medicine cabinet). Now, feel safe to enjoy the magical healing properties of Alladin’s sinus-soothing nose lamp.

#1 Tip for the Common Cold: Booze in the Bath

December 1, 2011  |  Survival Tips  |  , ,  |  5 Comments

Gotta love the Brits, with their costume dramas and their wire-tapping tabloids. While Fox (our unseemly news source) recommends eating cauliflower every day to beat the common cold, The Sun in England says to “booze in the bath”. They also recommend sex, mushrooms and nuts. This is my kind of prevention plan.

The Sun’s expert elaborates on this “booze in the bath” advice:

As soon as I suspect I’m getting a cold, I run a bath as hot as I can bear and sit in it for at least 20 minutes,” says Ron Eccles, director of Cardiff University’s Common Cold Centre.”As soon as I suspect I’m getting a cold, I run a bath as hot as I can bear and sit in it for at least 20 minutes,” says Ron Eccles, director of Cardiff University’s Common Cold Centre. “Very high temperatures can stop the cold virus in the nose from reproducing, killing the cold. Any hot, steamy environment will do – a sauna or steam room at your local gym is equally effective. A glass of wine with your soak may be even better.

The way forward is clear. I must now find us a source to prescribe bonbons and booze in the bath. Have faith.

Hot Drink Time Machine: How a Common Cold Remedy Made Me Friendly

November 21, 2011  |  Survival Tips  |  , ,  |  18 Comments

Why were strangers smiling at me? I wasn’t pregnant or pushing granny in a wheelchair. Yet, people were in my grill, sending good karma with their smiles as we walked along the sidewalk. One guy even nodded.

“We live in the Big City, people, not Petticoat Junction!” Sinus Sister refrained from pointing out. More smiles were delivered, and the one nod turned into two…Then three.

It took a few blocks before the eureka moment hit: they were all carrying a big fat Thermos. So was I, uncharacteristically. By accident, I fell into the Hot Drink Time Machine and joined the cult of old-fashioned, friendly Thermos people. We are Wealthy Barberites, forgoing a $4 pumpkin latte. We are recycling nuts—I mean, enthusiasts—who’ve waged a war against Styrofoam. However, this welcoming tribe probably can’t guess my true motivation: to drink  Sinus Sister’s Apple Cider Vinegar Cure on the road, without having to explain myself or give directions to baristas who hate serving plain, hot water. (No, not everyone wants your double dose of caffeine and sugar, dude!) Smug and superior with my Thermos, I now stride outside with pride, looking to make eye contact with my peeps. Tomorrow, I may start to nod.

Illness Etiquette: Get Some, When You Feel a Cold Coming

November 15, 2011  |  News, Survival Tips  |  ,  |  4 Comments

 Honestly, we won’t be offended. Cancel your business presentation. Call off your dinner party. Be a “no show” at a baby shower. It’s okay. When we hear the rattle in your lungs, we’ll be glad you stayed home. Yesterday, the Globe & Mail published an article about illness in the workplace, by Wency Leung, who is now an honorary Sinus Sister. Wency talked to the experts and coughed up this valuable piece of information:

In general, after the first 48 hours, people’s immune systems kick in but they could continue to spread illness for four to five days, says Bhagirath Singh, director of the centre for human immunology the University of Western Ontario. Regardless, they may not feel topnotch for a while. Typically, a common cold can last around seven days, while the effects of some flu viruses can last several weeks, Dr. Singh says. “Obviously you will still be feeling miserable and terrible, but you won’t be contagious.



Hands Down Winner: Beating the Common Cold with O.C.D.

November 4, 2011  |  Lifestyle, Survival Tips  |  , ,  |  No Comments

Sinus Sister scrubs up for winter

We walk among you, undetected. If you watch closely, however, you’ll see we never touch a door handle or push a shopping cart without wearing gloves. We avoid shaking hands and we will never, ever grab the communal Ketchup at a restaurant. Sometime around Thanksgiving—either Canadian or American—we turn our attention to the one activity that gives us solace: washing our hands. With each murderous orgy of soapy rubbing, we smite the germs and declare ourselves victorious. TAKE THAT!

Welcome to hand washing season, commonly known as “winter”. Let me be your guide. Hand washing season begins with a messianic faith in pump-action liquid soap that claims to have sanitizing properties. A bottle of this soap will only last two weeks in high season, so stock up. Anyone living in your house who doesn’t share your enthusiasm for hand washing will comment frequently on your dedication to the process. Those comments will be tinged with concern and an edge of accusation—like, “don’t you dare go crazy on me”. This person will try to sucker punch you by suggesting therapy. Ignore that suggestion. It’s the default solution of someone with an iron-clad immune system. Resume hand washing. Repeat as needed. Don’t touch the doorknob on your way out of the public bathroom…but you already knew that, didn’t you?

Steam Cleaned: How to Pick a Humidifier

Sinus Sister consults The Boogor Doctor

His real name is Dr. Russell Faust, but most people know him by his online name, The Boogor Doctor. He works at Lakeshore ENT, in Michigan, but he helps patients everywhere via his cool blog. Sinus Sister is not a doctor—with the science scores to prove it—so she laps up the good doctor’s advice on how to hunt for a humidifier. Boiling a kettle, it seems, is not enough. Here’s what you should know:



The Three Types of Humidifiers:

1- Evaporative

This type of humidifier uses a cloth or mesh belt that acts like a wick: it dips down into a vat of water, then rotates up so that a fan can blow across it and evaporate the water off the belt into the air. Effective way to humidify the air, but these have some downsides.

2- Ultrasonic

This is the so-called “cool mist” humidifiers. These use a small ultrasound transducer to vibrate a stream of water so that the water vaporizes. Effective, inexpensive. These have their own special disadvantages as well.

3- Steam Vaporizer

These are little more than a pot of water with a heating element that boils the water to produce steam. Very effective, but of course, they have their own issues, too.

Most of us are also familiar with the humidifier on our central heating system, if we have forced-air heat. The only thing to keep in mind with those is that the system should be cleaned. How often? I have no idea. The thing to do is to read the instructions for proper maintenance. I have asked several people if they have ever cleaned theirs, and the standard response has been “what?”.

There is another type of humidifier that I have no experience with – the “impeller” humidifier. These produce a cool mist using a rotating disk. I suspect they may have issues similar to the Ultrasonic type of humidifier (see below), but I have no personal experience with them.

So, after years of using these other 3 types of humidifiers in my home, including experience with multiple belt-evaporative humidifiers growing up in my parent’s home, here is my own assessment. My apologies to humidifier manufacturers. No doubt some will take offense at my admittedly simple and anecdotal comparison of these types of humidifiers, but this is based on decades of personal experience, and experience with each of these types of humidifier.

(1) Evaporative (2) Ultrasonic (3) Steam Vaporizer
Efficiency Efficient Efficient Less efficient
Construction, Ease of Use Complex Simple Simple
Cost / purchase $$$$ $$ $
Cost / to run $$ $ $$
Cleaning Challenge to Clean Easy to Clean Easy to Clean
Microbe risk: mold, etc ++++ ++
Boogordoctor endorsement + + +++
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Top 6 Sinus eBooks: A Roundup of Hay Fever and Allergy eBooks

Sinus Sister hits the e-books

Here’s a roundup of sinus-related ebooks. Sinus Sister isn’t endorsing them yet—not until she reads ’em—but she wants to give an overview of what’s online. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

1. The 24 Hour Sinus Breakthrough, by James Kennedy ($47 USD)

James Kennedy, if he exists, gives a compelling pitch for his book, The 24 Hour Sinus Breakthrough. He claims to have a natural remedy recipe made up of 4 simple ingredients that can be obtained at any pharmacy or drug store. When mixed and used properly, it’s supposed to literally dissolve sinus congestion, relieve the pressure and “vaporize” your sinus infection. James, we’re listening. For your trouble, James throws in four bonus books: “The Ultimate Starbucks Coffee & Deserts Recipe Ebook”; “The Secrets To Healthy Sleep”; “Back Pain Relief Secrets” and “How To Get Rid Of Your Snoring.” 

2. Home Remedies for Sinus Infections that Work, by Christina Starkman MD ($19 USD)

Dr. Starkman, if she exists, tells us what to expect in her ebook: causes and symptoms, old home remedies, nasal irrigation methods, best methods of steam inhalation, a list of immune-boosting supplements, herbal teas, natural decongestants, diet tips and notes on prevention. Sounds great. And I’m a sucker for someone with a medical degree—not just an aptitude for HTML.

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Frothy Girlz Get a Sinus Infection

 Finding a Soul Sister at


You go, Frothy Girlz! Their kick-ass blog is billed as “Pop culture with an attitude”. No kidding. Here’s Frothy Girl Jane Almirall‘s post about having a sinus infection. She isn’t taking it lying down…and, like Sinus Sister, she pretends to have tried the famous concealer YSL Touche Eclat:


“Friends, not a day goes by when my email inbox isn’t flooded with requests for me to do a Top Shelf type story about my beauty products and regime. I get countless questions about my hair such as, ‘What have you done?’, and, ‘Holy crap, did you do that to yourself?’ and so on (My secret? I wash it every six to eight weeks – whether it needs it or not! I am nothing if not steeped in decadence and luxury). I receive similar queries about my skincare routine and favored cosmetics – so I finally thought to myself, ‘Why not give my readers what they so deeply desire? Why not indeed! I’ll finally reveal my attractiveness secrets and do a Top Shelf post of my own!’

And then I got this really big bastard of a sinus infection. So now you are getting this instead:

Top Shelf In The Event That You Have A Big Bastard Of a Sinus Infection }

Well, Fair Readers, the first thing you are going to want to do if you feel a sinus infection coming on is get a Neti Pot to clean out your sinuses. If you don’t have a Neti Pot, you can use basic saline spray. If you are like me, however, and you have none of these things at hand when you fall ill, you can MacGyver yourself a nasal cleansing system by mixing a half a teaspoon of salt with a cup of boiled water and using a bulb syringe to shoot the saline up your nose (NOTE: you want to do this after the water cools a bit and do it over the sink). If it sounds awful, let me assure you – IT IS. It’s also really disgusting. I think it’s what drowning must feel like.

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