#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.

Dream Steam: Air-O-Swiss Travel Ultrasonic Humidifier Review

December 11, 2011  |  Humidifiers & Gear  |  ,  |  2 Comments

Sinus Sister dusts off her passport

Rating: ★★★★½ 

“Freedom!” cried Sinus Sister, plugging in her new Air-O-Swiss Ultrasonic travel humidifier ($49). A column of steam came shooting out, silently. No hiss, no whirling motor. HIGH FIVE, Air-O-Swiss. You just gave me wings. To sinus sufferers, a traveling humidifier is liberation. It means we can visit people’s ski chalets (see you soon, Carolyne!) and not wake up to a blood-spattered pillow that would make Dexter Morgan blush.

Previously, Sinus Sister’s only defense against dry hotel air was to put a wet towel on the heater (i.e. mood kill). Hotel towels dry in about 10 minutes when draped across a radiator. Maybe I need to stay at better hotels, you’re thinking. Not true. As a hotel reviewer for Fodor‘s, I’ve stayed at some of the world’s best properties (shout out to The Merchant in Belfast and The Point in the Adirondack’s) and still got nose bleeds from dry heat. Money can’t solve it. Only moisture can.

What I love about the Air-O-Swiss: it’s light, with its own black travel pouch
Best feature: ultrasonic silence
What your inner decorator would say: it doesn’t look like a humiliating medical aid
What your inner vixen would say: it looks like a sex toy (while it’s in the travel pouch)
What airport security will say: “Please explain and assemble your device, Ma’am”
How you felt when the VISA bill arrived: no remorse
The only downer: the small water bottle (500 ml) doesn’t last very long, so I had to refill it three times during the night.

Here are the specs, for all you gearheads:

  • Main Voltage: 100 V / 50 Hz
  • Power Consumption: 15 W
  • Weight: 0.7 lbs (when empty)
  • Size Dimensions: 4.4″ x 2.6″ x 3.2
  • Recommended bottle size (not included): 17oz / 0.5 liter
  • Humidity Output: up to 1 gallon a day
  • Tank Capacity: ≈17 oz. (.5 L)

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.

Hope Floats: Plasma Could Cure the Common Cold?

December 5, 2011  |  News  |   |  No Comments

Sinus Sister hopes to inhale

“There is something sexy about lab geeks,” thought Sinus Sister, reading her copy of the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics….KIDDING. I was reading about the Journal in The Telegraph, which dumbed down the gobbledygook and gave me hope. According to their rock-star science reporter, Richard Gray, something called cold plasma—streams of electrically charged gas—can be inhaled and possibly cure the common cold. Don’t toy with me Richard!

Scientists discovered that a stream of matter known as cold plasma can deactivate viruses similar to those that cause the common cold. When exposed the plasma for just a couple of minutes, the viruses were no longer able to replicate, meaning they could not spread or cause disease. Break open the bubbly!

Who Deserves Our Undying Gratitude: Dr Julia Zimmermann, from the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany, found that when exposed to cold plasma for 240 seconds, almost all the viruses were inactivated – just one in a million viruses was able to replicate. Julia’s crew believe that, in the long term, plasma could be inhaled directly into the lungs to treat viruses and infections…How “long term”? I’m ready to buy my black-market plasma inhaler right now. Some killjoy commented that plasma could be an evil free radical attacking the lungs, just as it attacks viruses. Details, details.

Background Trivia for Artsies: Plasma is a fourth state of matter in addition to solid, liquid and gases, and is created when particles of gas or liquid become electrically charged. It is similar to the kind of material found inside plasma televisions. Usually very high temperatures are needed to sustain plasmas, but scientists have recently found they can create cold plasmas at temperatures of around 104 degrees F (40C), which can be safely touched by the human hand.

It’ll probably take years before my black-market plasma inhaler appears, if it doesn’t kill some lab rats first. Handsome Manling has a better chance of getting his 60″ plasma television first. In the meantime, I’m cheering on Team Julia.

#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.

Nature’s Dynamite for Stuffy Noses: Nasodren Review

November 29, 2011  |  Drug Reviews  |  , , , ,  |  32 Comments

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Spray and pray. That’s the cycle. My unreconstructed addiction to nasal sprays is a choice. I choose to risk the rebound effect, rather then breathe through my mouth like a knuckle dragger. Go ahead and tell me I have a problem. Just try it. This little addiction harms nobody, except me, when I get a bad batch and end up with boomerang blockage.

“It’s worth the risk,” I said, grabbing a reviewer’s sample of Nasodren. Immediately, I liked it because the packaging has braille. Blind people have bad sinuses, and every other condition, too. Next, I like the way the web site tells me things in laymen’s terms:

  • Nasodren® is a natural product that does not contain hormones or preservatives (whatever)
  • Nasodren® is a lyophilized natural extract of cyclamen europaeum L (okay, I can look that up)
  • Nasodren® has only a local effect, which means it is not absorbed into the blood stream and does not cause residual irritation of the mucous membranes (low boomerang risk)
    Okay, so it won’t corrode my sinuses. According to Google, cyclamen europaeum L is a much-loved hippie herb used for what they used to call “women’s troubles” and an assortment of mucous issues. That’s me! The spray requires some assembly, which isn’t a problem so much as it’s a problem when my nose is dripping—onto the  instructions. But the assembly is easy and quick—mixing water with the powdered herb—so I’m not terribly annoyed. As directed, I resist the urge to throw my head back and sniff while activating the pump. Instead, I keep the drama low and limit myself to one squirt per nostril….And that’s enough! It triggered a series of violent sneezes… then some urgent nose-blowing, following by….inhale…AIR FLOW. There was no discernible boomerang blockage after a few days use and no nasty taste in my mouth, like some sprays. Nasodren is a keeper. More specifically, it’s a keeper-in-the-fridge, where it needs to be stored. I guess I won’t be hoarding it my purse, after all, for guilty squirts in back alleys.

Thanksgiving Tribute: American Flag Tissue Box for Holiday Snot & Tears

November 27, 2011  |  Tissue Throwdown  |  ,  |  19 Comments

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Happy Thanksgiving Sunday, to our American cousins. Thank you for Tina Fey, David Sedaris, Don DeLillo, Mary Karr, Tom Waits, Dave Eggers, Dorothy Parker, Paul Giamatti, William Styron, Frank Lloyd Wright, Levis, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Basel Miami, Florida oranges, Kitchen Confidential, Alice Sebold, Alec Baldwin, Little House on the Prairie, Death Cab for Cutie, The Brothers Wilson, Coen & Wachowski, Little Miss Sunshine, the Sisters Deschanel and Fanning, The Royal Tanenbaums, The New York Times recipes, The Big Lebowski, Willie Nelson, The Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, The Guggenheim (Uptown), Witness, Deadwood, Salon.com and the concept of delayed adolescence.

Sinus Sister found this apt tissue box cover from Marye-Kelley ($36 US) for the occasion, which we hear is never short on family drama. Cue the snot and tears.

Sigh No More, Rewritten: Mumford & Sons Inspire Sinus Sister

November 24, 2011  |  Lifestyle  |  , ,  |  7 Comments

Same song, different lyrics

Sniff No More

Sneezer, cougher, repent
Your germs will not relent
To a kiss, I can’t consent
And I’m sorry
I’m sorry

Sniff no more, no more
Or I’ll show you the door
The sound’s what we abhor
You know me
You know me

A nose ain’t a picky thing
A nose ain’t a picky thing
A nose ain’t a picky thing
A nose ain’t a picky thing

Germs will always betray you
Dismay, not evade you
They will make you ill
Sneeze in my face
And it’s you I’ll kill
You may mean no harm
But you cause some alarm
In my mind you see
Immunity’s low
Despite Vitamin C.

Sick In Bed With a Book: Review of Ellen DeGeneres’s “Seriously I’m Kidding”


REVIEW: Seriously … I’m kidding

Book by Ellen DeGeneres
by Joanne Latimer on Tuesday, November 22, 2011 8:05am

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Since her last book in 2003, much has happened to Ellen DeGeneres. She hosted the Oscars, married Portia de Rossi, started a record label, debuted on Broadway, became a talk-show host and a spokeswoman for Covergirl—a 50-year-old cover girl and an openly gay cover girl, at that. Most readers of her new book will be fans of the show, hoping for more of Ellen’s loopy charm.

As an extension of her talk-show personality, Seriously . . . I’m Kidding is a success. It has funny rants about meditating, gambling, Portia’s addiction to hand lotion, their pets and punctuality. As a book about the last eight years of DeGeneres’s life, it’s an artful dodge. She tries too hard to entertain readers, and forgoes thoughtful reflection. The substance of the book is supposed to be advice from DeGeneres about how to be happy. She throws out predictable chestnuts like enjoy every day, accept yourself, get a mammogram and colonoscopy and think positively. What are missing are personal stories. The result feels less intimate than an episode of her show. Some chapters are so empty generous readers will suspect they’re satirical—Ellen’s spoof on the genre of comedy autobiography.

Still, a few chapters nearly redeem the entire project. Her “Letter to Mall Security” is priceless, as is her riff on endorphins. She speaks honestly about the difficulty of hosting a daily talk show and being a gay role model. “[When I came out], there were extreme groups that didn’t think I was gay enough. There were other groups of people who thought I was too gay. It didn’t occur to me that when I announced I was gay I would have to clarify just how gay I was.” DeGeneres also speaks openly about her and Portia’s decision not to have children. These candid moments are too few. Ironically, Ellen could take a page from Portia’s book, The Unbearable Lightness, which is more accomplished, personal and entertaining.