When I returned from our clergy retreat in Denver last week, I brought home something I didn't have when I'd left -- a cough. It got so bad over the weekend that a kind parishioner even brought me a bottle of cough syrup; which, of course, I didn't take, as it was before the start of the Divine Liturgy. Yes, of course, it is permissible to take medication and still receive the Holy Mysteries of our Lord's Body and Blood; that is not breaking the fast we otherwise properly keep before communion. But that doesn't apply to me, does it? [grin]
The cough has persisted; and so I decided to use a technique which, since I have discovered it about three years ago, has resulted in losing maybe a day to the symptoms of a cold; and has virtually eliminated the two to three trips per year to the doctor for an antibiotic to wipe out the sinus infection that always seemed to accompany a cold. (I'm one of those types who won't go to see a physician for a cold as long as the mucus is clear, or white. Once it turns green, of course, guerilla warfare doesn't work any more, and the heavy anti-bacterial artillery becomes necessary.) The technique has a fine-sounding name: nasal (or sinus) lavage. In other words: washing with a mild salt water solution.
Here's how you do it. First, go to a restaurant supply store, or a good department store (or a 99-cent store), and pick up a squirt bottle; you know, the kind that is used to serve mustard and ketchup in many restaurants (ok, diners). Put in about one-half to one teaspoon of sea salt, and a bit of hot water. Swirl the water in the bottle until the salt is completely dissolved; then fill the rest of the bottle with water. Set aside to cool.
Now, my daughters will say that the next part is really gross. Too bad. Take the bottle of salt water with you to the sink. Lean over, and turn your head to one side, so that your nostrils are in an "up-and-down" (rather than side-by-side) alignment. Put the nozzle of the squirt bottle into the upper nostril, and squeeze gently. This gets a bit tricky; as your sinuses fill, the water will begin to run across the top of your throat. Don't clamp down; try to just let it flow. Eventually, the flow will begin to run out the lower nostril. Bingo! This is what you want to achieve. Let it flow for about 30 seconds. Then remove the nozzle, and slowly turn your head back to the center, allowing the remaining water to flow out. You can blow your nose gently to help clear it. Then turn your head to the other side, and repeat the process, reversing the direction of the flow.
That's really all there is to it. You can repeat it as needed; two or three times a day is usually enough to knock out the worst forms of congestion and post-nasal drip. Some warnings: If you wait until the congestion gets really bad (but before the green stage), the salt water may really burn when you flush the system. That's actually a good sign; you've got, in that case, some really inflamed tissues in your sinuses when that happens, and the salt water will actually help soothe them. Also, if you wait, the pockets of congestion may actually cause some of the salt water to get trapped; and it will leak out later, usually at the most inopportune moment! (So I don't use the lavage before going to serve in the altar!) Earlier is better; it takes fewer treatments, and doesn't burn, if you start doing this just after the symptoms begin.
My cough? I used the treatment last night, and wasn't bothered by the cough at all overnight. I repeated the treatment this morning; and, so far, haven't had any cough to speak of. I fully expect to be completely free of the cough by tomorrow. For what it's worth...
Oh, all the standard legal-jargon disclaimers apply. (Your results may vary. I am not licensed to pratice medicine or any form of physical therapy or treatment by any state board regulating the treatment of coughs and colds and the like; and so on.) Consult your doctor, if you think that's necessary and helpful. Yada yada yada...
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