Allergies or COVID? Round 3

First of all, if you have to ask yourself that question, please don’t go running around like it’s 2019, coughing and sneezing freely on all passersby. Even before an ongoing global pandemic that killed millions of people, that’s gross and rude. Wear a mask. If you won’t (or if you’re one of those people who pulls it down to sneeze), then use tissues or a hanky, and if you have none of those, hold a Dracula pose facing into your elbow until the ejecting of spit and snot is over.

sneeze or cough into your elbow

Here in Dallas, the WebMD app has been blowing up my phone daily. If it’s not trees, it’s grass, mold, or dust. I’m starting to see cottonwood floofs, and even if you’re not usually sensitive to pollen, the floofs that help the seeds fly do break off in the air and are an inhalable irritant. It’s just that time of year. All the information in my last allergies post is still valid. Running a HEPA filter in the bedroom is also a good idea. I’ve started using a neti pot when I get home and am inside for the day. I used to do it in the shower for ideal water temperature, but 1) horrifying mold accumulations can happen when you store your neti pot in a damp warm environment 2) I’m just not that confident about tap water sloshing around my head. On the bright side, allergy season means it’s warm enough that room temperature distilled water isn’t painfully cold to run through my sinuses.

The CDC tweeted out a graphic to try to help answer our title question. However, anecdotally, some folks who tested positive for coronavirus never had fevers. And in situations of major congestion, your nose being impaired will affect your sense of taste. So please at least take a rapid test if you’re not sure it’s just allergies. A friend of mine inadvertently passed COVID to friends when they tested negative before a gathering, spiked a fever and tested positive the day after, so ideally, test 2 days in a row before baring your breath if you haven’t been feeling well. You can get 8 free at home rapid tests per household via the USPS, and if you have health insurance, they pay for 8 per month at participating pharmacies. CVS has been a little squirrely about this for me (you can still file paperwork with receipts and get a check in the mail from insurance), but Walgreens gets me in and out in like 10 minutes, for nothing out of pocket. When else is the insurance that you pay so much money for every month going to give you over $100 per month, no questions asked?

It’s not 2020. Hospitals don’t need morgue trucks, and plenty of infections have passed uneventfully, but we’re still dealing with a very contagious virus with lingering effects, and it’s a pain in the ass when the whole world is sick at the same time. (4 months ago, remember that?) If you’re vaccinated, you can still get it and spread it. That’s not the point; the point is you probably won’t die if you get it and you’re vaccinated, and you’ll probably have less viral load to spread. So if you’re not and you can, get vaccinated and get all the boosters you’re eligible for.

That was a lot on COVID. That or allergies? Short answer, take a test, wash your bedding, and wash yourself (and your dog, and whoever else is going to get on or in your bed) before you go to bed so you don’t marinate in pollen all night. And I do still treat for allergies, but please do endeavor not to bring the plague into my treatment room!

How can I help you?

Hi, there, Reader! I hope you find something useful on this site that helps you feel better!

That said, the information I post is not meant to take the place of healthcare or services you may need. I am a licensed provider (acupuncture and esthetics), but what I post is not in the capacity as YOUR provider. Things I say on the internet are for entertainment or education, and use of this information is at your own risk. Please see your healthcare provider* about any personal health concerns.

*That might be me or become me, though in the State of Texas, for most medical things you should also be under the care of a medical doctor. Check out my contact information to make an appointment or set up a chat.

People are really good at hearing what they want to hear.

There is a lot of conflicting information being presented, and one has to process it to decide what seems right and how to proceed. No, I’m not talking about voting, though you totally should. Today I will look at alcohol.

The French Paradox says wine is good for you!

A writer at Mother Jones wonders, “Did alcohol give me cancer?

And most recently, “No amount of alcohol is safe.”

I have a history of high cholesterol, and I got to play with cholesterol in Organic Chemistry lab. If you never took OChem in college, every lab is about synthesizing or isolating a product, and your grade depends on how efficiently you managed to do so. So the instructor always checks how much you made and makes sure it matches with the lab report you eventually turn in. Cholesterol is a pale paste that kind of resembles lard. My lab partners and I ended up with this test tube with a splat of cholesterol in it, and to our horror, realized we forgot to weigh it empty. (Weight full – weight empty = weight of product, then you do math with molecular weights to see how efficient your process was) We’re on limited time, so they were cleaning up and grabbing stuff for the next experiment, while I frantically scrubbed with soap and water. Which did precisely nothing. Finally, the lab instructor took pity on me and advised, “There is some ethanol under the fume hood.” With a teensy little splash, that test tube sparkled! This convinced me of two things: 1) When dish soap doesn’t do it, try cleaning a grease spot with cheap vodka and 2) There is probably something to having a little drink with fatty foods.

And I can’t tell you how many people I’ve told that story to and had them process it as: drinking heavily is totally good for me. But here’s the thing: your blood vessels are not made of glass. Alcohol is a bit poisonous, so it is processed out of your body by your liver and various enzymes. And if you give your liver too much to deal with, it won’t deal with it all. Then you have toxic crap wreaking havoc on the rest of your body.

It’s a rather long Mother Jones article, but my takeaway was that 2 servings of alcohol per day raise a woman’s risk of breast cancer higher than having the BRCA gene. You know, the one that had Angelina Jolie have her ovaries and her breasts removed? That one. Men, you had a statistic in there, too, but I don’t have it on the top of my head, because I didn’t store it into RAM.

Now, to get pedantic about it, there will always be at least trace amounts of alcohol in your body. There’s going to be some fermentation (that’s okay, everybody farts) somewhere in your guts, which will result in alcohol. Unless you have a rare condition, your body will detoxify it so that you won’t actually notice, but you’ll never get down to zero, just like you’ll never avoid chemicals, because if you’ve taken even a high school science class, you know that every bit of matter in the universe is made of chemicals. (Yes, even YOUR water, sales guy at Whole Foods. Especially your water.) HOWEVUH, if you can’t go a week without having a drink, maybe that is something you should examine.




Facial rejuvenation

Somebody asked me if I did facial rejuvenation acupuncture, and without thinking of the irony, I replied, “That’s really a younger practitioner’s game.” Frankly, as I have been taught, it is. I don’t have the patience, the eyesight (I don’t absolutely require reading glasses…yet), the knuckle control (I’ve bitched about how my hands are prone to arthritis before, and I don’t tend to do more than 30 needles in a regular session), or the back flexibility to lean over someone and do near a hundred extra small (yes, yes, acupuncture needles are tiny. Facial acupuncture needles are tinier.), precision (regular acupuncture is going a certain depth into muscles with a few millimetres of leeway. Facial acupuncture targets the dermis.) needles to the face. Frankly, recreating Hellraiser seems easier.

I was working on an older woman and mentioned that when I work both sides, I like to end face up so the patient has a chance for the sheet wrinkles to settle before facing the world. She said something to the effect of, “If you’ve made it to my age without wrinkles, there is something wrong with you. Life is reflected on your face, and if it hasn’t made an impression in 60 years, you haven’t had much of one.”

Which is not to say I don’t understand vanity or that I won’t work on your face if you ask me. Facial cupping is a great way to manually smooth the skin and bring extra circulation to the complexion. It’s also great for your sinuses. Some of the deeper wrinkles between the eyebrows or in the nasolabial groove can benefit from threading a pin through them. Both of these are best if you’re not wearing makeup. As with all facial work, it’s best if you’re not wearing makeup, with me, with another practitioner, or at home.

cholesterol, revisited

Yeah, yeah, I skipped blogging in April, but I have been getting other things done. Like my cholesterol retest! Here it is: Total: 152 HDL: 75 LDL: 64 from Total: 210 HDL: 74 LDL: 116

Now, I am a big believer in honestly weighing the cost/benefit and trying not to get knee jerk or emotional. I have heard that statins can mess up your muscles and had a friend who got untenably dizzy with them. Which is not a great statistical sample, so if I needed (this was 18 months of “No, really, Doctor, I’m going to change my diet and exercise; I’ll get those numbers down.”) to go on statins, I would, but I’m glad I don’t have to. Natural, by the way, also has side effects.

Did you know glucosamine can raise cholesterol levels? I recently stumbled onto this. Crap. Osteobiflex was my go-to for helping my hands. Fortunately, I have been good about alternating  my phone typing position (type one thought with thumbs, type the next with pointer finger, and if you’re writing a novel, go get a keyboard!), and it’s been months since I’ve taken one. Yet another reason not to let yourself get texter’s thumb, y’all.

Carbs are not the enemy, but it’s good to limit sugars. Fat is also less of a bogeyman than we were led to believe in the 90s, but no need to go overboard there, either. I’ve been trying to get lots of fresh vegetables, whole grains, and fiber. I got into a really good groove exercising before I had surgery (a blog for another time), but it’s been 4 months, and I’m still not back into it properly. I am tracking my sleep with an app and mostly improving, though my geriatric cat does still sleep with me, and he wakes up with a pretty reliable 4am coughing fit. Poor old boy is not the picture of genki anymore. 🙁

Cholesterol, weight, depression, pain, all kinds of stuff, and the advice is the SAME. Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. I know. I think you know. It’s just the doing it!

I saw it floating on the wind the other day.

The sky wasn’t clear, but it was too warm for snow. Yep, it was pollen. Those of us who are sensitive to cedar have been dealing with this for months, but spring is just around the corner, and so are seasonal allergies!

Can you needle my nasal passages open? Actually, I think I’ve gotten better at it. When I first started, about 7/10 people said that point is really uncomfortable (years later, I think maybe more people don’t find it uncomfortable than are hurt), but 9/10 people could breathe much better as soon as it went in. This point is called bitong, it is next to your nose at the top of the nasolabial crease, and it makes you look like you have whiskers when they’re in. >^_^<

What about this eye itch? And the drainage is killing me. Yo, me too. Like with a lot of things, people have varied responses to treatment. I know some folks who get by with a few treatments a year and herbs. I need Zyrtec more than not, so I’m jealous! Anyway, it may be allergies, and it may just be all the particulate in the air. With that in mind, it’s all about exposure management. I love the energy saving concept of drying laundry outside, but that’s a big nope if you’re trying to manage symptoms. Encase your pillows if you feel worse in the morning; you might be allergic to dust. Rinse off before bed (hair is an issue! I know. Perhaps experiment with a snood or something if you absolutely can’t rinse your hair before bed once you’re indoors for the day), and give your bedding a hot wash every week or so.

What else can I be doing to manage my symptoms? Whatever you’re doing, try to be consistent for a couple of weeks and see what happens. Some people take herbs or supplements like nettles or quercetin. If you have low vitamin D, you may be prone to more inflammation, which is going to make your face extra uncomfortable during hayfever season. Some people do better without dairy, and almost everybody would be better off eating less added sugar. If you do come to see me, remind me to give you some free chrysanthemum tea (really great springtime tea, and helps with the eye itch) and I have a wedge pillow for when lying flat makes it hard to breathe.

Look up

(Where I admit I can’t fix everything.)

When I first started my practice over a decade ago, devices weren’t that common, and people still used computers and mice. I saw an awful lot of carpal tunnel, and I was really good with it.

Times change. Most everybody now has a screen to carry around; people look down and scroll with their thumbs all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading on a screen. It’s easier to carry than a heavy book, and you don’t have the problem of the margins being too narrow when the book has too many pages. However, there were drafting tables and book stands when I was in college. My parents nagged me about my posture all the time when I was a kid.

Tech-neck is actually a thing. In our office, I think it is better served by chiropractic, though I have worked on it, too. Like with most things, prevention is valuable, so take breaks, hold/angle/prop-up your screens so you aren’t looking down all the time, and stretch your neck and back frequently.

Did your acupuncturist fix the pain at the base of your thumb? If so, I want to meet her! I myself am rocking the brace and/or a patch more often than not these days. Carpal tunnel is a LOT easier to work with. When you blow a joint, you have to stop using it so much. DO YOU KNOW HOW OFTEN WE USE OUR THUMBS? And we’re wasting the use of this precious joint on screens?!? I am a big believer of “make it worth it.” Blow your diet on something you’re not supposed to? Savor it. Make it the best cheeseburger you ever tasted in your life. Back felt great until a day of golf? I will tell you when you’re in my office again, I hope you had a great time! This one is stupid, and I can tell you because I have it. So get yourself a keyboard for your tablet, change up your typing fingers frequently instead of staying on your thumbs, and, this is crazy, but, maybe actually call someone once in a while.

You are probably okay.

Ironically, you might think, I was talking snake oil with another practitioner, and we were working ourselves up over the myriad of things with which we’ve seen people harming themselves.

“Cups of undiluted acv! And they wonder why their stomachs hurt!”

“Who told this lady to take 1000 units of vitamin E when she was already on a blood thinner?!?”

“It was the detox tea that was making the liver enzymes go crazy!”

I’ve said many times that I’m sure not in this for the money. Marketing is very often about calling attention to imperfections, making the consumer feel bad about themselves and implying that this product is what will fix it. Tell you a secret, though, in general, most things are going to get better anyway eventually. Sometimes coming in to see me helps give a little boost, often enough that I’m still in business after eleven years.

I read a lot. I have been reading about wellness since before the internet was common. I continue to read about different conditions and how people can better take care of themselves. There isn’t a lot that seems new. Drink water. Eat more fruits and veg and less processed food. Get some exercise. Get some sleep. Breathe. Get some sun, but not too much. Actually, “get some ___, but not too much,” is pretty good general advice. There seems to be something new all the time, but it’s either a new product someone is trying to profit off of, or it’s the same old advice translated into clickbaitese. For example: putting lemons, herbs, cucumber, etc. in your water isn’t going to turn it into a magic fatburner/cancer fighter/anti ager, but it will make it taste more interesting, which will probably make you drink more of it, which is good for you in general.

Off the top of my head, plantar fasciitis and frozen shoulder are a couple of things that respond startlingly well to acupuncture. For a lot of stuff, though, what do you want? How can you get there? What have you been doing? Is it helping? What is it costing you in money or personal effort? There is a lot I don’t know, but sometimes a fresh set of eyes can see the connections you’re not. My license is in acupuncture. It’s not well explained, but it’s not magic or mystic, and needles might be the least important thing you get.

 

Cupping

I am so three weeks ago, but I also haven’t updated since March. What is cupping and what does it do aside from give you hickeys in perfect circles? 

Basically, think of it like vacuum massage. I could talk about toxins or creating an energy racetrack in your body, but I really don’t like getting all woo woo. You know when you’re getting a massage or somebody is rubbing your shoulders and they hit a crunchy spot? I am 1) not a massage therapist and 2) way too lazy to work that out on my own power. I don’t use the glass and fire in the office so much; usually it’s a silicone suction cup that I squoosh onto your skin so it sticks well. Instead of me pressing, the vacuum is pulling, and the knot unties.

You have to pull the skin pretty hard to work at the muscle underneath, so it tends to leave a mark. For professional athletes, therapists are going to need more force than I usually use. To work out the average crunchy shoulders, if you aren’t someone who bruises when somebody slaps you on the back, you might be a bit purple for a few hours. If you are very pale or your muscles are very tight, the marks might fade out over a week. Most people feel enough relief they don’t care about the marks. But the world knows what it is now, so you don’t have to be embarrassed. Maybe warn me if you’re going to be a bridesmaid tomorrow so I make sure it doesn’t turn too dark.

If you are getting acupuncture and mention that your back or shoulders are tight, I almost always start by cupping anyway, but if you just wanted to try it, ask me about it at your next appointment.

Hair and allergies

I always tell people with allergies to wash bedding in hot, at least twice a month, and give yourself and any bed sharers (partners, kids, pets, whoever went outside! My cat doesn’t, so he gets a pass.) a good rinse. This way you’re not sleeping with as much pollen. However, not everyone can rock the short hair don’t care as well as I do, so here’s some help.

How to sleep on wet hair, from makeup.com
Some videos from bustle.com

Of course, you don’t want to encourage mold, so put a towel over your pillow or encase it in a membrane barrier.

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