One of the wonderful things about travel is that it exposes you to all sorts of things and people. This is great, except from an immunological perspective: being exposed to all those people means that you in turn are exposed to their cooties. And when you have a toddler running about, especially one who demands “keeee-ses!” multiple times a day (not that I mind, it is heart-melting), you’ve already got a lot of cooties around anyway. So it came to pass that my wee diapered Petri dish and I headed into the holidays with a bit of congestion and a minor case of the sniffles.
I got the sense that the trip to Maine would be difficult health-wise as we were driving to the airport in Honolulu. Passing by Waipahu and through the valley, I realized that my ears weren’t clearing as we went down the hill. Crap. This boded ill for the flight. Sure enough, the descents on both legs of the flight left me in incredible pain–the second didn’t clear for a full 48 hours. It didn’t matter how much Emergen-C I drank, how many salads I had, or how much vitamin D I took. After six days in the dry, wintry air of Maine and another 13-hour travel day, the first days of 2011 saw me felled by the worst head cold I’ve had since we moved to Hawaii–one that morphed into infected sinuses almost immediately.
Rendered almost completely out of commission and being the good little millennial that I am, I crowdsourced solutions for my sinus pain on Facebook. Suggested remedies included grapefruit extract, juicing raw garlic, teas, and coconut oil. No problem, I thought. I can do all that fairly easily; I have all that stuff at the house!
First up was the garlic remedy: “take the juice of some raw garlic and use an eyedropper to put it up my nose. Hold nose shut for 5 minutes so it can take effect.” Now, I know a thing or two about remedies, and I actually wrote an article that says RAW GARLIC MAY STING. Did I remember this? No. Pity.
And sweet lady of blessed garlic bulbs, that is completely correct. It stings. It hurts. I screamed like I had not screamed since I was trying to birth an 8 pound infant and scared Maggie so badly she dropped to the floor and hid under Blankie. Forget holding the nose shut for 5 minutes. I ran for the bathroom, beet-red and pouring water from my instantly bloodshot-looking eyes, to try to get something cool in my sinuses. To call it a scourging would be putting it mildly. But the thing is, it worked. As soon as the sting passed, I felt better–but only for a bit.
Since I lacked the emotional fortitude to climb back on the garlic horse, I went to the next step: grapefruit extract in a neti pot. Grapefruit extract has phenomenal bacteria-killing properties, so strong that I keep some on hand to add to my laundry to disinfect Maggie’s diapers. Since I didn’t have a neti pot, I used an infant aspirator bulb as had been recommended to me by my surgeon after I had my sinus surgery in 1998 (I’m a sufferer from way back). But grapefruit extract is bitter, bitter, bitter as…a bitter bitter thing that’s bitter. And the other issue is that if your sinuses aren’t clear, that water may very well drain into your ears. What’s worse is that also might become inflamed, fail to drain and then pressurize and expand, and create a double ear infection.
If you’re REALLY lucky…you’ll feel a sharp pain, a bit of blood and yuck flowing out of your ear, and determine you’ve ended up with a ruptured eardrum.
I’ve been doing that kind of sinus cleansing for almost twelve years, and that’s the first time this has happened to me. After spending the remainder of the day rocking myself and praying for ear drainage (having almost totally forgotten my poor nose), I was ready to attack again after dinner. The final thing on the list was coconut oil, but that was mostly a preventative. The benefits of coconut oil are disputed but I’ve seen the antibacterial properties myself in dealing with Maggie and skin conditions, so I figured the advice to take a tablespoon or two to let it work an internal flush was sound. Also, it didn’t involve me putting anything liquid or plant-like up my nose. Win!
About 45 minutes later, I was on the couch Googling “does coconut oil cause nausea” and what do you know? IT SURE DOES. If you aren’t used to taking it, you have to build up your dosage…and plopping two tablespoons in your lemon tea is like going from 0-100 in twenty seconds.
I went to bed shortly after, both ears throbbing and one ruptured, nose plugged shut, lungs rattling, and stomach flip-flopping like it was sitting on a wobble board. If 2011 wants me bedridden, I thought, then bedridden I shall be.
The good news is that the combined treatments and about 10 hours of sleep left me feeling like an entirely new person the next morning. I still saw a doctor and had a prescription for antibiotics filled, but I haven’t felt the need to take them. Everything seems to have cleared on its own. I seriously doubt that the way I went about it was a good or sane strategy, and my left ear still kinda aches, but the abject misery I found myself in has passed.
Travel sometimes kicks my ass. And I just keep going back for more.