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I’ve spent the last few days in a hospital, while a family-member had surgery and has been recovering.  This is a relatively new hospital, so it looks more like a nice hotel with its grand entry, “concierge-like” welcome desks, and comfortable furniture.  (They also have a great Au Bon Pain that is open 24 hours!)

Healthy tools available at the bottom of the kiosks: Face Masks, Facial Tissues and Alcohol Handy Wipes

One of the first things I noticed in the waiting areas were the Keep Everyone Healthy kiosks (pictured at right.)  These reminded me of an article I read a while back (Selling Soap) about how the risk of catching an infection IN a hospital is quite high, and that’s because the hospital staff doesn’t wash its hands enough.  The article talked about Cedars-Sinai Hospital in LA that had a successful campaign to encourage hospital staff to wash their hands more. 

I wondered whether these Keep Everyone Healthy kiosks were part of a larger push at the hospital to include everyone in the community.  Certainly, I have been a part of the hospital community for the better part of the past week, and I appreciated having the tissues there in the waiting room.  I saw some other folks go over and pick up a wipe or a tissue, too.  Though I have yet to see any face mask takers.

I have no doubt that seeing the kiosks in the waiting area has influenced my thinking about the importance of sanitation within other parts of the hospital; namely the rooms where patients are recovering.  There are signs all over the place that emphasize the importance of wearing gloves and washing hands before and after patient contact. 

I haven’t been keeping an eagle eye on the staff, but I can say that norm is for doctors/nurses/technicians to either put on new gloves, wash their hands or use a sanitizing gel when they walk in the room, and throw out the gloves or wash their hands on the way out.  It helps that each private room has a washing sink in the entry area, gloves are provided in three sizes, and there’s one sanitizing gel inside the door and another outside the door.

They have made it Simple and Easy to do this simple but effective community health safety step.  In my short tenure at the hospital, it’s become a habit!

So taking this out of the hospital, I’d like to think about what steps I can take to make hand-hygiene more of a routine for me, whether I’m at home or outside.  Some things come to mind:

  • Make an effort to wash my hands before each meal–especially when I’m eating out–and after I’ve used public transport or have shaken a lot of hands.  Also, after I get home from a day out. Do this enough, and it becomes a habit.
  • Increase this if I think I am getting sick, or have a cold.
  • Carry something like Purell hand sanitizer in my bag, as a backup.

Here’s a post from earlier about hand-washing, including a tip on how to know you’re washing long enough.

Well, I’ve been sick with one of those things that’s been going around.  Low fever, cough–mostly at night, nasal congestion, and very tired and spacey.

As you might guess, when I get sick, I pull out all my acupressure tricks.  But what is most helpful is just poking around.  After all, there are 365 “official” acupressure/acupuncture points on the body, but many hundreds more unofficial ones all over.  I figure, when I’m lying in bed, suffering from a cough and stuffed up head, I have nothing to lose.

So, for example, in the last few days, I’ve been pressing points all over my face around my eyes and nose where I’ve been feeling lots of pressure and discomfort.  Everyday, there are different points that respond to the pressure; where I get that distinct balance of pain-pleasure that allows me to take an extra deep breath.

  • along the bridge of the nose
  • points along the inner eye socket, starting at the inner eye (careful not to poke my eye, of course): these points can be extremely tender, so be gentle
  • right along the eyebrow ridge

I just made two cross-country flights to visit my friend, and unfortunately came down with cough and fever during my visit.  I suspect I had already caught whatever it was before I stepped on the plane.

Anyway, I’ve written before about the important of good hydration during airplane flights.

But this time, in addition to drinking lots of water, I did an experiment in steaming myself, because my throat and upper respiratory/chest area was hurting. 

I did this before I got on the plane.  I boiled a pot of water and put it on the kitchen table, then carefully leaned over it with a towel over my head–to create a little steam room–and inhaled the soothing steam.

Be careful that the water is not too hot!  And of course, always supervise if kids are doing this or if you kids around.  

And then on the plane, I asked for a cup of hot water–which they were happy to give me–and I cupped my hand around it to create a tiny sauna between the cup and my face, and breathed in the steam.  Of course the water was not as hot as direct-from the kettle, and it cooled pretty quickly, but in the context of the desert-dry airplane air, it felt great.

Cold season is here!neti pot

I’m finally getting over a cold where the main symptoms are tiredness and foggy-head during the day, and congestion right when I get up.  Lots of gunk in my sinuses.

Neti pot to the rescue!

This is simply a pot that comes from the Ayurvedic medicine tradition, which facilitates nasal irrigation.  I first learned about it from my yoga teacher, who said she no longer has allergies after she used her neti pot every day for an year.  I don’t have allergies, so I use when I have a cold.

You pour warm (body-temperature) saline (salty) water from one nostril to the other, and the result is a nice cleansed feeling.  At least, that’s my experience.  OK, it does feel strange and there is the fear of the “drowning” feeling, but the first time I tried this, it was pretty easy to learn how to do it, and I felt GREAT afterward.

Look at a how-to-use video here.  I use sea salt.  And find that if the water is just a little too cold or hot, or if there’s not enough salt, it really stings.  So go ahead and adjust right away.  It SHOULD NOT sting at all.

So, try this natural and less expensive alternative to nasal congestion relief.  And also consider it as a general wellness tool; use before and after you take a airplane trip, or after you’ve been at a party where other guests have colds.

You can buy a version at Walgreen’s; I think they call it a nasal irrigation tool.  I like the prettier version (photo above), which is also not made of plastic.  You can buy online.

Name: Crooked Pond (Large Intestine 11)

This point on the crease of your bent elbow, helps address constipation , intestinal discomfort from diarrhea and cramping, fever, sore throat, and elbow issues. It’s also helpful in balancing the immune system.

Location: Bend your arm and look at the crease by your elbow. The point is at the end of the crease, closer to your elbow. See where the red dot is in photo below.LI11 dot As with all acupressure points except the ones that run down the center of your body, this point is bilateral, which means it’s found on both arms.

To hold: Cradle your elbow with your other hand, and use your thumb to hold this point. You can lightly touch it, or massage with a firm touch, in a clockwise motion. Try just one arm, or both, if it’s comfortable. Remember to keep your shoulders and arms relaxed.

LI11 hold

If you have constipation or intestinal discomfort, you may feel relief quickly; the clockwise rubbing might work especially well.

For fever and general immune system balancing, lightly touch the point and hold for a few minutes, as long as it’s comfortable. You can do this several times a day.

For elbow issues, be gentle, but firm as long as it’s not painful.

You are encouraged you to seek the advice of a qualified health care provider for questions about a medical condition.

I’ve seen signs for flu shots already. It’s that time of year again.

And according to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), Autumn is the time of the runny nose, since the Nose and Mucous are associated with the season.

So, a couple of common sense ideas to stave off getting a runny nose (and catching cold):

  • Wash your hands: before you eat; after you get back from work or school; after you get off the bus or train (read this post)
  • Make sure you are hydrated. Especially in areas of the country where the heating is already drying out the air. Drink regular water. (read this post)

A month ago, I talked with a man in my building who complained about many months of feeling poorly. A couple of hours after eating, he would get a stomache and then a headache. It didn’t matter what he ate. This would always happen.

I was not surprised to hear that he got both a stomache AND a headache, because in Traditional Chinese Medicine, issues with digestion and headaches are connected. I told this man that I practice acupressure and showed him the HOKU acupressure point, which is on the Large Intestine meridian. He said he felt immediately relaxation and a decrease in his headache.

Yesterday, I ran into him again and he looked great. Apparently a Chinese herbalist had turned him onto Po Chai Pills, which I just researched and learned is an herbal blend in small pill size that address symptoms of indigestion, diarrhea, vomiting… While my neighbor’s pills were the “original” brand from Hong Kong, it seems that po chai pill may be a generally used name for herbal supplement remedies for stomachaches.

His stomachache swent away, and so did his headaches. He carries a vial of Po Chai in his shirt pocket.

So, next time you have a headache, pay attention and see if your stomach is upset. Did you eat something unusual? Or does a regular headache correlate to a regular digestive discomfort?

I’m not trained in herbs, so I encourage you to check with a trained practitioner, if you are considering adding them to your own Healthy Intentions Toolkit.

It’s flu season, and there’s nothing like all the news about the flu outbreak in the San Quentin Prison this past week to motivate me to wash my hands. Often. And thoroughly.

This seems like such a small thing, but the when it comes down to it, a lot of Everday Wellness is about the basic everyday things we do. Wash our hands. Brush our teeth. Eat healthy foods. Laugh with friends. Take a walk–get some exercise.

happy handsSo, back to happy hands. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, effective hand-washing involves washing your hands in warm water with soap by rubbing your hands together for 20 seconds. How long is that? Imagine singing–or actually sing out loud–“Happy Birthday” twice through to a friend. (Read more: CDC Clean Hands Campaign)

There’s a lot of talk about the pros and cons of anti-bacterial soap and anti-bacterial hand sanitizers. My personal recommendation is to use anti-bacterial hand sanitizers only when water and soap aren’t available, and to prefer thorough hand-washing with regular soap, rather than use anti-bacterial soaps. (Ideal Bite has tips on soaps and hand-sanitizers that offer more info.  ADDED 1/16/07: Here’s more on planet-friendly hand sanitizers.)

And if you need another reason to take the full 20 seconds to wash your hands, think of it as a 20-second acupressure massage. There are many acupressure points on your hand, so give an extra squeeze on each finger while you wash away unwelcome germs.