UPDATED SINCE ORIGINAL POST TO INCLUDE NEW TIPS FOR THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA FIRES OF 2018.
I have been treating multiple cases since last week of people being affected by the bad air quality because of the Southern California fires we're dealing with, with my patients' worsening of their allergies, asthma, and sinus congestions, eczema, chapped lips and dry skin.
I'd like to share this link that was created by fellow herbologists at Scarlett Sage during the Sonoma fires earlier this Fall. It has a list of helpful herbs to drink as tea to protect the lungs and mucous membranes, as well as to help calm frayed nerves from the anxiety. My Sonoma friend who suffered through the fires found the link super helpful, she said.
Some other tips to help ease respiratory distress and allergy symptoms:
Stay indoors and keep your activities to a minimum, even indoors, to protect your lungs. This is particularly the case for children as their lungs are not as developed and strong as us adults, so we need their lungs to be rested as much as possible to help them deal with the toxic air they’re breathing.
Turn on your A/C if it’s not pulling air from the outside. Keep the temperature on the higher side so your house doesn’t get cold. Keeping your body warm is very important in keeping your immunity up.
Take regular baths to help you stay warm and sweat, to help your body relax and detox.
HEPA filtered fir purifiers and nasal sprays are also very helpful to keep the sinuses clear and moist. I like Xlear. Keeping the sinuses moist helps prevent broken skin, which is a cause for irritants and infections to enter the body.
Stay well hydrated. If your skin feels dry or you have chapped lips, your body is really thirst, so drink more than you think you need. Consider not just water, but soups, as these are complete meals
Use a humidifier during these dry nights, and it's an overall good idea to use one during the Fall and Winter season as the air naturally gets dry, and worsens due to heater use in the house. If the bad quality air is affecting your family strongly, also consider doing facials steams with eucalyptus essential oil to protect the sinuses and lungs.
Diffusers are another option. Consider throwing in some essential oils of lavendar, eucalyptus, melaleuca (tea tree), or lavendar. Or get an EO already mixed for respiratory support.
If any of you are significantly feeling the effects of the ash, soot and general bad air quality, use mask N100 or N95. You can find them at hardware stores or paint shops. This tip is from the same friend who suffered through the Sonoma fires. Kid size N95 masks are available; I’ve found them on Amazon. Consider getting these for your immuno-compromised children and asthmatic children, but do keep an eye on them because breathing through a mask is still work and may make some kids have difficulty breathing. I would use these only if you have to be outdoors for a reason. The best tip really is to keep kids indoors.
Food as medicine. The following are foods that address dryness in the lungs: Apples, apricots, avocado, banana, cantaloupe, figs, molasses, persimmon, pomegranate, strawberries, sunflower seeds, watercress, oats, cucumbers. Eat these fruits room temperature, not fridge cold.
At the same time, be mindful of your family’s diet, especially now that we’re entering the holiday season. As much as festivities are about fun and indulgent eating, it’s important to keep your sugar/alcohol/gluten and diary intake low so the sugars and cloying nature of dairy doesn’t feed the inflammation. We WILL see a spike in respiratory illnesses and allergies in the coming days, weeks and months not only because it’s cold/flu season, but because our lungs will be taking a beating from the fires/smoke. Prevention and active pre-emptive actions are tools we can use to protect our health and our family’s health.
Get good sleep. Go to bed early (by 10:00p for adults; for babies/kids, anywhere between 6pm-9pm the latest depending on their age ) to repair and heal. Here is a helpful link to know how much children and adults should be sleeping nightly.
My colleague, Elisa Song, MD, has also shared a very detailed blog on how to detox from the air pollution, as she was also affected by the fires up north last year.
How can Asian Medicine help you during these times?
Consider getting cupping done to help open the chest and sinuses. You can also purchase facial cups made of silicone to gently cup the sinuses, neck, cheeks and forehead to support sinus drainage, both for yourself or your children. I offer quick 30-min cupping sessions so for those with time constraints, it’s a quick in and out but you’ll leave feeling a whole lot better and your chest breathing deeper and expansively. I also sell these facial cups at the office.
Consider also coming in for regular acupuncture/shonishin treatments for prevention and to lessen symptoms as well as to reduce stress.
If time is a crunch for you mamas or you’re needle phobic, I have Mommy’s Happy 30 Minutes sessions, which are ear acupressure session. Or I also offer herbal-only consultations to prescribe herbs that prevent or treat respiratory/allergic symptoms with herbs.
To book an appointment for any of these service, click here.
Tips for eczema sufferers
If you’re wondering if our current weather has anything to do with your skin flaring, you’re right.
This dry weather has all to do with why your eczema or your family's eczema is flaring up like crazy. Our skin breathes, just like our lungs (in our medicine, we say the skin is the outer organ of the Lungs). And right now, it's breathing in dryness and bad air. So the dryer the air, the dryer your skin gets because the blood, which is already compromised - dry and weak - and causing eczema, is not nourishing your skin. Consider drinking the teas or giving the teas I recommend in above in the link to your children as well. And do the above suggestions I listed, if you haven't already.
Consider drinking gelatin tea/bone broth multiple times a day or taking collagen to build up the hydrating elastic capacity of your skin. Wood Ear mushroom aka bai mu er in Chinese is also EXCELLENT at building that mucilaginous layer in your skin and membranes. Cucumber is cooling and hydrating.
Avoid red meats, spicy food and dairy.
Drive with the windows closed and with the air set on recirculation at all times, too!
Start taking or up your doses of your probiotics to support the gut which makes blood. I have a few topicals available in my office as well.
Last but not least, if your symptoms worsen despite medications or these preventative measures, consider coming in to get acupuncture and herbs. We have excellent natural remedies to fight many respiratory issues, as well as for anxiety as this can stir up fear and anxiety for many, and for eczema. We can also help boost your body's ability to fight off the effects of the dryness and toxic air quality.
Stay safe Angelinos, and we hope these fire get contained soon. May those of you who have been affected by the fires find safety and peace, and I thank all the hardworking fire fighters fighting the blazes!