Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sinuses---the Entry Point of all those Germs and Other Airborne Crap that can Put You Down for the Count

Up front I want to say in my best preacher intonation, CAN I GET A BOOHOO PLEASE?

It's starting to push 4 months of constant debilitating aches and pain. I have never been this sick---other than when I had gall stone attacks prior to having my gall bladder removed and a ruptured appendix emergency surgery followed by 10 days in the hospital.  I just can't believe how sick my sinuses have made me.  

Here's the story and a little of what I’ve learned about sinuses misery.

In March and April we started opening most of our windows after winter was gone and spring had sprung.  Right outside my home-office window is a beautiful Birch tree with our hummingbird feeder swaying in the mountain breezes.  I love sitting at my computer “working” and writing while I can look out at the marvelous mountain scenery and wildlife.  Little did I know that the tree pollen season was in full crescendo here in the high desert Idaho countryside.

Unbeknownst to me I was bathing in deadly dust and pollen every time I inhaled.  Well, deadly to me at least.  I started to feel like I had constant headaches and flu like symptoms. Most days I was bedridden by 2pm.  My primary care doctor put me on an antibiotic and Flonase nasal spray to no avail.  I just kept getting worse. 

Next my wife Jeannie took me to an allergist to see what might be causing the problems. We found out I am allergic to Birch and Juniper trees.  Remember that Birch tree right outside my office window? 

I was put on different broader range antibiotic for 14 days, added and addition nose spray, and began a 2 time per day ritual of irrigating my sinuses with a NielMed saline system. It aint pretty (check it out on U-Tube) but it did start to flush ugly bloody green gunk out of my head and provided some temporary relief for a few hours each time.

We closed up the house which meant we had to use the air-conditioning more.  We also added and humidifier in our bedroom, an air cleaner, a Merv 12 filter on our furnace/air-conditioning unit, and regular steam inhalation sessions with eucalyptus and boiled water.  

After finishing the antibiotic and flushing my sinuses for three weeks I was still a sick puppy so I set up an appointment with an Ears, Nose, and Throat specialist who also does head and neck surgeries.  Yep, you got it---I was worrying about polyps or a tumor hiding up in my nasal crevasses.  He scoped the nasal passages which looked “inflamed” but no obvious polyps. There is some dark colored “mucus” hiding in the upper reaches.  I got to watch all this on a monitor.

The doctor said we should take a closer look by having a CT scan, which is scheduled for this coming Friday.  Hopefully we don’t find some menacing mass that needs surgical removal.  But this I do know, something has to change cause being this sick all the time has really gotten old.   

So bottom-line:  Take care of your sinuses.  Look it up online and you’ll be amazed at how many good things are available to help keep sinuses healthy.  Baby them and you will avoid all kinds of misery and expense.  OK---I guess I could use that BOOHOO one more time.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

In Search of Hot Springs Near Our New Home in Idaho written by my wife Jeannie Snow VanOrden

Last Sunday my husband Ralph and I drove a scenic byway north of Boise in search of hot springs. Drive in any direction from our home in Emmett and there are developed and unimproved examples of these volcanic remnants along the roads and rivers.  Last Sunday we were hoping to find a new, picturesque place to take a soak. A quick check of the internet gave us some ideas of places to search, quite a few not marked on a map but shared word of mouth by die-hard enthusiasts.  My family has a tradition of visiting hot springs.  We've searched out bathing spots from Wyoming to Alaska.  Our family's first hot spring adventure and favorite bathing spot is along the Alaska Highway in British Columbia.

First, a little family history:  In 1976, my husband and I sold most of our possessions, bought an old Volkswagen bus, and drove the Alaska Highway. It was September, our oldest child was six months old, and the Alaska Highway (or Alcan) at that time was a serpentine length of mostly dirt and gravel fraught with myriad dangers for the unseasoned motorist.  We suffered two flat tires, two broken fan belts, and blew up one engine along the way. In the deep woods of British Columbia when we were weary and grimy and still had a long drive ahead, we came upon Liard Hot Springs along the Liard River. Liard Hot Springs is quite simply a paradise. Steaming jade pools veiled in mist are surrounded by stately birch trees, dripping ferns, and wild flowers. Our road-weary bodies and spirits were refreshed in its gentle currents of hot and cool water.  We have visited it in the full bloom of summer and when hemmed in by thick banks of snow. Our last visit there was in late May of this year. The decks and dressings rooms have been nicely remodeled the pools still natural and even more magical. 

Our next hot springs encounter was in Wyoming as we traveled between Riverton and Cody for meetings related to Ralph’s profession.  On several occasions we stopped at Thermopolis, home of "the world's largest mineral hot springs".  At Thermopolis the hot springs are piped into a series of plaster lined pools adjacent to dressing rooms and showers. Not as picturesque as Liard Hot Springs but a welcome respite in the midst dry sage-covered hills.

When we lived in North Pole, Alaska we made several visits to Chena Hot Springs nearly sixty miles northeast of Fairbanks and home of the Aurora Ice Museum.  Back in the 80's it was a humble spot with a small swimming pool and a few wood tubs.  Now it has expanded into a resort of some renown, boasting geothermal energy to keep the Ice Museum chilled year round.  

Second only to Liard Hot Springs, our next favorite soaking resort is Lava Hot Springs, Idaho about four hours from where we live.   The hot mineral pools are beautifully landscaped and formed of rock.  The two largest pools have black gravel bottoms. The spring water at Lava has no sulfur odor. Best soaking times are during a rain storm.  Soak until you are too hot then lie out in the rain and cool off.  Lava Hot Springs is accessible and the town has many charms: float the Port Neuf River which flows through town or swim in the Olympic size pool.  Be sure to try the Bleu Burger with sweet potato fries at 78 Main Street Eatery.  It is the best burger I ever had. 

In 2007 when I was recovering from cancer radiation treatment, my son and his wife and children guided us to Kirkham Hot Springs alongside the South Fork of the Payette River near Lowman. Falls of hot water tumble into unimproved natural pools above and beside the river.  It was October and the air temperature was uncomfortably chilly but the water was deliciously warm.  Clearly this was a good time of year to avoid crowds at this popular bathing spot along Highway 21.

Our Sunday Drive did not reward us with a Sunday soak.  We explored Middle Fork Road along the Middle Fork of the Payette River.  The river is pretty gentle here and easily accessible. Rafters and swimmers were out in force, camping and swimming sites easy to spot.  But the hot springs were illusive.  Boiling Springs lay 1/4 mile beyond the road's end near a public use cabin behind a forest service gate. Since expectations of its condition were low we passed on the hike and headed back the way we had come.  We also passed on the extra eleven mile loop up to Silver Creek Hot Springs, a small mountain resort popular with snow-machiners.  

As we headed back toward Crouch we were able to pinpoint the location of Rock Canyon Hot Springs as being across the river near Tie Creek Campground, but were unable to pinpoint the location of Fire Crew Hot Springs, a popular soaking spot for forest fire fighters.  As we drove the highway toward Boise along the South Fork of the Payette River, I found the trail head for Skinnydipper Hot Springs four miles from Banks. This hot springs has a devoted group of "guardians" whole improve and maintain the pools fed by volcanic waters. 

We found great camping and swimming spots, enjoyed dramatic views of deep boulder strewn canyons, and pastoral views of rural farming communities.  Unfortunately, we had to go home for a hot soak in our large master bedroom tub.  Or rather fortunate for us we have such a luxury.  We will try again to add another soaking spot to our collection of hot springs adventures.  A few suggestions for when you are out doing your own exploring for bathing spots, be a responsible steward of these natural wonders. Don't use the isolation as an excuse to misbehave:  don't trash the wilderness, and wear a swimsuit!