Smoke Sick

Uncategorized Sep 14, 2020

As the west coast is blanketed in toxic smoke, our beloved forests are burning and many people are losing everything, some their lives. 

I sit in the smoke, grateful for my home, my air filters, and my ability to use natural medicine to heal—but most importantly, for the LOVE I feel. I am surrounded by you, my family and neighbors. I know we are all here for each other when we need it most. I believe this is THE most important part of being human. 

Here’s one thing I feel is happening to us all: we’re building incredible resilience and capacity for change, learning how to turn on a dime and find resources in ourselves and in our communities 

With the intense upheaval we’ve been in all year, there is a lot of fear in the air. And the natural human response to this is to try to make sense of it all—to create a narrative to tie it all together, create a story we can wrap our minds around. I believe that’s part of why so many conspiracy theories are popping up. 

I keep asking myself these questions: What is essential? What do we need? What do we want? 

To be right? To fight? 

Not me. I keep coming back to what makes me feel more present, more alive, more grateful for what is, even with smoke-smuggered skies and the grief of so much lost. 

What is essential in my life is love. From love, all the other essentials of life blossom: community and safety. 

When I nurture this in myself, I know in my heart of hearts that we will all not just survive—we’ll thrive together. 

I got sick yesterday from the smoke. My heart goes out to those who are houseless right now, more than ever. I woke up with a headache, a tight, painful chest, and dizziness from a day in and out of the car. I cannot imagine being without a home in this. I’ve been working on healing myself today and wanted to share some ‘thrival’ tips with you in case you need them now, or the next time a firestorm hits your part of the planet. 

I realize not all of you are in the smoke zone right now, but you may be at some point! So here are some tools and resources for you, whenever you need them. 

Smoke sickness: This is real. Headache, tight chest, foggy brain, sore throat, irritated eyes and nose, cough. Plus, all of this can trigger the autonomic nervous system and make us feel panicked—a natural, healthy response to get us to take action and find cleaner air! Research on this condition is increasing as we experience more fires because of climate change.[1] 

What to do: Get into the freshest air possible and stay there while your body breaks down the toxins. It can and will do this in good time. 

A few summers ago, my son got really ill while sailing in heavy smoke for a week. I kept him in the basement for a day, next to the air filter and our essential oil diffuser. He soon recovered, and was grateful to have his brain and body back. 

Get an air filter: This feels essential to me these days—not just for smoke, but also for mold, viruses, and any chemical that may enter your home thanks to home improvement projects or industrial accidents. 

I love my IQAir machine- for purchasing, check out Jason Kester at kesterclear.com. I am also using an Air Doctor now (airdoctorpro.com). 

Both brands are reported to filter out mycotoxins and viruses. I am not affiliated with these companies—just sharing what I use and find helpful! 

Grow houseplants: Along with being green and making us happy, plants emit oxygen and help break down indoor pollutants. I am super grateful for their help as I water mine today. 

Tape it up: The cracks below, above, and between our older doors and windows are now taped up to reduce the amount of smoke in our home. It is making a big difference! Phew. 

Hydrate with clean water: 

Hydration is always key to good health, and even more so when our bodies are being forced to break down more toxic by-products than usual. Whenever one part of your body is challenged, it is especially important to make sure you are doing all you can to support the rest of your being. 

Stay hydrated. I have been using a Multipure filtration system since I was in medical school waaay back in the ’90s. The same one is under my sink now. I replace the filters one to two times per year. Deanna DeLong is a lovely woman who sells these, and she’d welcome the financial support of your business right now. If you are interested in a great filter, you can email her at [email protected]

Masks: Such a topic these days! An N95 will protect you from particulate matter in the smoke. This is what I should have worn yesterday when I was driving in my car! Yes, in my car. I was still using my COVID-mask brain and took off my fabric mask when I was alone. Oops. 

This week, it’s all N95, all the time. 

However, the fabric mask has another very helpful use in our smoke-filled world. You can use it to moisten your dried-out, irritated mucus membranes and get the medicine from plants into your lungs and sinuses. I got my cotton mask wet and placed a few drops of essential oils on the outside of my mask—frankincense and a respiratory blend, plus a few drops of eucalyptus. 

The wet mask will moisten your nose and mouth, and the oils will help open your air passageways and decrease inflammation. 

But a wet cotton mask will not block the spread of COVID. Use the wet mask when you are alone or with your “inner bubble” people. 

Essential oils: I am always amazed at how well these work. I would be at a loss right now without them. Last night my chest was so tight, I began to panic. I set up my diffuser next to my bed with 7 drops of a respiratory blend and 3 drops of frankincense. I lay in bed doing deep belly breaths. The oils helped my lungs open, and I was able to calm myself and sleep. 

Here is a helpful recipe sent to me by friends: 

Just Breathe
5 drops eucalyptus oil
4 drops spearmint oil
3 drops lime oil
2 drops frankincense oil
1 drop orange oil 

Place in diffuser or place drops on wet mask. 

Humidify: You can add moisture to a room with a pot of water simmering on the stove. Add in some herbs: rosemary, mint, pine needles to help open your airways and lift your mood. 

Soothe your throat: With hot water, juice from ½ lemon and honey. 

Eat good food! Keep up that good diet with lots of vegetables and healthy proteins. 

Yellow and orange vegetables like carrots and fall squashes are filled with vitamin A and beta-carotene. These nutrients have a particular ability to heal the lungs. 

Fennel is also excellent for the lungs. If you are making juices or smoothies, consider adding some fennel. 

One of my favorite regenerative juice recipes: 
4–5 sticks celery
½ bulb fennel
1 medium cucumber
1 apple
1 peeled lime 

YUM! 

Take care of your heart and soul. We have been doing this all year with the pandemic. Keep it up! 

Reaching out and helping others can help us as well. There is so much I wish I could do. I have to settle for my small attempts to contribute. Many of us know others who have lost their homes. We are donating clothes and home goods to our neighbors. See the link below for organizations that are helping those who are displaced. 

With an election around the corner, I know that democracy works when we all vote, so I am spending some time tomorrow phone banking to get people to vote. Want to join me? There are many organizations leading ‘get out the vote’ call banking. It is fast, easy and effective way to help. 

I hope you are staying safe, well, and full of as much love as possible. Let me know how you are and if you have other ‘thrival’ tips! And please share this email with anyone you think it may serve. 

More resources: 

Here is a great article from the Oregonian about things we can do to help those who’ve been most affected by the fires: https://www.oregonlive.com/news/2020/09/oregon-wildfires-how-you-can-help-victims.html 

Information from the EPA about smoke inhalation and your health:

https://www.epa.gov/pm-pollution/how-smoke-fires-can-affect-your-health 

I have been appreciating the email updates I get from my local senator, Michael Dembrow. He has been providing daily updates on local COVID infections, and now he’s including wildfire updates, evacuation maps, etc. If you are in the Portland Metro area, I suggest joining his email list at www.senatordembrow.com

Here is a real-time air quality map for Oregon: https://aqicn.org/map/oregon/ 

Evacuation maps can be found here: https://heavy.com/news/2020/09/oregon-fire-map-near-me-september-12-evacuations/

[1] Liu, J. C., Pereira, G., Uhl, S. A., Bravo, M. A., & Bell, M. L. (2015). A systematic review of the physical health impacts from non-occupational exposure to wildfire smoke. Environmental research136, 120–132. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2014.10.015

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