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7 Ways to Cope with Airplane Ear Pain

image courtesy of marin at

image courtesy of marin at

The hassles of airports are bad enough without the uncomfortable pressure that builds within your ears during airplane flights, also known as ear barotrauma. Ear barotrauma occurs when the eustachian tubes get blocked and your body cannot balance the air pressure inside and outside the eardrums. The temporary hearing loss has only one benefit:  It comes in handy when encountering the misfortune of sitting near a nonstop loud talker. Unfortunately for some people, however, ear barotrauma is much more than discomfort; it’s downright painful. Planning ahead is key. There are ways to minimize the effects of airplane ear pain.

  1. Prep Work

Begin taking decongestants containing pseudoephedrine and guaiphenesin (Mucinex D, for example), provided you have the go ahead from your doctor, 24 to 48 hours prior to your flight. If you suffer from allergies, be sure to take your antihistamine pill and prescription steroid nasal spray. Choose nonstop flights when possible, and drink enough water prior to boarding to stay hydrated so that your mucous membranes do not dry out. If you normally experience ear pain in flight, you might consider taking some pain medication, such as Advil or Tylenol, prior to boarding.

  1. Filtered Earplugs

Pressure-equalizing earplugs (such as EarPlanes brand) can be purchased at drug stores or at the airport. They are designed to minimize the pain from the rapid changes in cabin pressure. Insert them as soon as you are seated on the airplane and again at least 30 minutes before descent. If it’s a short flight, you may want to leave them in for the duration. There have been mixed reviews on the success of filtered earplugs, but, when in pain, it’s worth a try. Bonus:  The nonstop loud talker seated near you will sound muffled.

  1. Proactive Rituals

Using vasoconstricting nasal sprays (such as Dristan or Neo-Synephrine) right before takeoff and prior to descent will keep your nasal passages clear. Many people chew gum to keep their jaws moving. Sucking on lozenges maintains the goal of swallowing as often as you can. You can also inhale and blow through your nose very gently while pinching your nostrils shut to force air through the blocked eustachian tubes.

  1. Be Sleepy but Stay Awake

Yawning can be very effective for relieving the pressure by making your ears pop, so being a bit tired might be to your advantage. You do not want to be asleep, however, during the ascent or descent. Those are the critical times to make conscious effort to swallow often, to keep your jaws moving and to relieve the pressure as best you can.

  1. Young Children

Encourage young children to swallow by sipping a beverage during takeoff and descent or using a pacifier while sitting up. Since young children should not chew gum, drinking through a straw or blowing bubbles through a straw may help. Decongestants are generally not recommended for young children. Talk to your pediatrician regarding prescription ear drops that contain a pain reliever and numbing agent.

  1. Things to Avoid

Stay away from alcohol and caffeine before and during flight. Both are dehydrating and can cause the mucous membranes to become inflamed. Smoking will exacerbate the situation. If you can, avoid flying when in the throes of an upper respiratory illness and suffering from congestion. If you are a nervous flyer, choose to instead self-medicate on an indulgent, calorie-laden treat (unless you are prone to motion sickness, of course—a topic for another time).

  1. Can Ya Hear Me Now?

Temporary hearing loss and associated discomfort should return to normal within an hour after landing. In the meantime, enjoy not having to listen to your traveling companion complain about his or her lost luggage. However, if you have pain, dizziness, ringing in the ear or hearing loss for several hours, you need to see a doctor. If painful ear barotrauma is a chronic problem for you, discuss treatment options with your doctor—perpetual suffering every time you fly is not one of them.

If you need to travel often, it’s smart to keep your immune system strong by supplementing healthy eating and exercising with anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting herbs and vitamins such as turmeric, ginger, astragalus, elderberry, echinacea, goldenseal, oregano, Vitamin C and probiotics. Have you tried any of these remedies or some others not mentioned here?  If so, other than abstention from flying (my number one choice), have you found some effective relief?


Natural Remedies to Kick Chronic Sinusitis to the Curb

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Fed up with constant sinus problems? Sick of stockpiling decongestants and antibiotics? Tell me about it. I’ve tried everything short of spraying Lysol up my nose. Nothing smells of desperation quite like risking permanent damage to one’s olfactory organ for the remote possibility of eliminating sinus pressure. Every year, once my allergies are in full bloom, I’m back in the throes my annual six-month sinus infection. Oh, how I love a tall glass of pounding headache in the morning with a shot of facial pain. Not so much. The good news is that I found a combination of remedies that finally kicked my chronic sinusitis to the curb.

Spray what?

No worries, I was only kidding about the Lysol. However, grapefruit seed extract (GSE) nasal spray is no joke. In fact, I believe this is the single most beneficial preventative and curative measure I have taken. GSE  is a strong natural antioxidant and antibiotic. After using this for several days, all of a sudden—OH EM GEE—I can breathe!

Clear the Air

Keep in mind this simple mathematical equation: dried-out sinuses + inhalation of germs = chronic stuffy nose and headache. Multiply that by facial pain and now you are the product of a huge sum of nasty disposition. Invest in an air purifier, particularly for your bedroom, and make sure it contains a HEPA filter. (I also have a small unit which uses UV light to sanitize the air. It’s near my desk at work—can’t hurt, right?) A humidifier in your bedroom for dryer months is a must. Mix tea tree oil, lavender oil and eucalyptus oil with apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle to kill mold and germs in the air.

Boost Your Immune System

A good-quality probiotic should be an everyday staple for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it aids your immune system. Make sure you put vitamin D in your daily pill organizer next to the multivitamin and vitamin C for the same reasons. Determined to win the battle against my chronic sinus infections, I now ingest many herbal supplements to help strengthen my immune system. After trial and error, I have come to rely on these, my new best friends:  goldenseal, elderberry, garlic, oregano, and astragalus. Warning: buy only reputable brands. Otherwise, you might as well toss your money in the trash can alongside the insurmountable number of tissues you’ll undoubtedly use while in the midst of yet another sinus infection. Of course, you already know not to begin taking any herbal or vitamin supplements without getting your doctor’s OK.

Natural Anti-Inflammatories

Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple, is touted for its strong anti-inflammatory properties, particularly for the sinus. Many people are aware of the numerous health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids such as promoting healthy eyes, heart and joints. Add soothing inflamed sinus cavities to its long list of attributes. Research the benefits of turmeric and ginger. These have become essential regulars in my daily supplement regime. Bonus: ginger is purported to help prevent memory problems; if this is true, at least you won’t forget to take the rest of your supplements.

Food Basics

I have disciplined myself to drink a nutrient-rich super-green cocktail every day. Okay, it’s actually more like a river-silt flavored super-healthy drink which deceitfully boasts a pleasant berry taste. Nevertheless, it give me me energy and makes my skin look maaaaaahvelous.  I now almost like the taste–almost. Stay away from mucous-producing dairy products but be cognizant of getting enough calcium. Almond milk is a tasty alternative.  It is high in calcium and vitamin E and low in sugar. Speaking of sugar, some experts suggest that eliminating it from your diet, along with grain products and caffeine, will cut down on mucous production. Quite frankly, there is no way I can possibly cut sugar, grain or caffeine out of my diet entirely; I just mention it in case your resolve is greater than mine. Try drinking 2T of apple cider vinegar in an 8 oz. glass of water at least 3 times a day at the first sign of symptoms. Apple cider vinegar thins the mucous and is antibacterial and antifungal.  Honey and garlic also have antibacterial, antiseptic and antiviral properties.

Stick to the Basics

You need to keep up on the basic preventatives. It’s important to keep your sinuses moist with saline nasal spray. Warm compresses are comforting for facial pain and help open the passageways. I can’t say enough about the positive results I’ve gotten from NeilMed Sinus Rinse with a drop of tea tree oil.  This method is less awkward than the neti pot. Prescription steroid nasal sprays and daily allergy medications are helpful preventative aids if your chronic sinusitis is a result of allergies. Steaming the sinuses is soothing and helps relieve headaches. (I love the compact personal steamers sold in drug stores).

Allergy Proof Your Home

Not only frequent dusting and vacuuming but also regular cleanings of the HVAC system and wall unit air conditioners are super important. Keep your linens and mattress cover clean and dust-mite free. To be honest, I have little personal knowledge of whether regular and meticulous cleanings of my home would benefit my sinuses. If I miraculously develop the gumption to give it a try, I’ll report back.  What remedies or rituals have worked for you?


Pink Himalayan Salt Benefits – Yea or Nay?

Himalayan Salt Soap

This post is in celebration of today’s holiday: International Skeptics Day. I’m sure you’ve already heard about the benefits of pink Himalayan salt. The sea salt located deep within the Himalayan Mountains was produced many millions of years ago. It was covered with lava a long time ago and is now surrounded by ice and snow. Both coverings are thought to have kept the salt pure. The pink color is due to its iron content. The salt also contains iodine, magnesium, calcium, potassium, zinc, and a whole host of other minerals–80+ minerals, actually. As you may already know, some of the purported benefits of ingesting the salt are as follows:

♦  aids proper metabolism function
♦  improves circulation
♦  detoxifying
♦  helps with the body’s absorption of nutrients
♦  strengthens bones
♦  lowers blood pressure
♦  is anti-microbial
♦  helps with acid reflux

The salt is also being praised for reducing signs of aging. I am wholeheartedly choosing to believe that this is true!

There are also plenty of skeptics’ reports stating that the minerals contained in the salt are in such trace amounts that they really don’t provide much benefit. They also say that the body already contains enough of the minerals contained in the salt. It is additionally reported that while Himalayan salt might be more pure than other sea salt, the contamination in sea salt is so little, that the difference is miniscule. Skeptics believe Himalayan salt is the just the current fashion, similar to a latest Hollywood craze.

Whether you agree that ingesting the salt provides beneficial results or not, here’s something I do know: External use of Himalayan salt on can provide relief for a variety of skin conditions such as itchy skin, eczema, psoriasis and rashes. If you bathe regularly with it, you’ll see what I mean. Despite skeptics’ claims, my muscles feel more relaxed after a soak and my skin looks and feels better than if I were to bathe with regular sea salt. Since I am not a scientist, I really can’t comment if the mineral benefits are absorbed by your body through your skin for internal benefit. I can only go by my customers’ feedback that my Himalayan salt soap has helped their various skin conditions. The spa-like experience also provides soothing relief to the body and mind.

Check out my Yen for Zen Himalayan salt scrub soap.  It has relaxing exfoliation with an intoxicating green tea/sandlewood scent.  If you’re having skin issues or just want to have a spa-like experience, I recommend giving a Himalayan salt soap bar a try. Bonus: salt bars keep your shower clean.

Now let’s get back to what’s important, shall we? I’ll let you know in 10 years if the purported anti-aging benefits prove to be true. If so, I guess 60 will be the new 20.


Choose Soy Wax Candles and Breathe Easy, Candle Lovers

soy wax candles - 29Forever Soaps+

soy wax candles – 29Forever Soaps+

Soft, flickering candlelight is romantic and pleasing to the senses. The scented glow of candles is the perfect complement to a relaxing evening bath. The dancing flames quickly create a sensual and soothing atmosphere. Well, at least you’ve got that going for you—which is nice—until the soot-stained walls and respiratory irritations ruin the moment.

How About a Nice Hot, Steaming Mug of Petrochemicals?

Paraffin is the most commonly-used wax in candles because its high melting point makes gorgeous pillar candles, it burns fairly uniformly and is cost effective. Paraffin is a by-product of petroleum. Specifically, it is the leftover waste from gasoline refining, and burning paraffin can release the same carcinogens produced when gasoline is burned in your car. Did you just say yuck?  It’s worse than yucky; it’s downright unhealthy.  I know from personal experience that, over time, the sticky, black petro-soot emitted from burning paraffin wax clings to everything including walls, upholstery, and ductwork. I suppose you could repaint your walls and replace your furniture but what about the delicate lungs of young children and pets? You can’t replace those.

Soy Wax Burns Clean

Because there is no soot or carcinogens from petroleum, soy wax burns clean. Have you ever noticed the black smoke ascending from a paraffin candle after you blow it out? Yeah, there’s none of that with soy. Test it out for yourself with jarred candles. Extinguish a paraffin container candle and a soy container candle with their respective metal lids. Go ahead; I’ll wait. OK, now take off the lids and take a peek. I’m sure you’re not feeling romantic or relaxed about the black soot on the paraffin candle lid.

Safe for the Environment and Good for Economy

Soy wax is vegetable derived and biodegradable.  This means it won’t be clinging to your rose bushes for another century or lying in wait deep in the soil and groundwater for your great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren. Parenthetically, it’s good news that lead wicks are not much of a concern anymore, at least in most countries. In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has banned lead wicks. Most reputable candle makers have not used lead-core wicks for several years. In fact, many use pure cotton, paper core and even hemp.  Another positive is that many soy beans are grown in the good old U.S. of A.

Easy Clean Up

Soy wax is water soluble. It can easily be removed from containers with soap and water. If you melt soy wax tarts in an electric tart warmer, you can simply pour the melted wax out and wipe the container clean with a paper towel. If the wax has hardened, put the container in the freezer for a while and then the wax will pop right out. Most importantly, soy wax can be effortlessly cleaned off your gorgeous antique oak table if you accidentally spill hot wax. (Ask me how I know.)


Soy wax candles are generally not much more expensive than paraffin candles. In fact, in many cases, they are cheaper than big name brand paraffin candles. You just need to be sure that they are made from 100% soy with no undesirable ingredients. Just like everything else, there are both great quality and poor quality soy candles.

An Easy DIY

Speaking of affordable, why not make them yourself?  Because of the easy clean up, an unintentional spill of melted soy wax will not become an unwanted modern art exhibit affixed to your kitchen counter. There is also low shrinkage so, unlike paraffin, you won’t need to top off the candles with more wax once they harden. If you use the pre-tabbed wicks, it’s even easier if you are a candle-making newbie. Pure soy wax generally should be burned in containers because of its lower melting point. However, there are some soy waxes with higher melting points suitable for pillar candles.


Soy wax has exceptional scent throw. If you decide to make your own candles, you can splurge on scenting with pure plant essential oils using the money you save buying soy wax flakes in bulk. The combination of eucalyptus and mint not only cleans and disinfects the air but is beneficial for headaches and sinus problems. Many people find lavender and lemongrass oils to promote relaxation; citrus oils to be uplifting for their mood; and patchouli to make them feel totally chill.

You diehard candle lovers can relax and breathe easy—literally. Soy wax to the rescue. Just think, if you replace the paraffin candles burning in your fireplace with soy wax candles, you can rest assured every Christmas that you have given Santa Claus the best present ever—a huge reduction in his dry cleaning bills.

© 29Forever Soaps +     2015

7 Natural Spider Repellents


How do you feel about creepy crawly spiders lurking about? Many of us respect all living things, even scary spiders. Admit it, though. The thought of all those furry legs waltzing around your home at night is unsettling, at the very least. Then, there are those of us who scream and dance the Irish jig as if we were being mauled by a saber-toothed tiger. Here are some pesticide-free ways to lessen the panic-inducing arachnid encounters.

  1.  Keep Out!

Keep the porch light off because lights attract bugs, and bugs attract spiders. Cut back unkempt bushes and trees near your home. Keep the exterior free of leaves, grass clippings, and wood piles. Make sure all crevices, nooks, and crannies are sealed up tight. Caulk around windows and doors, and check screens for holes and proper fit. Inspect plants and firewood before bringing them inside. For those who are not averse to killing spiders, sprinkle food-grade (not pool grade) diatomaceous earth with a squeeze bottle around the exterior perimeter. The powder dehydrates them by getting under their external skeletal plates but is safe for animals. Diatomaceous earth can be found in feed stores or online, such as here.

  1. Botanical Bouncers

Let natural vigilantes enforce the “Do Not Enter” law. Grow spider-repelling plants such as lavender, mint, cilantro, and garlic—particularly under windows. Throw some eucalyptus sprigs and sprinkle cinnamon around the perimeter of your home/garage/shed. Place lemon, lime, and orange peels in your garden. Cedar mulch repels many insects, including spiders. While you’re at it, place cedar blocks in your home and use cedar hangers. Since spiders detest citrus, spray sugarless citrus oil outside the dwelling. You can also wipe your countertops with it. Sugarless citrus oil can be found in auto parts or beauty supply stores or online here. Spiders (particularly wolf spiders) are repelled by the smell of chestnuts. Place chestnuts outside and inside windows and doors.

  1. Essential Oil Spray

Make sure you are always locked and loaded with a spray bottle full of natural repellent. Dissolve a tablespoon of salt in a warm gallon of water. Mix in a few drops of peppermint, eucalyptus, citronella, citrus, or tea tree oil; 5 drops of dishwashing detergent; and a dash of vinegar. Why dish detergent? It emulsifies the oils in the water for a more soluble mixture. Spray not only outside but also inside the dwelling on baseboards, window sills, and corners. Reapply once a week. In addition, spray locations populated by other insects, which are spiders’ food. Eliminating spiders’ food is a great deterrent. Do not use essential oils if you have cats, however.  Neem oil is another alternative and is safe for pets and children.  Make sure it is pure neem oil and not watered own with additives, such as this one.

  1. Spice Things Up

If you would rather not use essential oils in your mixture, you can substitute them with a few cloves of garlic, capsaicin powder, chili powder, or hot sauce. Of course, this is best for outside use only unless you don’t mind your baseboards smelling like tacos. Bonus: The potent mixture might even repel pesky neighbors.

  1. Pet Patrol

Cats and dogs walking the beat in the homestead can’t hurt. Rest assured that their inquisitive nature and expert investigative skills will arrest any spiders you missed. Cats make exceptional undercover agents due to their stealth and agility—well, at least for the one hour per day that they are awake.

  1. Electronic Insect Repellents

Plugging in an electronic ultrasound unit in each room may help cut down on creepy crawlers entering your abode. There are mixed reviews on their effectiveness, but it may be worth a try. Look for units that constantly change up the ultrasonic waves so that the pests cannot adapt to the sound, similar to this. The units claim to be harmless to pets, but keep in mind that cats have very sensitive ears.

  1. It’s Time to Clean House

Regular dusting and vacuuming will help keep things under control. Reducing piles of paper, boxes and bags are key, too. Don’t roll your eyes; I know it’s easier said than done. Bright side: if you don’t have time to clean, at least you won’t know how many bugs are lurking under the clutter. Here’s an incentive: lemon-scented furniture polish is also a repellent, and rubbing citrus peels on baseboards, window sills and bookshelves is a quick preventative.

You are now fully armed and ready for battle with your natural spider repellents. Keep in mind that in the event that your proactive efforts fail, screaming and flailing your arms will most likely evoke someone else to take action.