Sawdust, Dog Hair & Hot Air

Robert’s review: The one thing I want to say about this funny story is…Ah, Ah, Ah, Chooooow! Now what was I going to say?


I sneezed six times in a row this morning.  My sneezes are epically loud, known to set off seismic-measuring devices and claims of heart attacks.  Sneezing is not a demure act for me.  It is an all-out, whole-body, reflexive explosion.  Six of these thunderous detonations in succession can leave me feeling drained and in need of an enzyme replacement drink.  It’s a workout.

I am allergic to nearly everything, though some things wreak havoc more than others.  While many of my fellow Ashevillians enjoy the crisp autumn air and earthy beauty of fall, I am busy planning a strategic management of those nasty pollens from rag and other weeds.  In September, I pray for an early frost and set out my arsenal of drugs, sprays and drip catchers.  When pollen is particularly virulent, I perform the “little drowning,” aka neti pot flush-out.

S’not fun!

Imagine the ritual.  Gently warm some clean water to a degree which lies somewhere between that cup of tea you forgot about and a warm puddle in June, and fill your neti.  Rummage around in your pantry until you find the kosher salt (no iodine!) and then wonder if salt has an expiration status.  Carefully measure some arbitrary amount (or just grab a crusty lump because you’ve long forgotten the specific requirement and have probably never gotten it right anyway).  Drop it into the pot and swirl in a clockwise motion to dissolve the old clumps of salt.  Lean your head over the bathroom sink (close the door–total privacy is a must) and tilt your head.  The head tilting is hard to describe until the actual flow begins.  Place the spout of the pot into the uppermost nostril and…actually pour the water through your head so that it comes out the other nostril.  Don’t panic. 

Here’s where the tilting angle is important.  Move your head around until the water comes out of the lower nostril.  You will know if the tilt is incorrect if you are suddenly drinking a lot of salt water.  Any incorrect tilting will result in a flashback to that time you nearly drowned at the Jersey shore and your mother had to come drag your head out of the waves.  Never had that experience?  You will.  As soon as you begin using the neti pot.  It literally feels like drowning. You don’t necessarily need to have your mother standing outside the bathroom door repeatedly asking, “All okay in there?” but do so if she’s good in a crisis.  Repeat the process by tilting the head in the opposite direction and pouring more water into the nostril from which the last batch exited. 

Don’t breathe it!

My first attempt at flushing out the sinuses made my heart rate increase alarmingly.  This is the body’s natural response to imminent danger. I felt in that moment, some kinship to prisoners at Guantanamo. Neti is surely the distant cousin of waterboarding. Since it is not natural to have a pot-full of water residing in your upper respiratory apparatus, my eyes watered and there was a great deal of sputtering and spitting.  More water came out of my mouth than my lower nostril.  I had to restart a few times until I could calm down long enough for the flow to occur properly.  I finally got it.  Twice a day until frost.  The neti pot is my least tolerated, hoariest remedy– the Hail Mary pass toward the goal of being able to breathe through my nose.  It’s unpleasant, but it does work.

Today it is winter and this morning’s sneezes are the result of an assortment of aggravators.  My husband has a wood shop in the basement.  He prudently installed a filtration system to clean the air, which keeps him from dying of lumber lung or some such malady.  However, the system does not capture any sawdust which clings to his hair, clothes or shoes.  I am allergic to sawdust, thereby I am allergic to my husband.  He does not live in the basement, so from time to time comes upstairs to read his mail and take his meals.  The offending sawdust comes with him.  I would be happier if he wore a hazmat suit and there was a decontamination chamber at the bottom of the stairs.  Since neither of these things are available at this time, I have had to institute a save the sinuses campaign.

Dust-free fashion

You know those little booties surgeons wear when they are about to remove your appendix?  We have those.  Rule #1 for entering the basement:  Put the booties ON over your shoes.  Rule #2:  Take them OFF before coming upstairs.  It took a while to establish the required pattern for wearing the booties.  If I need to do laundry or grab something from the basement freezer, both of which require tramping through the wood shop, I have to sit down on the bottom step, reach into the basket of booties and slip a pair on over my sneakers.  Remembering to take them off again is the real pitfall.  After a month or so of practice, we’re getting closer to the goal. 

I bought my woodworker a nice shop apron to cover the majority of his clothing.  He’s happy to comply.  It’s kind of sexy in a Bob Vila, I need you to come shape my bowls sort of way.  Of course, he’s not allowed to come anywhere near me in that thing.  It’s covered in sawdust and little chips of wood.  I don’t want our passion to end in neti potting.  Sawdust kills the mood.  Then there is the controversial covering of the hair.  Previously, I bought him a stylish shower cap, in its original packaging, at a thrift shop. It makes his head sweat.  I then switched to bandanas.  I put three of them in his Christmas stocking.  I don’t think he’s tried wearing them yet.  Their use involves some strategic tying into a Harley Davidson beanie look.  I’m sure they don’t call them beanies.  I may need to Google to find out how bikers manage to maintain their cool (and dignity) while tying a scarf over the top of their heads before they set out to cruise the streets.   

Don’t mess with da pooch!

Having sorted out the corralling of sawdust, I next had to think about dog hair.  It’s everywhere!  Finding it in the soup pot along with the carrots and potatoes is a shocker, but when it’s on my toothbrush, that means a declaration of war.  Brushing this dog is akin to those greased piggie chases at the rodeo.   I’m willing to bet the piggies don’t bite.  I don’t want to bathe her too often, so I settle for covering the couch with a sheet and frequent vacuuming and mopping.  That gives me about one day of hair-free existence per week.  When it gets warmer, I’ll let her stay out in the yard all day.  Then I’ll have to wash the mud off her.  I’m beginning to think a greased piglet would be easier to deal with than my recalcitrant, shedding hound. 

With these two major contributors of sinus botheration (that’s sawdust and hair, not husband and dog) under careful if not complete control, I find my worst irritant is not an allergen at all.  It is the heat in our house.  Dry, hot air blowing on my face for hours while I sleep wreaks havoc on my carefully cultivated facial interiors.  We turn down the heat to a balmy 65° when we go to bed.  When the outside atmosphere drops to 20 something degrees, the heat never shuts off.  I might as well hold a hair dryer under my nose and let ‘er rip on high until my nasal passages crust up and bleed.  Taking an antihistamine only contributes to the parched, desert-like ambience within.

Wish I was here

The remedy is a little olive oil in the neti pot water.  Curative and slightly reminiscent of a well-made Mediterranean meal, I am soothed and have a hankering for some moussaka and a dip in the Aegean Sea.  Hopefully I won’t cause a tsunami with my sneezing!

It’s nearly spring,


Guest Editor Robert often helps me separate the wheat from the chaff, which I’m also allergic to.  Once we can travel, we may need to plan a trip to Santorini or Boone.  Or both!


  1. Had to laugh when I read about your sneeze loudness….it’s a joke here in our household because Wally leaves the room whenever I sneeze. If it’s one sneeze, he’ll go to the pantry, nose to the dog door. A double sneeze (or more) insures he is out the door and into the sunroom or further. Funny thing is my previous dog did the exact same thing. Weird. I knew they were loud but dog-scaring loud (and Wally is going deaf) is another thing.

  2. Oh yes, the neti pot! Wonder how many people in the US require artificial resuscitation after drowning with this thing. I’m sure that somewhere there is a Youtube demonstration of this nefarious, but effective device!

  3. Oy! I don’t use a Neti pot. I use NeilMed sinus rinse system. Much easier. He also has a netipot, but I couldn’t get the hang. Humidifiers are supposed to help when the heat is on. I feel your pain! I’m so glad the Neti pot helps you as NeilMed helps me. I allergic to things year round…. That’s fun! Enjoy winter!

  4. Try Googling “Do-Rag” for instructions on how to tie your motorcycle gang bandana. Or ask any middle aged bald guy how to tie it. LOL Good luck.

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