I actually panicked coming out of my tonsillectomy. The nurses took such good care of me, giving me ice to chew on and calming me and telling me that they were taking care of me and nothing would happen to me. Fast forward to a few days later when I'm sitting at home and the same sensation happened again. No nurses, no ice chips, no soft voices. Just me in my living room alone, feeling like I was going to die. Heart racing, palms sweating, rapid breathing, falling to my knees and almost calling 9-1-1. Instead I called my doctor who calmed me down. I was breathing fine, see? I was not in any danger. Soft voice, comfort, still no ice chips.
I've been fine and there have been no panicky episodes since the tonsillectomy. Until this week. I came down with a cold over the weekend, and by Tuesday, my nasal congestion had gotten so bad that I was unable to breathe through my nose. I tried using my Neti Pot but the water wouldn't even come out the other nostril. I could breathe fine through my mouth, but my mind starts playing tricks on me. It tells me that my throat is drying up, that I'm going to start coughing and not be able to breathe. I felt the panic coming on, so I started to walk around my house and drink water, and I was able to mostly calm down. Thank Pharmaceutical Company for Afrin, because it's the only thing that absolutely opens my nose right up. Yes, I know it's addictive and that it's not actually making me any better, but given the choice between panicking and not panicking, I choose not. So the Afrin was sprayed, full blown panic attack was averted, and all was well. The problem with Afrin is you can only take it for three days or your body starts to rely on it, causing "rebound nasal congestion", which means you end up more congested than you were before.
Oh great, tell that to the woman who is terrified of not being able to breathe. I took it every twelve hours like clockwork, and as I would near the twelve hour mark my nose would start to close up again, panic, Afrin, lather, rinse, repeat.
Last night I tried not to take the Afrin, but at 2:30 AM, I finally caved. I couldn't breathe through my nose, and anxiety kept me from falling asleep.
This morning, I called the nurse hotline from my insurance company and spoke to her for twenty minutes. She gave me some great advice on how to clear up nasal congestion without taking Afrin (I believe her exact words were "No more Afrin. I mean it. Stop now."), which I will outline here for my own future reference. She said Afrin does nothing to actually fix what's wrong (mucus and germs built up in the respiratory system) and I could both BREATHE better and actually GET better by:
- drinking at least 64 oz of clear liquids per day (when congested) - water, tea, lemonade
- avoiding milk/dairy as it makes your mucous thicker
- using Saline Nose Spray
- inhaling steam, either by sitting next to a blazing hot shower or leaning over a steaming pot of water with a towel over your head and breathing in the steam for fifteen minutes
- using my Neti pot a few times a day
- avoiding caffeine and alcohol
Those guidelines are for when congested. She also suggested that all winter I should have a cool mist humidifier in my bedroom (and my kids' too), and use saline nasal spray any time my nose or throat feels dry. She said dry noses and throats are more susceptible to germs. Huh, who knew? Not me!
I have inhaled steam three times today. I put a large pot of water on the stove until it boiled. Then I put the pot in the kitchen sink, leaned over it with a towel over my head, and breathed deeply until my 15 minute timer went off. I did my Neti Pot twice and used saline spray a few times. I have to say, I'm breathing great right now as I get ready to go to bed. And I haven't had Afrin since 2:30 AM this morning, almost 24 hours. Yessss!!!