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Breathe Easy: Listen to Your Lungs

Lauren Salapatek | July 31, 2015 | 8:23 AM

Standing at your station all day is tough enough. When you can’t catch your breath or you cough through your consultations, it can be miserable.

Summer is high-season for allergies and asthma, but any nagging symptoms require attention no matter the time of year.

Seasonal or More Serious? Any time you have trouble breathing or recurring bouts of coughing, see a doctor for a proper diagnosis.

If your symptoms flare up from spring through autumn, you most likely have hay fever, also called seasonal allergic rhinitis. You might be sensitive to tree and grass pollen, weeds or mold. Year-round sneezing, itchiness and watery eyes points to a food allergy or sensitivity to dust, feathers, animal fur or, again, mold. If these same symptoms are accompanied by a cough, difficulty breathing and a wheezing sound when you exhale, your problem might be asthma.

See an allergist, who should be able to pinpoint the cause of your allergic reaction or diagnose asthma. Typically, allergy shots or medication taken orally can ease symptoms. However, there are strategies and natural substances you can experiment with to see whether they make you feel better:

Lavender. The anti-inflammatory properties of lavender as an essential oil have been documented. Reducing inflammation in the passageways permits air to get through to the lungs.

Ginger. An expectorant, ginger can bring up the irritating phlegm that can be blocking air passages.

Menthol, eucalyptus and peppermint. These ingredients can soothe your cough reflex and provide a nice cooling for your chest.

Steam. A hot shower or breathing the steam from a teapot might open airways and ease symptoms.

Neti Pot. Many allergy sufferers get relief from this simple method to flush nasal passages and clear out the sinuses.

Acupuncture. It’s worth a try especially if you work at a spa with an acupuncturist on the team.

Pneumonia mirrors the flu but tends to carry additional symptoms such as sweating, confusion and sharp chest pain that worsens when you breathe deeply or cough, according to the American Lung Association.

Today, chronic bronchitis and emphysema are grouped under chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), COPD is the third leading cause of death in the country, and many people are not even aware that they have the disease. There is no cure, and the breathing problems caused by COPD gradually interfere with the person’s ability to pursue normal activities.

Smoking is the overwhelming cause of COPD, but other irritants in the air also could contribute to the condition, according to NIH. Smoking and second-hand smoke also are well-known as the major culprits with lung cancer, but you might not be aware that exposure to radon seems to play a role. Healthy Hairdresser supporter City of Hope reports: “A product of uranium breakdown, radon can come up through the ground and leak into buildings. Of nonsmokers killed by lung cancer, about 30 percent had been exposed to radon.”

Jerry Gordon, owner of J. Gordon Designs in Chicago and past president of Cosmetologists Chicago, suffers from COPD and has made it through two bouts with lung cancer. At age 78 and still doing hair, Gordon is a reformed smoker who is passionate about persuading smoking hairdressers to drop the habit.

After trying all of the usual methods, Gordon finally kicked smoking years ago by using the nicotine patch, but even that took months. Gordon says “habit” is too mild a term, because he considers cigarettes to top the list of addictive drugs. “Smoking gets into your nervous system,” explains Gordon, who brings portable oxygen to the salon to use while he works.

At the salon, Gordon has installed industrial-sized air purifiers, an intake fan, an exhaust fan and a trio of ordinary air fans across the ceiling. He feels that the tiny particles in aerosol sprays aggravate his condition, so his team uses only pump sprays. This barely resembles the salon Gordon launched in 1974, when puffing on cigarettes was ordinary indoor behavior.

“There’s not any one treatment,” Gordon says. “Get into a support group like SmokeEnders. Ask your doctor about medications that make it easier to quit. Everybody should quit, period. We’re in a tough business that requires a lot of physical stamina. I’ve stood behind the chair for 60 years, I still love it and I’m still standing there.”

CLEAR THE AIR

Two of Healthy Hairdresser’s supporting companies are helping stylists to breathe clean air. The Aerovex Healthy Air Chemical Source Capture System positions hoods at every styling station to draw vapors and fumes away from the stylist and client. Freestyle Systems recently introduced the VaporFree Ventilation System, which creates an all-in-one system integrated with the Freestylist Hanging Hair Dryer and SpectraLights LED lighting.

BREATHE RIGHT TO HAVE A GREAT DAY

As a beauty and wellness professional, you show up every day to nurture others, even though creating beauty can take a toll on your own well-being.

Linda Gillette Parodi, founder of Parodi Professional Care, a 2015 Healthy Hairdresser sponsor, knows firsthand that the long hours, stressful environment, exposure to chemicals and constant use of water can wreak havoc on hairdressers’ hands, and standing all day behind the chair affects how your feet feel at the end of the day.

Through her company’s hand and footcare products for salon pros and their clients, Parodi puts into practice her mantra: “I believe every hairdresser deserves to feel great every day and all day long.”

Adding that beauty and wellness professionals need products that help them feel good, as well as information that allows them to enjoy a long and healthy career, Parodi says her company has aligned with Mary Beth Janssen of The Janssen Source “as a wellness consultant to bring this information forward.” In her popular book Pleasure Healing, Janssen says that the quality of the services you provide clients is a direct reflection of your own attitude and quality of life because both are intrinsically linked to how you handle stress.

Janssen focuses on proper breathing as essential in shifting from a stressed to a relaxed mode. With each inhalation, we send oxygen through our blood to every cell in our bodies,” Janssen says. “When we fully exhale, we are detoxifying, rejuvenating and renewing our bodies. However, people generally take shallow chest breaths that Janssen says can cause hyperventilation and added stress. She teaches people how to breathe correctly by creating an internal rhythm that balances the body’s organs and systems.

Even during a busy day in the salon or spa, you can do Janssen’s correct diaphragmatic or belly breathing:

#1: Align your spine so you are standing or sitting tall. Roll your shoulders down and away from your ears, and bring your spine into a neutral position.

#2: Take in a deep breath through your nose. Feel the flow of air as it travels into and through your lungs. You should feel your lower abdomen moving out.

#3: Slowly and fully exhale, letting your tummy move inward toward your spine. You should feel a deep sense of relaxation while at the same time feeling the flow of energy increasing.

Parodi suggests you practice this breathing technique after every client and take at least five full breaths each time. “While you’re taking this ‘breathe break,’ you can easily apply your Parodi Daily Moisturizing Cream,” Parodi adds. “Invite your client to join you in your Parodi breathe break.”

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