Wednesday, 9 June 2010

How I keep sane during hay fever season

I have often said I much prefer being too hot than too cold. My theory is that I can get rid of hot in various ways, but not get rid of cold. So it goes without saying that warm, sunny days are precious to me, especially since I moved to the UK, where the most common weather conditions are cold and dark.

Summer is all-too brief in the UK, with perhaps two months that have the possibility of ‘nice’ weather (i.e. sunny and warm) but rarely is the weather good for anything longer than a week or so. Things quickly revert to the more usual conditions of cool and cloudy, if not actually cold and raining.

So for someone like me, that really doesn’t enjoy cold days, the very few nice days are something to cherish, to make the most of, to really enjoy to the max… except that these same warm and sunny days are also the days that bring out my hayfever.

AH isn’t that a kick in the teeth?! So basically I suffer so much on these gorgeous days that sometimes I find myself wishing for some rain to settle all the pollen and give me relief. How ironic is that? Not to mention annoying and extremely inconvenient…

I have only suffered from hayfever in the last 6 years or so, and I’ve been pregnant twice in that time, which meant I’ve had to learn how to manage it without medication and so far I think I’ve done pretty well. I am often asked about the remedies I use so finally, here they all are in one page where they are easily found:

1. Medinose

This is probably the most successful of all my hay fever solutions and it is easily the most bizarre one. How does a little red light that goes in my nose two or three times a day make a difference? I honestly don’t know. I have read something about the science that goes on behind this but I must say that even after I started using the machine I wasn’t sure what was going on. All I can say is that it seems to work. It sounds ludicrous, the claims impossible but trust me, and it’s made my life bearable. It doesn’t get rid of 100% of the hayfever but it has made my eyes far less itchy and the symptoms are more tolerable. Try it and you may find it works for you too.

2. Haymax

This is basically a little pot with what can only be described as lavender-scented Vaseline, which should be applied to the base of the nostrils. This then traps pollen and prevents it from entering the nose. I don’t know if it works or not but it smells lovely, makes my nostrils soft and I can use it at the same time as the Medinose plus so why not?

3. Sunglasses

Surprisingly, this has been a very effective tool against feeling that annoying itch in my eyes that comes from hay fever. I am not a big sunglasses wearer so it has taken a while to get used to putting them on whenever I’m outside, but I do feel that it has made a difference.

4. Closed windows

Again, this may sound obvious but it is worth mentioning. Whenever the day is nice there is great temptation to drive around with the windows down, but I quickly realized this is a recipe for hay fever disaster so begrudgingly I use the a/c instead. Also, I make sure that windows and doors are closed at home, especially during the late afternoon hours when I’ve noticed my hay fever gets worse. It is annoying for the rest of the family but not as annoying as the terrible mood I’m in when my hay fever’s at its worst!

5. Wash hair every day

I read this tip somewhere and although at first I was sceptical, I soon noticed that it does make a difference, especially when sleeping. I have long hair which means that a lot of pollen could get caught up in it, so it makes sense to wash it every day, at the end of the day. It isn’t great for my hair, as it really doesn’t like frequent washing (and it always looks so much better one day after being washed) but the fact that I get sleep more than makes up for my bad hair days. Another tip is to keep hair pulled back and away from the face, which also seems to help.

6. Local honey

This tip is so well-known now that I feel that I don’t have to mention it, but will do anyway. I am lucky enough to have a farm that produces honey about 3km away from my house so I don’t think I can get much more local than that! The trick to make the honey work, for me, is to start taking it a month or so before I can expect the hay fever symptoms to kick in – sometimes I start taking it even earlier. It is no sacrifice as I do like honey. I don’t know if it works or not but combined with the other methods listed above, the symptoms appear to be under control.

I have tried many other things which haven’t worked, like acupuncture, homeopathic remedies and nasal sprays. I have even tried actual medicines like Piriton and Claritin which don’t get rid of the symptoms at all and make me feel horribly drowsy (and yes, they are the non-drowsy formulas!) So I’m sticking to my remedies as they seem to do an ok job. They aren’t perfect and some days are worse than others but at least I know that it won’t be long before I get a rainy day and get some relief from hayfever.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Why I won't be going back to Dubai

As I’ve told you, I kinda liked Dubai because the city is bonkers, the weather is nice and it was a nice place to spend a few nights. I also briefly mentioned that I had to get a visa for Dubai and glossed over the detail because I was willing to let that one slip…

I hold a Mexican passport (YES, even after all this time) and this document certifies me as a Mexican citizen and general undesirable in most countries in the world. Yeah, that’s right – but it’s ok, I have grown used to being treated like dirt (or, when I’m lucky, just merely ignored) so I wasn’t surprised when I learned that I’d need a visa for Dubai.

The Dubai visa system is a little different from others I’ve experienced: it mainly requires for someone to sponsor me for my visit – luckily this can be done by the hotel you’re staying in. So once the hotel is booked, they send over a bunch of documents that need to be filled and a list of requirements. I dutifully filled out the form and sent copies of my passport, my photo and my credit card… scary as it sounds. The reason for sending in a scan of the credit card is that they not only take payment from that (around £200 I seem to remember) but they also take a fee of around £1,400 (around USD$2,060) as a deposit on any ‘fines that the visitor may incur.’ Yes, you have to hand over money for fines you haven’t even incurred!

At the time I thought this was cheeky and annoying but did it as I had no choice if I wanted a visa. So I sent over all my stuff and waited for the visa to turn up – which it did and I was able to visit the UAE. Besides, I would get the £1,400 back once I was out of the country without incurring in any fines. I thought it was a bit steep as my overall credit card limit is £3,000 so this meant less credit was available for shopping. In all, a minor inconvenience… or so I thought.

The real kicker is what’s happened on my return. The £1,400 fee is actually taken from the credit card (not simply held) which means that when the statement turns up, the charge is there. So now I have to pay £1,400 in order to clear the balance on my credit card?! When my statement turned up with the highest balance I have EVER had, I passed out and then called the hotel immediately – where was my refund? I finally got an email the next day confirming the refund had been done and the slip from the bank machine to prove it (however, I did notice they did it on the day I called, not the day I’d left Dubai 2 weeks prior.) The refund itself would then take a further 7-10 days to appear on my card.

In the meantime, what to do? If I don’t clear the balance interest will be applied to my card and if I pay it I will then have to somehow get it back from the bank (not to mention finding the £1,400 to pay the card in the first place!) After numerous calls to the bank, we worked out that the refund should be in just in time to make the payment date. So we just paid the rest of the balance.

Next month I get another statement confirming the refund but – and this is the irritating part – because of exchange rate fluctuations, the amount refunded in AED doesn’t match the amount originally charged in GBP! So the refund is not quite enough to cover the balance but also, for some reason I got charged a transaction amount for BOTH the original charge of £1,400 AND the refund!! So as the refund didn’t clear the balance, I also have to pay interest on the whole statement amount… anyway, the whole thing has cost me an additional £250 on top of the £200 to pay for the visa, not to mention time and effort in trying to work it all out (and to date we are still trying to work something out with the bank).

I realize that this isn’t all just Dubai’s fault – my bank has been pretty cheeky too in applying charges to refunds and in the fact that the buy and sell exchange rate amounts are different… but I wouldn’t have had to go through all that if the UAE government didn’t have such ridiculous rules in the first place. Also, the way the timings are worked out means that it is impossible for the credit and the refund to happen in one statement period - even on a quick trip like ours. So everyone presumably gets the same inconvenience as we did.

This has now been enough to put me off returning to the UAE. The hassle is simply not worth it and it’s a shame because I think it would have been a nice place for a family holiday but NEVER AGAIN.


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