Protecting your ears, nose and throat on the playa
Nose, sinus and throat care are more important than ever in the dry, windy air at Burning Man. I recommend you provision carefully here and take care of those little crevices and parts of your body. They may be little, but when they are out of kilter, oy! Caring for your nose will help care for your sinuses. If you’re particularly prone to sinus problems, double up on the nose care and dust masks.
It starts with nasal spray
Get the very best saline nasal spray
I know people who don’t bring saline nasal spray to the playa, and I sort of look at them as though they have three heads. I use it, daily. Several times a day. I share my nasal-spray bottle with friends and think not of hygiene the way I would in the default world. We’re in the desert for goodness’ sake, and a desert that isn’t kind to human bodies. Use saline nasal spray, but not just any kind of nasal spray.
In my experience, cheap nasal sprays have burned my tender mucous membranes. I’ve even started bleeding from using some of them. (For me, these cheap brands have included Target, Arm & Hammer products and other generic nasal sprays.)
I encourage you to spend the extra money here and, more importantly, to test your sensitivity to the brand for several days before heading out to the playa. It’s not worth the couple dollars you save to buy a generic or store-brand saline nasal spray. It’s important for your health that you have a good nasal spray. This is a health-critical item.
Brands I have used and comfortably recommend include Xlear and Similasan. There are many other options. Some people recommend Ayr Saline Gel. I bring two bottles and often keep one in my bag, while the other one stays in my tent with my personal care items.
Essential oils (to inhale)
I bring a bottle of blended essential oils designed to help improve breathing and airflow. Such oils can help open up and support breathing and airways, and they just smell so nice and refreshing. This oil is certainly an optional item, though, for me, I really appreciate having it on hand, and the bottle is small and takes up little space in my bins. A no brainer, in my book.
Tissues, travel pack
Pack them, have them on hand, use them. Clean your nose and sinuses regularly with them.
Neck scarves as dust masks – 100% silk!
I’ve tried so many different types of dust masks: industrial type masks, masks with filters, masks for dirt bikers, stretchy dust masks. All kinds. I’ve spent well over $100 on various masks, and, for me, at the end of the day, I’m really happy with a few silk or light-wool scarves for warmer temps, and a neck gaiter or two for colder temps.
Definitely bring a couple/few scarves in each category of weight and thickness. Why? Well, you probably don’t want to use the same scarf for 10 days (eww), and you could potentially lose one. Plus the temperatures will vary. Scarves are small, they pack light and they’re essential. If you’re a thrift store shopper, these items are easy enough to find there.
Consider a stretchy dust masks
The one dust mask I’ve found I do like is made of stretchy fabric. Many of these stretchy masks are made with an eye to playfulness in their design. The way I discovered them is that I was gifted one, and I now bring it to the playa every year.
Especially if it’s your first year and you don’t know what your groove is yet with dust masks, I sincerely encourage you to bring a variety. Try different kinds and see which ones you like best. And, remember, sometimes, simpler is better.
Here’s a helpful article: Know your nose: managing playa dust in yer sniffer from the Burning Man Journal.
Get the best you can find.. and still… you’re at Burning Man; there’s a high likelihood you’ll be hearing music all day and all night long. Now, I’m not the only one to say this: I often find the hum of the playa (even when I’ve camped with camps located on the Esplanade) to be very peaceful and a sweet sound to fall asleep to. An obnoxiously loud art car going down a quiet street at 4 a.m., that’s another thing.
Yet somehow the thumping of the music in the distance, the laughter, the mix of art cars and their DJs going by… it all adds up to a sweet symphony for me. Some people bring earplugs to cut down on the loud music when they’re out dancing. Know yourself and your needs, and do bring a few pairs. I go for the best quality I can find with ear plugs, and I prefer the molded-wax kind.
Frankly, some nights I wear them; other nights I don’t.
Bring some Q-tips for cleaning your ears and the rim of your eyes. Some people are against using Q-tips for cleaning your ear canals, and rightly so, though you can still use them in your outer ear. (You can also clean your ears with a nice, warm terry cotton wash cloth too. That’s rather luxurious out in the desert.)
Salt-water gargle A super simple solution for giving your throat some TLC is to gargle with warm salt water. You don’t need much: just take about 3-4 ounces of warm water, add a little salt and put about half that in your mouth, tilt your head back, gargle for a minute and spit it out. Then repeat that.
You can gargle with salt water a couple times a day if your throat is really impacted by the dust and wind.
Keep your salivation going
Use Xylitol-based hard candies or mints to support salivation and cooling in your mouth and throat. Some people can’t handle a lot of Xylitol (it makes them crampy or they have digestive issues), so know what works for you before you come to Burning Man.
A good skill to learn for protecting your mouth and nose against the dust and wind