Natural ways to get rid of springtime allergy

The flowers are blooming, the grass is lush and green. The allergy season is here and some of us will start sniffling and coughing. “Spring brings with it flowers, fragrances and allergen pollen,” says Shikha Sharma, founder and managing director of Nutri-Health, a wellness clinic in New Delhi. When you come in contact with allergens, be it dust, smoke, pollen, pets dander, insect sting or even a strong smell, your immune system responds hyperactively, making you cough, sneeze or wheeze.

It’s the allergy season

“The irritating dry cough is difficult to control as it is a result of airway hyper-reactivity to allergens,” says Zafar Ahmad Iqbal, consultant, pulmonology, sleep and critical care, at the Fortis Hospital in Mohali. Throat allergies can lead to muscular chest pain, throat pain, wheezing and, in some cases, breathlessness and difficulty in swallowing. The best-case scenario is to pinpoint and avoid the allergen that triggers your cough, but this may not always be possible. “If it becomes severe or lasts for more than two weeks, it might not be allergic in nature,” says Dr Iqbal. “It could be bronchial asthma and you might need a doctor.” If you keep getting a sore throat, however, you should start gargling in the mornings with warm salt water to protect yourself in this season, suggests Sharma. “Gargling pulls out fluids from inflamed tissues in the throat, loosens thick mucous, and removes allergens, bacteria and virus from the throat,” says Sharma. As the mucous thins and the bacteria clears up, your throat will feel better. So before you ravage your body with another anti-allergen pill, try these natural ways to get rid of those constant wheezes.

Shy away from all things floral

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Report a bribe or file an RTI – All through your phone

If you wish to be involved with the process of your government, as any citizen should, you do not necessarily need to wait for the UMANG app. There are already many apps that allow you to ask questions, offer suggestions and get involved in government initiatives. Till the government comes out with UMANG, we suggest a few other apps you can try.

Participate in policymaking

Are you very vocal about government policies? If yes, head to MyGov (free on Google Play,, an online portal of the Union government where different departments seek suggestions and advice. Over the last year, the site saw discussion on ideas such as simultaneous elections and open data use licence and invited suggestions on a draft policy note on value capture finance. It also allows you to take part in logo-making and design competitions. If you want the Prime Minister to talk about an issue on his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ show, you can give your ideas on this site. So just log in and air your ideas.

Since its launch, the app has seen more than 500,000 downloads, though it is a bit slow to load and hasn’t been updated since 2015. The website offers the best experience.

File an RTI

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Must-have sports apps for sports lovers

Whether it’s finding a sports partner or places to play, your phone has it covered with smart sports apps. During college, Gururaj Upadhya was a badminton champion. But once he started working, he left sports behind. “After 10 years of work, I wanted to pursue badminton again,” says the 37-year-old chartered accountant from Bengaluru. Expensive club memberships would have been a waste, given that he was travelling a lot. This is when he came across Playo, an app that connects people who play sports. He not only found sports mates but also badminton courts he could book at an hourly rate. Upadhya now plays four times a week, hosts badminton matches and runs a 70-people badminton group within the app.

If, like Upadhya, you want to follow your passion for sports, here are some apps that can help you find a place and/or a partner.


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Where to go to rent a designer outfit

Renting a designer outfit is not only possible but easy in India.

When Andria D’Souza urgently needed a designer outfit for a party, she didn’t know who to turn to. “I had nothing to wear, it was a day before the party and I was desperate,” says the 30-year-old Mumbai-based actor. Then someone suggested Delhi-based Swishlist, a designer-wear rental website. D’Souza browsed it and within an hour had selected the perfect outfit, a half-stitched sari by designer Bhaavya Bhatnagar. “I ordered at 10pm and they FedExed me the dress, dry-cleaned and ironed, the very next evening,” she says. D’Souza, who owns a designer gown bought for Rs80,000, which she has worn only once, says this kind of rental service is a boon.

“Spending Rs80,000 on a dress which you wear once kind of pinches,” she says. “On the other hand, renting a designer outfit for as little as Rs2,000-4,000 is a boon.” Here are a few sites that you can look through to have a sparkling wardrobe this party season at a fraction of the cost. All websites and services may charge extra for shipping and may also have a refundable security deposit, depending on what you order.

The clothing rental

Looking for a tuxedo or a sequined dress? The Clothing Rental is a Mumbai-based rental site that offers more than 5,000 clothing options, for both men and women, from designers like Ermenegildo Zegna, Hugo Boss, Marchesa, Calvin Klein, Alexander Wang and Armani. They are open to taking orders from any city in India. “For customers who like to visit, touch and feel the product, try it on , we have two stores in Mumbai,” says Shilpa Bhatia, founder and director, marketing and business development, The Clothing Rental.

When you order, you have to give a security deposit twice the rental cost of the garment and this is refunded when the outfit is returned. “If the person damages the product beyond repair, we decide costs on a case-to-case basis,” says Bhatia. This season, they have a wide range of dresses, including sequined gowns and clutch bags for women, and coloured suits, tuxedos, bow ties, lapel pins and pocket squares for men.

Rental charges: Rs500 onwards. Order on


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The 8 best translation apps for travellers

What are the best translation apps for travellers? When Douglas Adams invented the Babel Fish, “a small, yellow, leech-like odd thing” that would help you instantly understand anything said in any language in the whole wide universe, in The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, little did he know that 39 years after the radio comedy was first broadcast, such technology would actually  exist. New devices and updated translator apps are making it easier to understand a foreign language and are much simpler than “plugging in a fish into your ear”. Though the technology of machine translation still needs the wrinkles ironed out, it’s fun to try out some of these apps and devices when you’re travelling. Here’s a list of some of them. However, do expect errors and misunderstandings—up to 40%, in fact.


Heading to China, Korea or Japan and want an app to read the signboards and menus for you? WayGo fills this need by giving you the English translation for street signs, menus or anything that you point your smartphone camera at. All this without the use of the Internet.

Free for 10 translations per day and a one-time payment of Rs418 for the Pro version. Available in Google Play and App Store.

iTranslate voice  

iTranslate Voice 3 translates conversation between two people using smartphones. So if you’re speaking to someone in Spain, you hear English, and the other person hears you speak Spanish. The feature, called AirTranslate, needs two people talking on two iOS devices. Last updated in December, the app also offers text-to-speech, offline and text translation in 40 languages.

$6.99 (around Rs480) in Google Play and App store.


Talk into your iOS devices and hear what you’ve said in a different language. SayHi is designed for instant communication. You can have a conversation with anyone without switching languages, even type rather than speak. The app works for around 40 languages, including Arabic, French, Italian, English and Spanish.

Free in App Store. 

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Exercises to help you fight the bulge

What kind of exercises should you do to fight the bulge? With age and love of beer and desserts, we develop beer bellies, muffin tops, thunder thighs and double or even triple chin. “Men tend to put on weight on the stomach, while women get fat deposits on the hip and thigh regions,” says Pooja Thacker, medical and sports therapist at Bhatia Hospital in Mumbai. “Fat accumulates because that particular part of the body, that muscle, hasn’t been moved much,” says Mumbai-based celebrity fitness trainer Vinod Channa, whose clients include actor John Abraham. Aim at a bigger fat spot like abdominal muscles or the back and thighs in your fitness regime and you will not only burn fat from that spot, but also lose overall weight faster, Channa adds. To address these trouble zones, you need a combination of cardio and strength training, teamed with a balanced diet, says Wanitha Ashok, a fitness expert who runs Moving Body studio in Bengaluru. Be it the beer belly or arms with chicken wing flab, we list the exercises to get them in shape.

flabby buttocksFlabby buttocks

Position your feet shoulder-width apart, with your back in line with a wall, says Pallavi Chugh, physiotherapist at Fortis Mamma Mia, Gurgaon. Keep your arms on either side, bend your knees, push your hips back as you lower your back against the wall. “Go as far as you can or until your thighs are parallel to the floor, without lifting your heels,” says Chugh. Hold for 5-10 seconds and do 10 repetitions twice a day.

Love handles

Stomach fat can be reduced by aiming at the bigger muscle groups, says Channa, since your belly becomes larger because of overall weight gain. “Do Crossfit, aim for overall weight loss, workout for your legs and back to burn more calories,” he adds. Ab and oblique exercises like bicycle crunches, Russian twists (which entail sitting on one’s buttocks and moving the legs from one side to other), Side V sit-ups, C-crunch (where you lie on your back and move your knees to your shoulders) and boat also aim at the belly, says Ashok. “Choose three-four different exercises and do them with core workouts and with lower back workout,” she says.

Double chin

Tackle jowls with a tongue press, says Chugh. Sit back straight, tilt your head back so that you’re looking at the ceiling. “Now forcefully press your tongue flat on the roof of your mouth,” she says. Keep the tongue in place and lower your chin to your chest as far as possible without rounding your upper back. “You should feel your chin and the front of your neck contract,” says Chugh. Now relax your tongue and straighten the neck. That’s one repetition and you need to do two sets of 20 repetitions. If that’s too much, Vesna Pericevic Jacob, founder of Delhi-based fitness company Vesna’s Alta Celo, suggests that you simply put a big smile on your face while keeping your teeth closed together. “Face yoga is great for targeting the double chin. Keep the smile on till you feel the muscles on the chin and neck activate,” she says. Keep it for a count of five-10 and repeat a few times.

Thunder thighs

Thighs are the biggest muscles of the body, and sitting all day makes them a magnet for storing fat, says Channa. “Tackle the fat with wide squat, jump, hip thruster (where you keep your back against a chair, knees folded and raise your hip) and hip raises (where you lie on your back, knees folded and raise your hips),” he says. In addition, add lunges, step-ups and side lifts. “Remember to involve your hips in these movements for maximizing the benefit,” he says. Do one set with 10 repetitions to start with and add in more sets with each passing week.

Chicken wing arms

Counter flabby upper arms with standing dumbbell exercises, says Chugh. Stand up with a light dumbbell in both hands, lift it over your head, keep the body straight and the legs shoulder-width apart. “Do 20 repetitions, twice a day,” she says. To aim at triceps, do four sets of push-downs, crab walk, elbow palm plank (in 15 repetitions), adds Channa.

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Five signs that say you might be depressed

You’ve been sad for a while now. At first you think it’s just a phase, you lose interest in everything, don’t want to eat, are forgetful and lack motivation. According to World Health Organization research, updated in April, an estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression. “Depressive episodes could be mild, moderate or severe in intensity based on the nature, extent and duration of the symptoms,” says Sameer Malhotra, director, department of mental health and behavioural sciences, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Delhi. “In severe episodes you can develop extreme behavioural changes from a high phase of mania to a low phase, become deluded or encounter hallucinations where you can’t stop listening to negative voices in your head.” Biological symptoms include weight loss, disturbed sex drive, a loss of appetite and interrupted sleep. To some extent, a healthy lifestyle can help prevent depressive symptoms, says Dr Malhotra. “Follow a regular sleep-wake schedule, do regular exercise, have a nutritious and balanced diet, engage in creative hobbies and stay away from drug and alcohol abuse,” he says. Continue reading “Five signs that say you might be depressed”

Make time travel with time-lapse video apps

A sunset crunched in 3 seconds. A party shortened to a few minutes. Time-lapse videos used to be a pain to shoot but now with smarter apps they’re as simple as, well, taking a selfie. Here are a few apps to turn you into a video pro.


If you’re an Instagram workhorse, Hyperlapse is the app for you to capture a speedball video. The app smoothens hand-held videos using a fantastic image-stabilization software that uses data from your phone’s gyroscope to measure and remove frames that are shaky. Run, walk, jump, fall, drive and take a video and get a cinematic feel without lugging around a selfie stick or a tripod. All you need to do is hold the phone camera up, shoot a video, choose how fast you want it to go (it can speed up your videos up to 12 times)and upload. The only downside of the app is that it is available only on iPhones.

Free on iPhone and iPad.

Microsoft Hyperlapse

One of the few apps to create timelapse on Windows Phone, the Microsoft Hyperlapse Mobile comes with a simple, easy-to-use interface. It offers 32x speed, so you can crunch hours of videos into a few minutes. And you’re not limited to just the app. You can import any video, taken anywhere and speedball them up. What we also loved is that it can record 1080p videos. That’s pro- quality video for free and just right to be seen on the biggest screen in your home. This app can also stabilize videos, though that happens only if you choose 1x speed.

Free on Windows Phone and Android.


Build by Noida-based computer engineer Nishant Singh as part of his project in the last year of his B.Tech course, the app comes loaded with features to take a hyper video. You can adjust the frame interval, speed, zoom, autofocus, adjust white balance, choose the front or back camera, set video resolution and take a video in landscape or portrait. You can also set up a video duration to stop recording automatically. So just place it in a corner of a party and let it do all the work while you mingle. The Pro version, which costs $2.99 (around Rs204), has added advance functions like sleep mode that reduces battery drain while recording and customization of the length of the video, exposure and frame interval.

Free on Android.

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6 gadgets to replace your old-fashioned switches

Dim the lights, set the mood and prepare for sparkles that you can control with your voice or a smart device. There are lights that help you sleep, lights that act like burglar alarms and fairy lights that twinkle in rainbow colours. We tell you of the best gadgets out there that can help you say goodbye to old-fashioned switches.

iDevices socket

The Socket Wi-Fi-enabled light-bulb adaptor enables you to control any standard light bulb remotely. You can change the illumination power using voice commands on your smartwatch or phone. You can design a custom lighting schedule, convert the bulb into a night light or control the ambience of the room. It works with the iDevices app, iPhone’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa voice assistants.

$59.95 (around Rs.4,000, shipping extra); Continue reading “6 gadgets to replace your old-fashioned switches”

Can’t sleep? Give your phone some snooze time

Log out of your email and apps and keep your smartphone on silent mode to improve efficiency, concentration and sleep. Here are some  benefits of keeping away from your smartphone at work.

You’ll get more sleep

Feeling fatigued or exhausted at work? Using a smartphone after 9pm increases the possibility of you being less engaged at work the next day owing to reduced sleep and anxiety, according to a study by the University of Florida, US, that was published in the Organizational Behaviour And Human Decision Processes journal in 2014. The blue light that smartphones emit interferes with the production of melatonin, a chemical that helps you fall and stay asleep, the study explains.

“Sleep is getting compromised because people sleep with their phone on the bedside, messaging, answering calls, constantly working their brain,” says Amitabh Saha, consultant psychiatrist at the Max Super Speciality Hospital in Vaishali, near Delhi, who does not own a smartphone. “At night, your body and mind are 90% switched off and so get servicing. If you don’t give them snooze time, you’ll get fatigued or burnt out.” He suggests keeping the phone away from the bedroom at night. Continue reading “Can’t sleep? Give your phone some snooze time”