WHAT ARE SINUSES? We all know what a nose is, but what are sinuses? The sinuses are hollow spaces in your head that are lined with mucous membranes – moist, soft tissue. The surface of this tissue is covered with mucous and with cilia, which are microscopic “hairs.” WHY DO WE HAVE SINUSES? The lining of the sinuses protects your body from harmful elements that are in the air, including germs, dust, and pollen. The cilia do this by waving back and forth, which moves the foreign matter to the back of the throat where it can be flushed to the stomach and destroyed. This process, though it sounds unpleasant, prevents unwanted bacteria, viruses, and matter from entering your body through your nose. SIGNS & SYMPTOMS THAT THE SINUSES AND NOSE MAY BE UNHEALTHY When the sinuses and the nose are unhealthy, they can cause pain, breathing problems, speech issues (like a nasal sound to the voice), and the following: Nasal Congestion Some medications cause nasal congestion as a side effect. One major culprit is a decongestant nasal spray like Afrin® or Neo-Synephrine® that can cause rebound congestion if continuously used for three days or more. This condition is called rhinitis medicamentosa. Pregnancy, hormonal changes, and a deviated nasal septum are also major causes of nasal congestion. Inflammation Inflammation can be caused by allergies and by other triggers. If you can reduce the inflammation, you may experience decreased sinus symptoms and easier breathing. For many patients, nasal allergies are the root cause of their sinus problems. By treating the cause instead of treating the symptoms, you may experience relief from your sinus symptoms without having to resort to drastic measures like sinus surgery. Sinus surgery is one of the most common surgeries performed by ear nose and throat doctors. Allergy testing at our allergy clinic may answer the question of “what am I allergic to?” and “what causes allergies?” Avoidance of the causes of nasal allergy in some individuals may allow the sinuses to heal and may prevent the need for certain sinus procedures like FESS or Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery. HOW TO KEEP THE SINUSES AND NOSE HEALTHY If you can learn how to take better care of your sinuses, it can help keep you pain-free and symptom-free. If you do not take good care of your nose and sinuses, they can become damaged by exposure to pollution, dust, infections, and temperature changes. The good news is that simple preventative measures can help you improve your symptoms and keep you healthy. Many of these measures are also recommended by ENT doctors in NYC. Improve the air quality in your home Even in big cities like New York City, the air inside our homes and offices is generally more polluted than the air outside. Certain areas in the NYC Metropolitan area (Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and The Bronx) are epidemic areas for indoor allergens, including allergy to dust mites, cockroaches, mold and rodents. Follow these simple practices to improve the air quality in your home: Wash curtains and bedding often (every 1-2 weeks). Replace pillows regularly. Use a mattress pad over a dust mite cover (which you also wash every 1-2 weeks). Consider replacing carpeting and rugs with wood or tile flooring. Use a HEPA air filter. Clean and/or replace the filters in your heating/cooling units and vacuum, as needed. Air out your home on a regular basis (this is best done on days when pollution levels and pollen counts are low). These measures will help improve many symptoms including allergy cough, nasal congestion, sneezing, itchy eyes, watery eyes, red eyes, asthma, and wheezing. It will help with decreasing all indoor allergies and irritants and is probably the safest and most natural allergy cure. Any NYC Dr, especially an ENT in NY or a NY allergist will recommend these safe and natural allergy treatments in New York. Avoid Irritants The nose and sinuses may be irritated by particles in the air, even if you have no allergies. Minimize your exposure to smoke, pollen, animal dander, and dust to avoid damaging to your nasal and sinus passages. Your goal is to breathe the cleanest air possible. Avoid dry air If your building has forced air or steam heat, your sinuses can become dry and irritated, especially in the wintertime. Increasing the humidity in your environment can prevent your sinuses from drying out and becoming more susceptible to bacteria. Some people also find that humid air helps with their asthma, allergies, nosebleeds, and snoring. A healthy humidity level for your skin and sinuses is around 40%-50%. Humidifier versus Vaporizer Humidifiers and vaporizers are both effective at adding moisture to the air. The difference between them is that a vaporizer sends warm moisture into the air, while a humidifier adds cool moisture. For both devices, it is important to keep the unit clean and to follow any safety recommendations on the package. We also recommend that you leave the device off during part of the day so that your home does not become so humid as to support the growth of bacteria, dust mites, and mold. More than 60% humidity promotes not only mold growth, but also dust mites. To patients with basements: We recommend that our patients use a dehumidifier to decrease humidity in basements and prevent them from becoming musty. This is also a good idea for summer homes which are closed up for prolonged periods of time. It is also a good idea to air them out for a few hours before spending a prolonged period of times indoors. We also advise our patients to avoid putting down carpeting in the basement. Sinus and nasal rinses When mucus traps allergens and debris, it thickens and starts to block the sinuses and nasal passages. Using a saline rinse or a Neti pot can wash away the impurities and mucus and help you function and feel better. It can also make your nose and sinuses more resistant to bacteria and irritation. Whether you buy a premixed solution or mix your own saline, it is best to use distilled, non-chlorinated water or boiled water which has cooled. Different ear and throat specialists and allergists in New York City have recommended this safe and holistic treatment for the sinuses. This natural, preventative allergy treatment is especially helpful for pollen allergy especially when it causes nasal allergies. Note that some people have very small nasal passages, and may experience irritation when rinsing. If this is the case for you, you may want to stop your saline rinses and try some of the other techniques explained here. It is also a good idea to consult your ear nose and throat doctor or one of the allergy and asthma associates at the NY Allergy and Sinus Centers if you have any adverse reactions to saline rinses. Stay hydrated Drink plenty of fluids every day to help your sinuses and nasal passages stay moist, less susceptible to infection, and in good working order. BREATHE EASY WITH HEALTHY SINUSES AND A HAPPY NOSE If you would like to discuss nose and sinus health with the specialists and doctors at the NY Allergy & Sinus Centers, we are here to help. NYASC has the latest treatment and testing, and we have convenient asthma & allergy clinics throughout the NYC metropolitan area: Murray Hill, Midtown, Upper West Side (UWS), Chelsea, and Queens. We can also help you find relief for your nasal and sinus problems, asthma, ear, nose, and throat (ENT) symptoms, respiratory and food allergies, and skin conditions. We see pediatric and adult patients from all over the NYC area. To make an appointment, call us today at 212-686-4448. Remember your symptoms of allergy (itchy eyes, watery eyes, red eyes, sneezing, congestion, allergy cough, post nasal drip, asthma, wheezing and shortness of breath) will be better if you take care of your nose and sinuses!