According to the CDC, about 32 million Americans suffer with sinus problems. Sinuses are air pockets within the skull. They are located around the nose and eyes. Each sinus is connected to the nasal passage by a small duct which allows mucus drainage and air exchange. These ducts are called ostea and each is about the size of a pencil lead. Think of the sinuses as rooms and the ostea as doors. The ostea are lined with mucus membrane (similar to the tissue that lines the nose). Pollution, viruses, allergens or bacteria can cause inflammation in the lining of the ostea; when that happens the lining swells. Since the opening is so small, swelling closes the ostea, sealing the sinuses and keeping them from draining. Pressure builds up and the sinuses become prone to infection when the ostea are blocked.
When the ostea become blocked and the sinuses do not drain properly, chronic health problems can ensue. The moist, warm, mucus-packed sinus becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. To the patient, it seems to be a cold that just doesn’t go away. Chronic sinusitis produces pressure between the eyes, on the sides of the nose, or in the front of the forehead. There is a stuffy feeling, and the victim frequently has headaches. He or she often has a runny nose, sore throat, and/or a cough from the constant draining of mucus.
Strategies for Sinusitis Sufferers
- Minimize the amount of chemical and dust where you sleep. The room should have no carpeting; hardwood flooring is best. Do not store clothing, books or printed material in this room. Pure cotton or wool bedding should be used. The mattress and pillow should contain no foam. The room should be very sparsely furnished. If you have gas, forced-air heat in your home, it should be turned off in that room. Seal the vents and use electric space heaters in that room.
- If you have gas, forced-air heating, get your ducts cleaned. Many people who catch a cold every winter are actually victims of their ductwork. During the summer, moist, air-conditioned air goes through the ducts. In early fall, dust and mold collect in the ducts. When it gets cold, the heat is turned on and the dry, heated air blows dust and mold throughout the house. Many people who think they have a cold may actually be allergic to dust or mold. Some of these people are sick all winter long. Cleaning the ducts prevents this problem.
- Use a HEPA filter at home to clean up indoor air pollution. These are free-standing filters that remove dust, mold, pollen and smoke from the air. They are available in most appliance stores.
- Sinuses are often worse in winter when they are exposed to hot, dry, indoor heat. A humidifier is helpful (worth noting, if there is an allergy to dust mites, a humidifier may aggravate the allergy). Make absolutely sure that you change the water and clean the humidifier regularly.
- Saline irrigation can reduce pain and swelling in the sinuses and nasal passages caused by dry air.
- Blow your nose. Never sniff mucus back into your nose. It plugs the ostea and increases sinus pressure.
- If you smoke, quit.
- Make absolutely sure that you drink an adequate amount of water.
- Steam is very helpful. Long, hot showers, going into a steam bath or simply boiling water and inhaling the vapor through your nose will help your sinuses to drain.