Posts tagged sinuses
Most people are aware that sinus infections and sinus inflammations occur frequently during the springtime and the summer when pollen counts are on the rampage, and seasonal allergies are in full force. However, many people who persistently suffer from allergies can tell you that symptoms don’t always go away when the first freeze of the season hits, and pollen count theoretically takes a nosedive.
It can still happen that even during wintertime, sinus symptoms such as congestion, postnasal drip, coughing, runny noses, sinus pressure, and troublesome headaches occur with practically the same regularity as they might during spring or summer.
There are a number of reasons why this can happen, even in the absence of one of the biggest contributors to allergy symptoms, which is pollen from various plants. Here are some of the reasons why allergy sufferers may be just as miserable during the wintertime.
Mold and Various Kinds of Fragrance
Although they are seemingly innocent sources, holiday decorations such as plants, wreaths, and even Christmas trees and ornaments can trigger allergies, and all the associated symptoms, because of the dust which settles on them, and the mold which may be growing on them.
When decorations are stored for an entire year in the basement or somewhere else, it’s very easy for dust to accumulate on them, or for mold to begin growing on them. To prevent this, decorations should be stored in airtight containers, so that when they’re reopened at holiday time, you aren’t introducing fresh allergens into the household.
When you bring a Christmas tree into the household, make sure that it has been thoroughly shaken down, so it doesn’t have dried leaves or other material in the branches because these might contain mold.
Also, since windows and doors are generally tightly shut during the wintertime, it can intensify the fragrances from decorations and specially scented candles, which can act as irritants for your sinuses. It’s probably best to avoid using scented candles like this during the wintertime when doors and windows keep all those irritants inside.
Cold and Influenza
Extra mucus is generally produced when you have a cold or influenza, and it can also cause swelling inside the nasal passages. All this contributes to unusually difficult drainage, which promotes the buildup of mucus. When that happens, bacteria development is sure to follow, and a sinus infection may not be far behind.
The best way to avoid getting colds or flu is to conscientiously observe good hygiene throughout the entire wintertime, especially as it relates to washing your hands. You should also make a point of getting plenty of rest to help out your immune system, and when it’s available, you should always get a flu shot to protect yourself against the particular strain which is most prevalent this year.
Excessively dry Air
There is always considerably less humidity in the air during wintertime, than there is during summer, and as a result, the air in homes and in offices also becomes much drier. When the breathable air inside a building is that dry, it will have the effect of irritating nasal linings and the lining of the throat, which in turn will also trigger irritation in the sinuses.
To avoid the predominately dry air of wintertime, remember to use a humidifier to increase the moisture level in breathing air throughout the home. A good rule of thumb is to set your humidifier for about 50% humidity, so that dryness doesn’t bother your sinuses and trigger symptoms which are going to make you miserable through the holidays.
Pet Dander, Allergens, and Dust
It happens quite frequently that pet dander, dust, and other allergens become trapped indoors during the winter time, due to the fact that doors and windows are routinely kept tightly shut to keep the cold out. While it can be a bit of an undertaking to ensure that all these allergens are removed or suppressed, it will be worth it, in terms of your ability to enjoy the holiday season.
In the case of pet dander, you should make a point of bathing your cat or dog at least weekly, because allergens will naturally be attracted to fur, and they’ll stay there until removed. If you allow your pet to go outdoors regularly, you may want to perform the bathing routine even more frequently, because every time your pet goes outside, it will be a magnet for whatever’s floating through the air.
To eliminate, or at least reduce allergens elsewhere in the home, you can take such steps as vacuuming the carpets thoroughly, especially using a vacuum with a HEPA filter, that can pick up even the smallest allergens. You should also vacuum furniture and draperies to remove allergens which may have built up on those surfaces.
It’s a good idea to dust all around the home every few days, but when you do this, it should be with a damp cloth that retains the allergens, rather than using a feather duster which will simply relocate any allergies present.
Lastly, by changing your own clothes whenever you’ve come inside from the outdoors, you can be relatively sure you aren’t tracking in a number of allergens, which will be lying in wait to torment you during the wintertime.
The two most common causes of a loss of smell are allergies or some kind of injury to the nerve tissue from a viral upper respiratory infection. Patients who lose their sense of smell as a result of a respiratory infection will generally be able to date the time of their smell loss to the same time as the respiratory infection they experienced. In general, these tend to be older patients, and the loss of smell that they have incurred is more typically partial than total in nature.
Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment for this situation because viral damage cannot normally be repaired. While it is possible that some patients will recover their sense of smell over time, these patients are definitely in the minority, and comprise less than 20% of the total number of patients experiencing smell loss. It is however, certainly possible that people who experience temporary smell loss after an upper respiratory infection recover it within a few days of being restored to normal health from the infection.
Smell Loss from Sinuses or Allergies
The other most common cause of smell loss is rhinitis, which is an inflammation that occurs in the nose, nasal polyps, or sinusitis. All three of these are considered to be ongoing processes, in that they recur during the lifetime of the patient, and as such, have an ongoing effect on the sense of smell.
Since this is the case, the development of smell loss tends to be a much more drawn-out process, as opposed to the upper respiratory infection cases, which are more spontaneous in nature. People who are troubled with smell loss due to allergies or sinus problems often report improvements in their sense of smell on a temporary basis, for instance after vigorous exercise, showering, or some other activity which elevates one’s heart rate.
It’s also possible for temporary smell improvements to be experienced when taking corticosteroids, antibiotics, or some other kinds of medication, but, in most cases, the improvement eventually subsides, and the loss of smell returns. It’s fairly common in such cases for there to be accompanying symptoms such as post-nasal drip, problems with breathing through the nose, or nasal allergies. Interestingly, the development of smell loss does not result in a loss of taste, or at least that has not been reported by any significant number of studied patients.
For people who have experienced both an upper respiratory infection and an ongoing process like sinusitis, it will usually be very difficult to pinpoint the time of your smell loss. There is a reason, though, that dating the time of smell loss can be important, because of the two types of smell loss, only sinusitis is treatable and reversible. As previously mentioned, viral damage to the nose cannot be repaired, and that means the sense of smell will also be unlikely to improve for the vast majority of patients.
Treatments for Smell Loss
When a doctor is able to determine whether a patient’s loss of smell was triggered by allergies, there are some treatments which may help recover and restore the sense of smell. Antihistamines, antibiotics, and corticosteroids have all proven to be at least somewhat effective in restoring the sense of smell, because they work to decrease inflammation in the nasal passageways, and these are the primary causes of smell loss in the first place.
For patients who have had some physical damage to the nose, such as a deviated septum or nasal polyps, surgery may also be an option to repair the problem. However, the correlation between surgery and successful restoration of the sense of smell is not strong, so for any specific situation, a patient should discuss surgical options with their doctor.
Patients who have suffered a loss of smell following some kind of severe trauma to the nose or an upper respiratory viral illness, have very few treatment options available to them currently. Corticosteroids are sometimes used to provide benefits for some patients, but the success rate is not particularly promising.
New research has shown that attempting to retrain a person’s sense of smell can achieve modest successes, since it attempts to stimulate the regenerative capabilities of the body’s olfactory network. Part of this therapy involves exposing a patient to familiar odors which are very strong and recognizable, so as to promote the recovery of a sense of smell. The theory behind this is that it helps to rewire that area of the brain which processes smells.
Currently, research is underway to explore other avenues for the restoration of the sense of smell in patients who were thought to have experienced total loss. While medical treatments have not been shown to be universally effective, some patients have experienced small gains in their sense of smell when using phentoxifylline, gabapentin, theophylline, various antidepressants, and some kinds of antibiotics. In the future, it is likely that other treatment approaches will be discovered, and that many more patients will be able to cover some sense of smell even after a traumatic upper respiratory viral infection.
People who aren’t usually affected by sinus problems such as inflammation and infections probably think that the worst time for sinus flareups is either the spring or summer, when seasonal allergies kick in as a response to increased pollen in the air, as well as other triggers. However, almost anyone who is subject to seasonal allergies and sinus issues can tell you the real truth of the matter: many of the worst symptoms associated with sinus infections actually occur during the winter.
That means that the whole catalog of sinus issues, i.e. congestion, facial pressure, post-nasal drip, headaches, stuffy nose, runny nose, and headaches, are all as likely as not to be more severe during the cold season. Below you will find some of the reasons why that is true, and why there’s really no respite from the effects of sinus infection, despite what the calendar might say.
Less Humidity in the Air
During the cold winter months, there is usually far less moisture in the air, and far less in the home or office setting as well. Part of the reason for this is that furnaces or other heating systems are running so frequently that they dry the air out. When the air becomes that dry, it has a tendency to irritate the lining of your throat and of your nose, which in turn will exacerbate any issues with your sinuses. The best way to manage this situation is to install a humidifier in your home or in your area at the office, that will supply moisture to the air, and cause much less irritation to your nose and throat.
Increased Presence of Mold
Surprisingly, there are a number of triggers which can worsen your allergies or sinus symptoms during the winter time, especially around holiday season. At that time, most people will actually bring into the household some of the very items that can lead to a worsening of sinus symptoms. For instance, the fragrances given off by scented candles, which are very common during the holidays, can actually cause significant irritation to your sinuses.
The same is true of many holiday decorations such as wreaths, plants, Christmas trees, poinsettias, and a whole host of other decorative but potentially irritating sinus triggers. All these have the potential to develop mold growth, which can cause noticeable problems for your allergies and sinus condition.
It’s also very possible that tree decorations and ornaments which you have stored in the basement for the past 11 months can develop mold, while just sitting in a damp area out of sight. The best prevention for eliminating mold on holiday decorations is to store them in plastic containers which are airtight, and will not allow moisture inside. Before you bring a Christmas tree into the household, you should shake it down vigorously so unwanted debris will fall off. The best way to avoid the irritation that comes from scented candles and similar materials is to stop using them entirely if you notice that they are beginning to irritate your nose and throat. You should also keep in mind that any of the symptoms you might potentially experience from mold growth or fragrances burning in the household, will be made worse by having all the windows and doors closed.
Increased Likelihood of Colds and or Influenza
It’s much more common for people to contract influenza or common colds during the wintertime than it is during the summer or spring. Because this is so, it often causes the lining of your nose to swell up, and an increased amount of mucus is produced by the nose as well. All of this contributes to reduced efficiency of drainage, and it also causes an accumulation of mucus. If mucus is allowed to build up at any specific site in the body, it will invariably trigger the development of bacteria, and once that happens, you can expect a sinus infection to follow shortly thereafter, with all the nasty associated symptoms.
The best way to protect yourself against contracting influenza is to make sure that you are vaccinated with the seasonal strain of flu vaccine. Good hygiene is a must during winter times for preventing colds, because that’s one of the most common ways for bacteria to be spread among people. That means it’s very important for everyone in the household to wash their hands frequently, and to make sure noses are covered up when sneezing, such as into the elbow. When everyone in the household practices good hygiene, the chances for contracting colds and/or the flu diminish significantly.
It is especially easy during the winter months for pet dander, allergens, dust, and debris to become trapped inside the household, where they can all become triggers for sinus symptoms. There are a number of ways that you can address this, in order to minimize the impact of all those miscellaneous trapped substances.
Rugs, for instance, are known to be very effective traps for all these kinds of materials, and that means they should be frequently vacuumed and/or shaken outside so that as much debris as possible can be removed from the household. Old furniture is another major trap for debris, so these pieces should also be scoured to whatever extent is practical, to remove debris. Air filters are obvious traps for dust and debris, and they should either be cleaned regularly or replaced entirely, so that clean air is always circulating in the interior. If you have pets, they should be groomed regularly, so that they can be kept free of all kinds of harmful material that could be become a trigger for your wintertime sinus symptoms.
When it comes to the sinuses, the most common issue seems to be excess mucus. When the sinuses aren’t acting as they should and sinusitis (a sinus infection) is experienced, it generally leads to mucus overproduction and this can be a difficult issue to live with. However, as many will tell you, dry sinuses are an equally difficult problem.
During the colder months especially, we tend to look towards artificial sources of heat to stay warm. With a pellet stove, for example, we’ve found a solution that keeps costs to a minimum while also not getting too hot for any children or pets in the house. However, one of the biggest benefits of this system is also one of its greatest downfalls.
Back in the day, people would keep a pot of water on the stove to keep moisture in the air. Today, we’re doing the opposite because the stoves are sucking all the moisture from the room for every second they’re working away. For many, this lack of humidity dries the sinuses and causes all sorts of problems as a result.
Is This a Problem?
First and foremost, having dry sinuses is unpleasant so it quickly becomes uncomfortable. The longer the problem goes untreated, the bigger it becomes. Additionally, the sinuses need moisture because bacteria, fungi, and viruses are normally kept at bay by a protective layer of mucus. If this mucus has disappeared, the protection does the same and the sinuses are left vulnerable.
As you may know, this all leads to many problems, one of the biggest being a lack of smell. At first, people tend to attribute the loss of smell to something else because they can’t imagine that a stove (or any other source of artificial heat without the ability to keep moisture in the air) would cause the damage. Soon enough, a medical professional will assess their sinuses and find the problem.
Over the years, people have developed their own solutions for this issue and we have three of the most popular here today. If one doesn’t work for you, try another because the theory behind them is very positive!
- Anti-Fungal Tea: If you’re suffering from a dry nose or dry sinuses, your liquid intake should be increased anyway so long as the liquid is water or any other responsible drink. If you can get your hands on it, there’s also anti-fungal tea and this just might prove to be a fantastic addition to your diet.Known as calendula tea, it comes from the orange calendula flower and offers all sorts of advantageous properties. For example, it acts as an anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antiseptic solution. Alone, the tea should start to improve your sinuses but it becomes even more valuable when partnered with some herbs of your choosing.Since all the ingredients are natural, you can have this tea two or three times in a single day and you should notice a change to your breathing as the day goes on. If this doesn’t work, play around with the herbs you’re using or move on to another suggestion.
- Steam Inhalation and Room Humidifiers: As we addressed earlier, they had a simple solution back in the day and it came from a pot of water. Therefore, why not take from their lead and do the same thing? Nowadays, the market holds some fantastic room humidifiers (and even whole home humidifiers!) to add moisture to the air.If you feel comfortable, you could even try steam inhalation in combination with a neti pot. Before we get ahead of ourselves, steam inhalation is where you hold your face as close to hot water as possible. With a towel over your head to increase the intensity, the idea is to inhale the steam without getting so close you harm yourself. To improve the results, add some essential oils whether this comes from tea tree oil, eucalyptus, lemon, or peppermint. As a starting point, this steam should make the walls of the sinuses a little softer (and looser).From here, you can finish with a neti pot and this is a small container used to rinse any debris you may have from the nasal cavity. With a simple saltwater solution, you leave your sinuses in a great position to become healthy once again.
- Anti-Bacterial Tincture: If you want to fight infection and improve your sinuses, we recommend echinacea and boneset as a two-herb tincture. With a little of the tincture added to water, this should allow you to fight active infection. If you’ve never made a tincture previously, there are plenty of guides online that’ll show you how to get it right.
Regardless of which solution you try first, we urge you to keep going even if you don’t see any results the first time. Over the many years of people suffering with this issue, all three of these solutions have fantastic support in the community so they’re worth your persistence. Typically, you’ll notice a change within a few days and you don’t have to contend with the loss of smell any longer!
Quite often, the term ‘sinuses’ is used in relation to certain medical conditions. However, there aren’t too many people who know the role of the sinuses or how they’re made up. Today, our goal is to answer both of these questions so you’re aware the next time the term is used in conversation!
Commonly shortened to ‘the sinuses’, the paranasal sinuses are small cavities filled with air inside the bones of the face; the bones of note are also found in the eyes and nasal cavity. With each sinus, it has a name that represents the bone in which it can be found.
- Frontal: With one per side, the frontal sinuses can be located in the forehead right above the nasal bridge and eyes.
- Maxillary: Found on each side, the maxillary sinus is inside the bone in the cheek.
- Ethmoid: With the ethmoid sinuses, they sit just under the corner of each eye where the bone lies. In many medical diagrams, they’ll show the ethmoid sinus as one sinus but it’s actually made up of several smaller sinuses in a honeycomb shape; it can only be seen properly in CT scan images of the face.
- Sphenoid: Again, the sphenoid sinus is located on both sides but this time behind the ethmoid sinuses. When looking head-on, they won’t be visible so a side view is required instead.
Physiology of the Sinuses
For each sinus, pink membrane will line the outside and it’s responsible for producing mucus to flush the sinus cavities. With a plate of bone and cartilage commonly known as the nasal septum, the two nasal passages are separated. However, the biology of each passage is the same starting with three small ridges of tissue which can be called a concha or turbinate. Depending on whether it’s referring to the upper, middle, or lower structure, they’re designated as superior, middle, or inferior.
When it comes to the draining, the majority of sinuses use the middle turbinate and the drainage occurs below this point. From here, it goes into the osteomeatal complex. For the system to work correctly, air needs to flow uninterrupted through both sides of the nasal passage since this allows for streaming between the nasal septum and turbinates (via the crevices).
For both the mucus and the airflow that started the process, they should end up in the nasopharynx which is a connecting part of the throat towards the back of the nose. As air continues its journey through the windpipes and into the lungs, the mucus takes a different journey and is swallowed instead.
Structures within the Nasal and Sinus Tract
As you probably know, the human body is quite simply amazing and evolution has allowed it to survive on a day-to-day basis using complex scientific principles. Therefore, it probably won’t surprise you to hear that there are some fascinating structures inside the nasal and sinus tract. Below, we have three very important examples:
- Adenoids: As a collection of tissue much like the tonsils, the adenoids are found behind the farthest nasal cavity accessible at the very top of the nasopharynx. While most body parts and important features of the body grow as we get older, this tissue actually starts larger and then disappears during puberty. However, discrepancies in this process can leave it in tact which has the potential to require surgery.
- Tear Duct: Often called the nasolacrimal duct, this is important for our eyes since, without it, tears would continue to build on the inside corners. When it’s in place and functioning as expected, the tears drain into the nasal cavity and this prevents excess moisture within the eyes.
- Eustachian Tube: As our last example, the eustachian tube is required for removing any build-ups that occur within the ears; with the system all interconnected, the opening is found towards the back of the nasopharynx sidewall.
The Role of the Sinuses
Ultimately, the sinuses have many responsibilities within the ear, nose, throat, and beyond but their main role is to produce mucus. When the system is working as it should, the mucus creates a lining on the inside of the nose and this keeps it free from bacteria, fungi, and viruses. If you were to experience dry sinuses, the lack of mucus would leave the nose vulnerable to these pollutants and this leads to irritation and illness.
Over time, cilia, which are tiny hair cells, gradually move the mucus backwards towards the throat where it’s swallowed. Therefore, the steady supply of mucus always takes the same journey while protecting your nose and remaining clean at all times.
After this main function, we should also note that the sinuses are also important for our voices and to lighten the skull. With everything having a purpose, we’re able to enjoy life without consciously worrying about replacing the mucus or producing the right amounts at the right times. As we learn more about the sinuses and how they work, we get an insight into just how fascinating the human body can be!