Fall is in the air and the long sweltering summer season has finally come to an end. Of course the changing of leaves and the cooling of temperatures also means that cold and flu season has also arrived.
One of the most debilitating aspects of a cold is when your sinuses become congested. Air-filled pockets located on either side of the bridge of your nose and behind your eyebrows and forehead, sinuses can become easily clogged when suffering from a cold. Inflammation and swelling of the soft tissue in your nose during a cold prevents your sinuses from draining the excess mucus that builds up in your nasal cavity. However, just because that head cold has you feeling congested doesn’t mean you can take time away from work of family commitments until your sinuses go from clogged to clear. So here are a few tips that will help you breathe easy when fighting off your next cold.
Breathing in dry air when you have a cold can irritate your sinuses and make your congestion feel worse. Inhaling moist air, however, can help to relieve congestion so you can breathe easier. Keep a humidifier running in any room of the house you spend the majority of your time in, and make sure you keep one running in the bedroom overnight. If you don’t own a humidifier, try sitting in the bathroom with the door shut while you blast hot water out of the shower. Spending roughly 10 minutes at a time in the bathroom, two to four times a day, should help improve your ability to breathe.
Harsh fumes from cleaning products, hair spray, perfumes, and paints can all irritate your sinuses, but nothing irritates quite as harshly as cigarette smoke. To help improve your sinus condition, make sure you avoid spending time in any place that allows smoking and ask that any friends or relatives avoid smoking when you’re around. Depending on the severity of your sinus problem, you may even considered purchasing some “green” cleaning products, which have fewer caustic chemicals and a less pungent aroma, for around the house.
If you want to blast through those blocked sinuses, then you need to drink plenty of water. Increasing your water intake will help to thin out mucus and encourage it to drain. Hot tea and coffee can also help to easy congestion as long as they’re decaf. Caffeine and alcohol can both cause dehydration, and drinking alcohol while congested can make your sinus swelling even worse. Strive to drink at least eight or more eight-ounce glasses of water or other decaf or non-alcoholic beverages a day.
A nasal wash, also referred to as nasal irrigation or nasal lavage, involves flushing a sterile saline solution through your nasal cavity to help keep your sinuses clear of any mucus causing allergens that create congestion. To perform a wash, lean over the sink, flush the solution up one nostril, and wait for it to drain through the nasal cavity and out the other side. Make sure to keep your mouth open and don’t breathe through your nose during the procedure. Only use a sterile solution to flush your nasal cavity and never use tap water. Bacteria that live in tap water, which are harmless to drink, can cause serious health problems when allowed to enter your nasal cavity.
Timothy Lemke blogs about what to do during the next cold and flu season for Dr. Greg Williams, a dentist in Tigard, OR.