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SINUS INFECTION DO’S & DONT’S
Hello House of Buckle faithful! I hope you had a happy and safe holiday season. As the calendar page turns to January, we are entering a new year (can’t believe it’s 2019!!). The theme for many folks right now is “New Year/New You” and hopes are high as people pack the gyms with visions of grandeur as they attempt to regain their youthful physiques, vowing that this year, “it will be different.” Along with this, things like yogurt, cottage cheese, and tuna fish sales spike as people choose (for a month at least) healthier food options. Yes, hope springs eternal in January on the health and fitness front. Unfortunately another thing that spikes this time of year is cough/cold. In my opinion, a head cold is the worst. It toys with us; not quite sick enough to stay home from work or school without feeling guilty, but just aggravating enough that you don’t feel 100% and are not able to operate at your best. I like the flu much better. When you have the flu, you’re sick and you know it. Staying home is a no brainer and you really don’t care what your boss or teachers think, thank you very much. The flu body slams you and makes no apologies. But not so with the head cold. And the symptoms of head cold are irritating, aren’t they? Continual drippy/running nose, sore throats, sinus pressure etc.; you have an appetite, but nothing tastes good because well, you can’t taste anything. Like I said, more aggravating than painful. In light of this I want to just take a moment and cover some simple sinus do’s and don’ts that may help you get through that head cold a little easier and even possibly help shorten its life cycle.
Before we get into my recommendations, let’s take just a second to understand our sinuses.
The sinuses are system of connected air filled chambers inside your skull. Through small openings, you have four pair of sinuses that connect your nasal cavity. Sinuses are not very big with the largest only being about an inch across. They are lined with a soft, pink tissue called mucosa. Their main function is to produce a mucus that moisturizes the inside of your nose. This layer of mucus protects your nose from dust, dirt, micro-organisms, and pollutants.
- The largest sinus cavities, the Maxillary Sinuses are found in your cheekbones.
- Your Frontal Sinuses are found in the low-center area of your forehead.
- Ethmoid sinuses are the ones between your eyes.
- The Sphenoid Sinuses exist in bones behind your nose.
The inside of the nose has ridges called Turbinates. These structures help filter and humidify the air we breathe. The nose is divided by a thin wall called the septum. We have a small channel that allows for drainage from sinus into nose called the “missile meatus.” Nobody knows 100% why we have sinuses, but a couple of the more popular theories are that they help enhance our voices and also humidify the air we breathe.
A sinus infection occurs due to virus, bacteria or fungi. Any of these three things can infect the sinus cavity causing inflammation. Common symptoms that occur as a result are nasal congestion, pressure/pain in the cheeks, forehead and around the eyes. Sinus pressure headaches are common.
After that little lesson on sinuses and the cause of sinus infection, lets now talk about some simple sinus do’s and don’ts:
- DO Stay hydrated! It is important to drink lots of fluids when you have a sinus infection. Water is always a great choice (you should get 64oz. a day at the minimum, sick or not) and is especially needful when you are battling a cold. Drinking water helps thin mucous and encourages draining. I also recommend a good hot herbal tea. Hot liquid can help break up stuffiness in your nose and is soothing/comforting in general. If you choose an herbal tea I would look at one that has licorice root or marshmallow along with chamomile. These herbs are very good at supporting the entire respiratory system. Check out our Herb Glossary for more information about these herbs!
- DO NOT drink alcohol! Alcohol dehydrates you and also may cause the lining of your nose/sinuses to swell. This is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what you want when you are battling a sinus infection. Now, a little alcohol (2 tablespoons) in a homemade hot toddy or in an herbal supplement won’t hurt you and can actually be beneficial. But when you have a head cold its not the time to enjoy several adult beverages to be sure.
- DO use steam. One of the things that I have always found that works great is to heat a big pot of water on the stove. I heat it to boiling and then pull it from the stove and set it at my dining room table on a hot plate. I then take a teaspoon of vapor rub (Vicks, Tiger Balm, etc.) and drop it in the hot water and stir. Then take a towel and put it over the kettle and create a ‘tent’ for your head. Put your head under the towel, over the steaming water and slowly breathe in. The steam is very hot, so be careful. You may have to wait a few minutes before it will be at a temperature that you can stand, each person is different. This ‘steam tent’ works great for me and always provides relief. You can get a similar affect in a hot shower. However you choose to go, steam is great for a head cold! This includes using a vaporizer at night, which will also aid in getting as good a night sleep as possible.
- DO NOT expose yourself to smoke, harmful fumes, molds, cleaners, etc. This is never a good idea and an even worse if you are fighting a sinus infection as any of these things will only exasperate the situation (meaning, irritate the mucous lining of your sinuses).
- DO use warm compress. Moist heat can relieve sinus pressure and even help open nasal passages. This in turn will provide some comfort and pain relief. Hold a hot damp towel against your face and breathe in through the clothe.
- DO NOT fly if you can help it. Flying with a head cold is the worst. I was on flight one time and a man with a bad head cold was in a lot of pain as the pressure in his head was apparently unbearable. At some point one of his eardrums even burst! If you have to fly with a head cold do this little trick to make things easier: yawn and swallow when the plane is on the way up after take-off. Do the same thing again as the plane begins to descend and before landing. This will help with pressure in your head due to the inflammation and stuffiness.
- DO get sleep. If you have a sinus infection your body is in fight mode. This means you are in a state of flux. Sleep helps regenerate your body and will help it fight the infection.
- DO NOT overexert yourself. I know there are different schools of thought here. Some people believe you should NOT work out at all when you have a cold and others say it is beneficial to get a little sweat going, at least at the outset of the cold. I have personally got some good cardio in during the initial stage of a cold and the LIGHT physical exertion seemed to help as I ‘sweated out’ the sickness (or so I thought). But I also know there is a time to rest and put the gym off for another day. My advice on this is to listen to your body and don’t push it. If you want to get some light exercise and sweat to help at the outset that’s fine, but don’t overexert yourself, as this will only aggravate the situation.
- DO eat alkaline foods. If you have a head cold you can help your body by eating things like fruits and vegetables.
- DO NOT eat heavy carbs, starches, and sugar! Try and stay away from a lot of heavy carb/starchy foods when you are battling a head cold. And do NOT eat sugar. If you are battling sickness its time to put the pop, candy bars and donuts up. Refined white sugar (yes, I have a sweet tooth) is not good for you anyway and extra bad for you when you are sick. If you want to prolong a sickness, eat sweets. If you want to recover as quickly as possible, put the cupcakes down!
Hopefully this simple list of do’s and don’ts will be helpful to you and enable you to cut your next head cold short!