Inflammation of the nasal passageways and sinuses is one of the leading causes of sinuses complications. Our bodies were created to protect itself so when an unknown substance is detected within the body, our bodies naturally react on the defense. For example, if a typically non harmful substance such as pollen enters into your airways, your body may detect it as a harmful invader triggering your immune system to kick in and do its job. Your body will then start to create antibodies whose sole purpose is to find the “harmful invader” and lead them to the part of the body that will destroy it. As these allergens are destroyed, a chemical called histamine is released into the bloodstream. Histamine is known to swell body tissues, what we call inflammation.
Healthy sinuses are filled with air, but once inflamed, they can become blocked and begin to fill with fluid, allowing germs and bacteria to grow which can then lead to an infection. This inflammation or swelling of the tissues lining the sinuses is called Sinusitis. Chronic Sinusitis (infections occurring several times a year or when inflammation exists for 12 weeks or longer despite treatment attempts) overtime can lead to nasal polyps. Nasal polyps can create further blockage leading to more frequent infections and even a lost sense of smell. There are certain medications that can shrink or eliminate nasal polyps but often surgery is required to remove them.
As you can see, inflammation in the sinuses leads to lots of other complications over time and can be very painful and interfere with the overall quality of life. It is important to tackle inflammation issues as early as possible to reduce the need for medical intervention. Below are some tips to reduce sinus inflammation. If you are unable to find relief with these methods, we recommend you see your local ear, nose, and throat doctor to come up with a customized solution.
- Environmental Control. More often than not, allergens are the source of inflammation. Understanding what you are allergic to is a great first step in minimizing your exposure to those things. Sometimes simple environmental changes can drastically improve your symptoms.
- Over the counter medication. Antihistamine drugs work by blocking the histamines produced by the body from affecting the cells, thus preventing or minimizing the inflammation typically triggered by them.
- Immunotherapy. Once you have determined what you are allergic to there are options available if environmental changes are not realistic or possible. Immunotherapy involves ongoing exposure to very small amounts of what you are allergic to in hopes to sensitize your body to the substances reducing the reaction that causes allergic symptoms. Essentially it tricks your body into not detecting those things as invaders anymore.
- Sinus Irrigation. Irrigating your sinuses flushes out the left over allergens within your nasal passageways and is a very effective natural way to reduce sinus inflammation. For more information on sinus irrigation, see our article “Sinus Irrigation – What, How & Why”.
- Nasal Sprays. There are both over the counter and medically prescribed nasal sprays, some containing a steroid that reduces inflammation and others a simple saline solution. Nasal sprays can help to reduce symptoms but should not be used over long periods of time.
- Warm Compresses. Placing a warm towel or heating pad over your sinuses a few times a day increases blood flow to those areas, thinning the mucus and can help reduce inflammation in those areas. Hot steamy showers can have the same impact.
- Fluids. Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water will also assist in thinning of mucus.
- Humidifier. Depending on the amount of moisture in the air where you live, a humidifier can help to moisten the air you breathe and open up sinuses. Be cautious not to over humidify your environment or you will essentially create the perfect place for bacterial growth. We recommend purchasing a humidifier that comes with a detector that shows you the humidity level reading in the room.
If you have already experienced the damaging effects inflammation within the sinuses can cause over long periods of time, you may need to go a step further with sinus surgery paired with immunotherapy to find the relief you are seeking. These suggestions are a great start but if you are still having recurring infections and complications, contact Camellis ENT to discuss a custom solution for you.