We all know that sound when someone is scratching their throat or trying to scratch their nose while simultaneously clearing their throat. Ugghh! If you’re curious enough to ask them what’s wrong the answer will most likely be;
“I have sinus!” or “Mi sinus a bodda me!”
They’re not wrong, but not entirely right either. Everyone has sinuses, but not everyone has sinusitis. Sinuses are located in the skull, around our nose. Their functions include:
- Producing mucous to coat our nostrils
- Provide air pockets to lighten our skull
- Improve our voices
When the area becomes inflammed we develop SINUSITIS. Some symptoms include:
- Heaviness/pain in the forehead and/or cheeks
- Runny nose from excess mucous production
- Mucous drainage in the throat –> constant need to clear throat or spit
- Dry cough (usually worsens at night)
- “Nasal sounding” voice
- Occasional feelings of clogged ears
- Nasal stuffiness
- Inability to smell
All of these symptoms are annoying and recurrent for most, and sometimes prevent concentration and ability to complete daily tasks, so we would all be better off if we knew how to prevent them from occurring in the first place. The main reasons for sinus inflammation are blockages to flow of mucous and disruption of the clearance systems, these occur due to:
- Viruses – Majority of sinus issues are viral in nature. The spread of viruses happen more often in colder weather and are contracted through direct contact or in the air from coughing and sneezing. More specifically, Dengue and Influenza viruses have been plaguing the Caribbean in the last two years and have been inciting symptoms of sinusitis in the population.
- Allergies – The tendency to develop an allergic response to certain environmental triggers is usually genetics (sorry you can’t change those). These items incite a stress response in the body that causes increased mucous production and the above symptoms. These allergens include smoke, pollen, mold, dust mites, furry pets and food like dairy and even bananas :-O
- Others – These are usually rare, but include trauma, dental infection, adenoid enlargement, deviated septum, polyps and possible cancerous lesion.
The effects from allergies and viruses may last a few days and not need any real intervention, but 5 – 10% of these cases develop into a bacterial infection. This, then leads to worsening of the above symptoms after 7 – 10 days and possibly associated fever, fatigue, colour change in mucous from clear/white to yellow/green/brown or even bloody.
Having a stuffy, runny nose for 1 – 2 weeks without any sign of relief?? I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but let’s try to prevent this ailment before it even starts. Here are some tips to prevent the dreaded sinus infection:
- Avoid triggers – Easier said than done right? Firstly one would have to identify the triggers, which can be done by an allergist as I detailed in a previous post or just by your own detailed observation. Dust mites and mold can be prevented by consistently clean environs, however mold is a bit trickier because this may be due to a leak or some other unknown infrastructural problem. Pollen, pets and certain foods may be more difficult to avoid, but effort should be made.
- Sneeze/Cough in elbow – This is a pretty simple habit to prevent spreading bacteria and viruses to others.
- Wash hands – We touch hundreds of surfaces each day and shake many hands and this only proves to increases our chances of contracting some organism that is ready to incite inflammation in our sinuses. Washing your hands throughout the day, especially before eating, will reduce the risk of infection dramatically.
If all these still haven’t helped in the fight against sinus inflammation then the only thing left to do is treat the symptoms and expect a speedy recovery.
In part 2 I’ll discuss natural and traditional treatment methods that will have your sinuses feeling open and light and have you smelling all the roses 😀 (if roses aren’t your trigger of course).