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Summer Sinus Problems

Six Ways to Avoid the Misery

4. Steer clear of irritants.

The mucous membrane that lines the nostrils and sinuses can be damaged by various irritants, including automobile exhaust, smog, mold spores, and smoke from a campfire or cigarettes. So, do what you can to limit your exposure.

“Smoke is the single worst thing for the sinus sufferer,” says Denver-based sinus specialist (and former sinus sufferer) Robert S. Ivker, DO, author of Sinus Survival. “It damages the delicate cilia and the mucous membrane itself.” 

Another major offender is the chlorine in swimming pools -- particularly indoor pools with limited ventilation. If you spend lots of time in the pool each summer, a nose clip can offer some protection. And, be aware that diving can force water into your nostrils and sinuses.

Unchlorinated water, like that found in unpolluted lakes and rivers and in the ocean, poses little threat to your sinuses.

5. Take special precautions when flying.

The bone-dry, often germ-laden air inside the cabin of an airliner is notoriously hostile to sinuses. To protect yours during the onslaught, take along some saline nasal spray and spritz repeatedly while aloft. Drinking lots of water also helps, experts say. 

If you’re already experiencing sinus congestion, you might have trouble clearing your ears during the flight. If you can’t postpone your trip, use Afrin (oxymetazoline) nasal spray before takeoff, and swallow repeatedly during ascent and descent. (Because oxymetazoline can be habit forming, doctors warn not to use it more than a few days.)

6. Choose medicines carefully.

Nonprescription antihistamines, such as Claritin and Zyrtec, can be quite effective against minor allergy symptoms, including sneezing and a runny, itchy nose. If you’re also bothered by congestion, adding an over-the-counter decongestant such as Sudafed might help. Antihistamine-decongestant combinations are also available; these products often include a “D” in the name, as in Claritin D.

For more severe or persistent symptoms, consult your doctor. You might need a steroid nasal spray or course of antibiotics. If your symptoms are especially bad, you might be a candidate for allergy shots or another form of immunotherapy.

Reviewed on June 08, 2009

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