Are you among the 37 million Americans who have sinus problems each year? If so, there's a lot you can do around the house to create a "sinus-friendly" environment -- reducing your risk for sinus pressure.
Even better, many of the measures are simple and inexpensive.
Sinus Problems: Getting to the Triggers
First, it's crucial to figure out why you have sinus problems, says Jordan S. Josephson, MD, a Manhattan ear-nose-throat specialist and author of Sinus Relief Now. "Allergies are a fairly common reason for sinus problems," he says.
Allergies that affect the nose, such as hay fever and indoor allergies, can cause the nasal membranes to swell, and the passages to the sinuses -- hollow spaces within the bones around the nose -- to become blocked. Mucus, which typically drains from the sinuses to the nose, can't drain.
Other reasons? "A dry nose leads to more sinus problems," says Richard F. Lavi, MD, an allergist in Twinsburg, Ohio. "Nasal dryness leads to congestion, thickened mucus, and worsened sinusitis."
Whatever the trigger, you can pick and choose from these five tips, or adopt all of them.
Sinus Tip 1: Keep Your Cool
"When the heat is on, the membranes get dry," says Russell B. Leftwich, MD, an allergist in Nashville, Tenn. Mucus isn't cleared as effectively, boosting the risk of sinus problems.
He can't recommend a specific indoor temperature range as ideal, but offers this guide: "You are better off wearing a sweater and keeping it cooler than cranking it up so you are comfortable wearing only a T-shirt."
Let your nose guide your indoor temperature range, suggests Lavi. "If you are not waking up with nosebleeds or congestion, that is probably a good temperature range."
Sinus Tip 2: Humidify Your Air
Strive for an indoor environment that's not too dry and not too humid. "Dust mites love greater than 50% humidity," Lavi warns. And if you're allergic to dust mites, that's bad news for your sinuses.
A too-humid indoor environment can also encourage the growth of mold, which can also set off sinus problems, says Todd Kingdom, MD, professor of otolaryngology--head and neck surgery at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Some people are more sensitive to this than others are, he says.
Experts are divided on the value of room humidifiers for creating a sinus-friendly home.
Forget them, Leftwich says. "A room humidifier never makes a difference. There is too much air to humidify."
But Josephson says using humidifiers in the bedroom beginning in October through March or April can make a difference in keeping sinus problems at bay.
Vaporizers can keep you more comfortable if you are in the midst of a sinus problem, Leftwich says. But you need to have it close by. "It doesn't do any good to have a vaporizer on the other side of the room." And, he warns, the devices must be cleaned daily to keep bacteria from growing in them.
Breathe the mist coming from vaporizers, but not the steam, he warns. Steam can easily burn you. ''Most vaporizers don't produce any steam, just a mist," Leftwich says. "But those vaporizers that do make steam and certainly steam from a tea kettle or pot on the stove must be used with caution." Steam can burn you, so don't come into contact with it.