North Central News

TO YOUR HEALTH: Breathe better this spring

By Shawn B. Mathews, M.D.
Do spring flowers mean annoying allergies for you?

For most people, simple over-the-counter medications and a change of season can relieve congestion. But if your nasal allergies turn into chronic sinusitis, one of the most common chronic health problems, then you may need further intervention in order to breathe easier.

The sinuses are a series of interconnected, hollowed spaces in the skull, lined with mucus-secreting membranes. When these membranes become infected or inflamed due to the common cold or allergies, the sinuses swell and block the nasal passages.

This blockage or constriction makes drainage difficult and that can cause an infection. If a sinus infection lingers, patients can experience symptoms such as headaches, facial pain, congestion, fatigue and drainage for weeks. This is called chronic sinusitis.

Other symptoms include coughing, sore throat, ear pain and toothaches. Some people lose their sense of smell and taste over time. Try relieving your congestion with over-the-counter medication, as well as, some of the suggestions below:

  • Drink more fluids as antihistamines and decongestants can thicken mucus and make it more difficult to drain.
  • Use steam or saline sprays to introduce moisture to your sinuses to promote draining.
  • Hot compresses can help alleviate facial pain and reduce swelling.
  • Sleep with your head elevated. This helps with drainage so your sinuses don’t become more inflamed.

Balloon Sinuplasty technology, which received FDA clearance in 2005, is used to restore normal sinus passages with specially designed catheters and balloons. The goal of sinus surgery is to open the sinuses so they can function normally, while preserving as much natural anatomy as possible allowing the nasal passages to drain, the infection to clear and the patient to breathe easier. Recovery times vary after sinus surgery, but patients typically return to normal activities within 24 hours of treatment.

Shawn B. Mathews, MD, is an ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon with privileges at John C. Lincoln North Mountain Hospital. Reach him at 602-678-5001. The information in “To Your Health” is provided by John C. Lincoln Health Network as general information only. For medical advice, please consult your physician.

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