Winter is getting cranked up and we need to take measures to maintain our health because during the winter months and at other times when the air is very dry, it is important to keep our nasal passages moist. When I was young I used to think my mother’s practice of medicine was just one more of her old wives tales, but practically applied her easy way to moisten your nasal passages is to sniff salt solution into both sides of the nose 2-4 times a day seems to work. To prepare a solution of proper strength, add 1/4 teaspoon of table salt to a cup of warm water, and stir it until all the salt has dissolved. Sniff some from a spoon or other small container into each nostril. Alternatively, you can buy ready-prepared nasal saline products, such as Ocean, Simply Saline or generic equivalents from drug stores. Such solutions can be used to wash away mucus from the membranous lining of the nasal passages. They also help by shrinking any parts of it that are swollen. This may save you a trip to the doctor. If this is not done, mucus and the swollen membranes around these openings may block openings of the sinuses into the nasal passages. Sinusitis will then occur if nasal bacteria infect the mucus, which can no longer drain from the blocked sinus. Treatment of sinusitis (rather than its prevention) often requires the use of antibiotics.
Some doctors are not enthusiastic about nasal saline irrigation since researchers found that it does not significantly reduce the incidence of colds. Personally, I am a little skeptical about a doctor’s hesitation to try a home remedy rather than popping a few pills. I don’t mean to confuse colds with sinusitis. Viruses cause colds, while sinusitis is a bacterial-induced complication for some colds. Irrigation of the nasal passages with saline cannot kill viruses or bacteria, but according to my favorite ENT patient, it can help to reduce the incidence of sinusitis in people with a tendency to develop this common complication of colds.
Part of the source for this article came from my mom and part from the American Family Physician (70:1685 & 1697, “04) & Wall Street Journal (Dec.7″04, page D6).
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