Fighting Sinusitis: Nasal Congestion
Nasal congestion may be caused by a plethora of factors that are more common than you might suspect. In reading this article, you may be surprised to know that congestion is not linked solely to sinus infections. It is thus important to apprise yourself of the various health conditions and behaviors that can lead to congestion, and take steps to manage them as best you can.
The following 10 listed health issues have been linked to nasal congestion as well as to chronic and acute sinusitis. Learn about each, paying careful attention to the preventative steps that will help you avoid the snares of annoying nasal congestion.
1. Nasal Congestion & Viral Colds
Most sinus infections start with a cold. A virus, creating swelling in the nasal tissue, is the cause of a cold, or rhinopharyngitis. This swelling is what causes the “stuffy” feeling in your nose, because the mucus in your nose is unable to drain properly.
If a virus causes your sinus infection, then chances are that antibiotics will rarely help, since these drugs kill only bacteria. You will usually feel better within a week or so. Sometimes, topical decongestant may help you feel better if you have contracted a viral sinus infection, but its best to limit their use to three or four days, to prevent “rebound congestion” from the medicine that can feel like a cold even after the virus is gone.
If your sinus infection is from bacteria, versus viral, then antibiotics will help treat the infection. You should also take care to protect yourself with usual remedies like washing your hands, avoiding touching public doorknobs and handles, and not sharing space with others with sinus infections or colds, since the viral form is contagious.
2. Nasal Congestion & Allergies
Nasal congestion can also come in the form of allergies. As seen above, inflammation blocks your nasal cavities, inhibiting the ability of your sinuses to drain normally. Studies show that allergies are not only directly connected to sinus infections, but people who suffer from certain allergies are also at a higher risk of developing chronic sinusitis.
If you have been diagnosed with allergies, be sure to stay away from the things that cause reactions, whether dust mites, mold and mildew, cigarette smoke, cockroaches or pet dander. Keep a clean house and read Dr. Bennett’s Spotlight Series articles for more extensive tips on fighting sinus infection-causing allergies.
If you still end up battling a sinus infection due to exposure to allergies, your doctor can prescribe steroid nasal sprays that will ease the inflammation and help heal the damaged tissue.
3. Nasal Congestion & Bacteria
Bacterial sinus infections are usually the sign of a more serious sinus infection. Like a viral infection, bacterial sinus infections start as a cold, but here, they typically last much longer (more than 10-15 days)
The two most common forms of bacterial infections that cause nasal congestion are streptococcus pneumoniae or haemophilus influenza.
Unfortunately, there is little to do to prevent bacteria from entering your body, as the “ingredients” for these infections exist in even the healthiest and most wellness-conscious people. The bacteria can grow into symptoms and cause nasal congestion at the very first moment your immune system lets its guard down. The most you can do if you feel yourself feeling congested is to take a nasal decongestant and remember to get plenty of rest.
4. Nasal Congestion & Polyps
A nasal polyp is a grapelike growth of your own nasal mucosa that forms in your sinuses. While benign, they too can cause sinus blockages and feelings of congestion since your sinuses are unable to drain properly due to the interference that the polyp creates. Depending upon their location, polyps may also hamper your ability to breathe and your sense of smell. If you have chronic allergies or asthma, you may also be prone to nasal polyps.
There are a variety of treatments for nasal polyps to alleviate congestion, ranging from steroid nasal sprays to surgery, depending upon the severity.
5. Nasal Congestion & Pollutants
Inflammation of the nasal tissues that causes congestion is also linked to indoor and outdoor pollutants you unwittingly inhale every day, including dust, exhaust, and even perfume.
Avoidance is the best way to reduce your chance of developing a sinus infection. Environmental precautions and investing in an air purifier to clean the air inside your home can also help.
6. Nasal Congestion & Swimming
If your doctor has informed you that you are pre-disposed to nasal congestion and sinus infections, it is important to make sure that you do not spend extended periods of time in chlorinated pools. Chlorine can act as a nasty irritant, disrupting the normal functioning of your nasal membrane lining and sinuses.
Diving into a swimming pool also carries its own separate risk. When you dive into water (despite whether the water is chlorinated), it can create pressure in your sinuses, since when your head impacts with the water, water can be pushed into the sinuses and subsequently irritate and inflame the tissue.
7. Nasal Congestion & Flying
Those who spend lots of time traveling in the air often experience nasal congestion, due to the pressure that builds in your head during liftoff and landing. Air in a plane has a relative humidity similar to a desert that can dry your sinuses as well. Bring along a nasal decongestant to take along with you, and avoid caffeine and alcohol on the flight, opting instead for water. We have put together a list of Healthy Flying Tips to make your flying experience a healthier one.
8. Nasal Congestion & Overuse of Nasal Products
Although it is a fact that a nasal decongestant spray can ease nasal congestion, overuse may cause constriction of the blood vessels contained in the nose. Dr. Bennett reminds patients to take special note of how many days you use the spray, as prolonged or overuse can worsen your symptoms worse.
As an aside, another consequence of overuse of nasal sprays is a type of immunity to the product. In effect, the next time you attempt to ease nasal congestion through the use of a nasal spray, it may not work as swiftly or as effectively if you had previously overused the product to treat your symptoms.
How do you know if you are over-using your nasal spray? Dr. Bennett recommends that prescription and over-the-counter sprays should only be used as directed, and in most cases, for no longer than three to four days, to decrease the chances of dependency. Click here to read more about Neti Pot and nasal congestion.
9. Nasal Congestion & Unusual Anatomy
Nasal congestion can also be connected people who have an unusual sinus structure. For example, slender or tight drainage passages, growths, and a cleft palate are all structural abnormalities that can contribute to blockages and increased likelihood of congestion.
Perhaps the most common type of sinus abnormality leading to increased congestion is a deviated septum. A deviated septum is when the bone and cartilage that divides the nasal passages is not centered, sometimes causing chronic sinusitis. Enlarged adenoids, lymphoid tissue in the path connecting the throat and nose that aid in the filtering out of harmful microorganisms and other impurities. can also contribute to nasal obstruction.
10. Nasal Congestion & Certain Medical Conditions
Certain types of chronic medical disorders, although rare, may also lead to nasal congestion. If you have been diagnosed with HIV, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, or any other disorder associated with problems in the way your immune system functions, it could cause your mucus to become denser than usual, restricting proper drainage and leading to increased congestion and sinus infections. Take note that pregnancy and changes in male or female hormones have also been linked to nasal congestion. If you are pregnant, be sure to speak with your obstetrician before you take any medication.
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