Maintenance Therapy For Your Nose and Sinuses
|Nathan B. Sautter, MD
Board certified in Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery
Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology
Oregon Sinus Center at Oregon Health & Science University
About the author: Dr. Sautter completed a fellowship in Rhinology/Sinus Surgery and has been practicing at Oregon Health & Science University for the past 6 years. His practice is devoted to treatment of chronic rhinosinusitis, allergy, and all other disorders of the nose and sinuses.
The nose serves many important functions, including filtration of the air we breathe. Dust, pollution, mold, bacteria, viruses and other microscopic particles are often present in the air that enters the nose. The nasal and sinus membranes are coated with a thin, mobile layer of mucus responsible for trapping particles in the air when we breathe in through the nose, preventing these particles from reaching the lungs where they may cause irritation or infection. The cells that comprise the nasal membranes are covered with tiny hairs, or cilia, that work together to move this mucus blanket along with the trapped particles towards the back of the nose where it is directed into the digestive tract. Acid in the stomach neutralizes any viruses, bacteria or other microorganisms present in the swallowed mucus, and this functions as an important first line of defense against infection.
Any condition that results in inflammation in the nose and sinuses, such as allergies, chronic sinusitis, scarring from prior surgeries, or anatomic abnormalities can impact the normal function of the nasal cilia and mucus blanket. This may result in buildup of sticky, tenacious mucus, crusting, chronic infection and inflammation which can cause symptoms of loss of sense of smell, foul smell, nasal obstruction and thick nasal drainage. Ultimately, the normal function and physiology of the nose and sinuses may be compromised by this process.
Regular saline nasal irrigations aid in cleansing the nasal and sinus membranes, preventing buildup of abnormally thick mucus and crusting in order to maintain a healthy nose filter. Just as the air filter in your car or home ventilation system requires regular maintenance for optimal function, so does your nose. In patients who are prone to nasal and sinus inflammation due to processes such as allergy or chronic sinusitis, I routinely recommend regular, daily saline nasal irrigations. I find this is particularly effective in patients who have had prior surgery to open the sinuses. Regular irrigations also aid in the healing process following sinus surgery, and may help to speed recovery during a routine cold or sinus infection. In selected patients, addition of special medications to the saline nasal irrigations may further help to reduce inflammation, thick mucus and infection.
Nasal saline irrigations are an effective, inexpensive and safe treatment for many different nasal and sinus ailments, and may help to prevent problems in healthy individuals who happen to work or live in dusty, smoky or moldy environments. I encourage my patients to make nasal saline irrigations part of their daily routine along with showering and brushing their teeth. It is a simple, easy and natural method for maintaining the health of your air filter!