As the mouth is the entry point for food, the nose is the entry point for air. A stuffy nose is one of the top nuisances at all ages. Besides missing out on the comfort of taking a deep breath through a clear nose, an overstuffed nose can compromise breathing and lead to a sinus infection. One of the best ways to keep irritants and germs out of your lungs and sinuses is to keep an open nose and have better breathing.
Keep an Open Nose
The sinuses are small cavities in the bones around your nose. There is a sinus inside the cheekbones on either side of your nose, one right above it, and one on each side just above your eyes. These cavities are meant to warm and humidify the air going into your lungs. Yet they can gunk up with fluid which, like water in a stagnant pond, gets infected. Your body provides a natural drainage system from the sinuses into the nose to keep this from happening. However, those tiny openings between the sinuses and the nose get easily clogged, leading to sinus infections. Also, nasal irritants and allergies can cause swelling of the inside nasal passages that clogs the sinus openings and further contributes to back-up of “snot” into the sinuses. Here’s my simple Rx for keeping nasal passages and sinuses clear. I call it a “nose hose” and “steam clean.”
Tip 1: Enjoy a Nice “Nose Hose”
Make your own saltwater nose drops (½ teaspoon of salt to 8 ounces of water) or buy a ready-made saltwater (saline) solution at your local pharmacy or supermarket. Spritz a few drops of the solution into your clogged nasal passages and sneeze or gently suction out the loosened secretions using a nasal aspirator, also available at your local pharmacy.
A Neti Pot is nice. “Neti” in Indian or Ayurvedic medicine means “water cleansing.” I have personally used this handy nasal cleaner and have recommended it in our medical practice as a very effective way to unclog sinuses. My little patients call this handy nose hose “Aladdin’s lamp” because it looks like one. They are available at most pharmacies. The directions come in the pot package. Put warm saltwater in the pot. Tilt your head to one side. Put the spout of the pot in the upper nostril. The water then flows through one nostril and out the other, flushing the nose and pulling gunk out of the sinuses. I believe that the Neti Pot is one of the most underappreciated preventive-medicine devices.
Tip 2: Savor a “Steam-Clean”
Another way to loosen nasal and sinus secretions is to use a facial steamer (available at pharmacies). Put the steamer on a table or prop it up with a few books. Add 2 drops of eucalyptus oil to the water. Insert your face into the steamer while taking deep breaths of the nasal-flushing warm moist air. To get your mind off your nose, do the “steam-clean” while watching TV. A before-bed steam-clean (even in a warm shower) is particularly useful.
Vaporizers are very good. In winter, turn the heat down and put the vaporizer on. Run a warm-mist vaporizer in your bedroom. The dry winter air of central heating can thicken nasal and bronchial secretions, further compromising your airways. Normally, the airways are lined with millions of tiny filaments, or cilia, which flop back and forth like conveyor belts to move the mucus forward so it can be coughed or sneezed out. Dry air dries out the mucus and slows these conveyor belts. Vaporizers have a double benefit: Besides adding nasal-friendly humidity to dry winter air, a vaporizer acts as a healthy heat source. Steaming sterilizes the water. And, remember your high-school physics? As steam condenses, heat is released; this can keep a small bedroom comfortably humid and toasty. You not only save fuel costs, but you wake up with a clear nose.
While humidifiers are fine, they are not as nose-clearing as vaporizers, especially during colder months. Humidifiers don’t put out hot steam and they are more difficult to keep clean. While the mist does produce humidity, it is not sterile and doesn’t act as a heat source nearly as well as a vaporizer.