6 Tips: Preventing Sinus Congestion
With the winter season approaching – and the germs that come with it – here’s Dr. Bill’s list of self-help skills that you can do to prevent and alleviate sinus congestion during the winter season.
1. Wash those little hands
Many winter illnesses are spread by hand-to-hand contact. Teach your children to wash their hands frequently.
2. Eat immune-boosting foods
In our medical practice, especially during winter season, I encourage families to follow our immune-strengthening five-S diet: salmon, smoothies, salads, spices, and supplements (such as omega-3 fish oil, vitamin D, and a fruit and vegetable concentrate called Juice Plus). I also prescribe lots of “fruit and yogurt smoothies” (See 8 Foods that Boost Immunity).
3. Keep the nose and sinuses clear
Germs settle first in the nose and sinuses, so it’s important to keep these passages flushed out. Here’s Dr. Bill’s clean-nose regimen:
Start with a “nose hose”
Make your own saltwater nose drops (¼ to ½ teaspoon of salt to 8-ounces of warm water) or buy a “saline solution” at your local pharmacy or supermarket. Spritz a few drops of the solution into your child’s nose and gently suction out the loosened secretions using a nasal aspirator, which the veteran nose-cleaners in my medical practice dub a “snot-snatcher.”
Finish with a “steam clean”
Make a home steam bath by turning on a hot shower in the bathroom and closing the door. Fifteen minutes of concentrated steam while your baby is nursing or playing will keep her nose clear. For older children, use a facial steamer. Let your children see you use a facial steamer while reading a book or watching TV and market it as “Oh, it makes my face feel so soft!”
Blow the nose with care
Teach your children to blow gently, one nostril at a time. Don’t hold both nostrils tightly while you blow, and don’t blow your nose forcefully. This jams nasal secretions into the sinus cavities, which can cause a sinus infection.
Turn down the heat and turn on the vaporizer
The dry air caused by central heating can thicken nasal and bronchial secretions. Vaporizers have a double benefit: besides adding nasal-friendly humidity to dry winter air, a vaporizer acts as a healthy heat source, and steaming sterilizes the water. Remember your high-school physics? As steam condenses, heat is released, keeping a small bedroom comfortably toasty. You not only save on energy costs, but you wake up with a clear nose.
Preventing sinus congestion and humming
New insights into upper airway health reveals that humming may help keep breathing passages open. When you hum you stimulate the air in the nose and sinuses to oscillate, which triggers the release of nitric oxide from the lining of nasal and sinus cavities. This nitric oxide is a natural medicine that widens blood vessels in the lungs, which helps the lungs deliver more oxygen.
Dr. Sears, or Dr. Bill as his “little patients” call him, has been advising busy parents on how to raise healthier families for over 40 years. He received his medical training at Harvard Medical School’s Children’s Hospital in Boston and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, the world’s largest children’s hospital, where he was associate ward chief of the newborn intensive care unit before serving as the chief of pediatrics at Toronto Western Hospital, a teaching hospital of the University of Toronto. He has served as a professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, University of South Carolina, University of Southern California School of Medicine, and University of California: Irvine. As a father of 8 children, he coached Little League sports for 20 years, and together with his wife Martha has written more than 40 best-selling books and countless articles on nutrition, parenting, and healthy aging. He serves as a health consultant for magazines, TV, radio and other media, and his AskDrSears.com website is one of the most popular health and parenting sites. Dr. Sears has appeared on over 100 television programs, including 20/20, Good Morning America, Oprah, Today, The View, and Dr. Phil, and was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine in May 2012. He is noted for his science-made-simple-and-fun approach to family health.