Breath Better

Giving your nose a rinse can mean the difference between breathing better or misery. The nose is the gateway to smell and respiration. It is full of sensors to help the body detect pleasure and danger. Irritants in the air can trigger the nose to become congested, produce mucus, and sneeze. These sensors communicate via the nerve pathway to produce these symptoms in order to prevent further entry of the irritants. It also communicates with the lungs by providing anticipatory signals to expel the irritants through coughing.

Environmental allergy can produce similar symptoms but via a different pathway mediated by the immune system. Upon exposure to an allergen in the nose of an individual with allergies, the immune system releases histamine that causes itching, sneezing, runny nose, and congestion. These repetitive symptoms can be miserable and disruptive. Over-the-counter antihistamines can be effective treatments, but usually with only partial relief and sleepy side effect.

A third trigger is upper respiratory viral infections, such as the rhinovirus that causes the common cold. Viral infections trigger both nerve and immune pathways. However, the immune system releases little to no histamine, unlike in allergy. Due to copious mucus production and congestion, viral illnesses can result in sinus and ear infections. The inflammation triggered by viruses can prolong and exacerbate the symptoms, particularly the loss of smell caused by the coronavirus in COVID-19.

Depending on the duration and severity of symptoms, all three triggers can lead to headaches, loss of smell, snoring, obstructive sleep apnea, asthma and sinus infections. Typically, if the symptoms are caused by allergy, taking an antihistamine will result in significant relief within one hour. When one is still miserable, the most likely cause is viral or irritant. The distinguishing features of a viral infection are fever, chills, body ache, and fatigue. Regardless of the cause, the first step to a speedy recovery is removing the trigger and reducing the inflammation. An effective and homeopathic method is through nasal saline rinse.

A common nasal rinse system is the Neilmed Sinus Rinse. It is effective and easy to use. My favorite is the Nasaline Nasal Rinsing System which uses a syringe and patented tip to provide a smooth, controlled flush. For toddlers, the Neilmed Squeezie is effective and user-friendly. To prevent recurrent sinus and ear infections, I highly recommend saline rinse in kids to flush out the mucus because of their narrow nasal passages. With COVID-19, I am advocating nasal saline rinse to reduce the severity of the infection, less stimulation to the lungs, and rapid recovery from loss of smell. Daily rinse can help reduce medications and potential side effects from chronic use. Simply giving your nose a refreshing rinse can eliminate a lot of headaches!


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