The Winter Nose Woes
SYMPTOMS: Nasal congestion, usually worse when lying down. Thick post-nasal drainage, chronic mild facial headache or pain behind the eyes, dry non-productive cough and recurrent ear “popping” or pressure.
CONTRIBUTING FACTORS: The greatest contributing factor is the decrease in indoor humidity (readings of 10-20%), associated with turning on the heat as the weather gets cold.
TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR THE PATIENT: Balanced diet, exercise and adequate rest. Increase hydration; 6 8oz. glasses of water per day. Limit caffeine as it will increase the dehydration effect. If you are thirsty or lips are dry and cracked; drink more water.
Help break up thick mucus by:
- Over-the-counter medications such as guafenisen (Robitussin® (plain) or Mucinex®) or N-acetylcysteine 500mg. twice a day.
- Irrigation to cleanse the nose and/or throat: Use normal saline, not plain water, Alkolol® for thicker mucus and personal vaporizers.
- Nasal lubricants: Ponaris® oil (do not use if allergic to cottonseed), sesame oil, ointments such as Vasoline® and antibiotic ointments such as Neosporin® or Bacitracin®
- Antiseptic or antibiotic sprays and irrigations. These are to be used with a physician’s guidance.
TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR YOUR ENVIRONMENT: Maintain humidity between 40-50%. The average house needs 6-12 gallons of water per day to maintain humidity in the 40-50% range. Humidity gauges can be found at hardware stores, home specialty stores in catalogs and online.
Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air. Care should be taken to prevent the growth of bacteria or mold in the humidifying unit. Clean the unit regularly! If unable to humidify the entire house, the patient can use a small, 2 gallon cool mist or ultrasonic humidifier in the bedroom at night. When using the humidifier at night, keep the bedroom door closed to contain the moisture. Humidfiers can be purchased at Sears®, Walmart®, drug stores and some home improvement stores.
WHEN TO SEEK HELP: If the above plan is not providing relief after several days or if your symptoms worsen and include discolored mucous (dark yellow to greenish), a fever greater than 101º in an adult or worsening headache with or without facial swelling or pain in the upper teeth, call your doctor for further evaluation to rule out infection. If symptoms resolve only to return again and/or you notice a correlation with dog or cat exposure or variations with certain seasons; this may indicate an allergy. Your doctor may then recommend allergy testing.