Turning on the Heat
Many of my patients find their sinuses become more inflamed as soon as their offices or their apartments turn on forced hot air. This is not surprising, as the sinuses must adapt from the cold weather outside and then respond to the dramatic change of the warmer air. The problem is that hot, dry air makes the sinuses too dry and causes them to swell up.
What You Can Do
The best thing a person can do is to keep the sinuses lubricated with saline sprays several times a day. The other recommendation is a cool, moist humidifier to keep in the bedroom to increase the moisture in the bedroom air. Keeping the windows open if possible, is not a bad idea during the day if possible, but at night while you are sleeping that also can be too drying- and lead to sore throats.
Do not use Vicks vapor rub in your sinuses, no matter what you’ve heard: this is not meant to go into the nose or sinus cavity and can cause a problem in the lungs.
When to See a Doctor
If you are experiencing persistent nasal congestion or sinus pressure you should be examined by a physician. ENTs and allergists are sinus specialists and can do nasal and sinus endoscopy to view the sinuses and decide if there is an allergic inflammation, cysts, polyps or an infection. As an allergist, I also can perform allergy testing to see if there is an environmental allergen, such as dust mites or mold, that are contributing to the sinus inflammation. Unfortunately, pet dander is more intense in the winter months, as their owners spend more time inside and as a result get more exposure.
The key to getting through the cold weather winter months for your sinuses is being prepared and use a humidifier.
Dr. Dean Mitchell
Mitchell Medical Group, NYC & Long Island