If you think sinus infections are confined to the warmer spring and summer months, when pollen is rampant and the weather can be extremely changeable, guess again. Sinus issues can be every bit as bad—if not worse—in the winter months.
Common Sinusitis Signs
Sinusitis is the medical term for a sinus infection, the result of swelling and inflammation in the nasal passageways. It causes cold-like symptoms including nasal congestion, mucus discharge, facial pain and pressure, fatigue, cough, sore throat and bad breath. Sinusitis is most often the result of an upper respiratory tract infection but can also be caused by abnormalities of the nasal passages, such as nasal polyps or a deviated septum; immune system disorders; and environmental pollutants. The condition may be acute (lasting four weeks or less) or chronic (persisting longer than 12 weeks). Treatment options include home remedies, over-the-counter or prescription drugs and surgery, depending on the severity and duration of symptoms.
What’s the Cause?
Those dealing with year-round sinusitis symptoms often find they are worse in the wintertime. There are many triggers during the coldest months of the year, including:
- Dry Air. Drier air—common in many parts of the country during the winter months – causes the mucus linings in your nose to dry out and mucus to thicken, increasing the odds of congestion and infection. Combat this by using a humidifier to help keep your nasal passages moist.
- Humidity. In other areas, the opposite problem occurs: winters are wet. But that’s not a good thing either; frequent storms bring pressure changes in the atmosphere, which can cause pain and pressure in the air-filled sinus cavities. Over-the-counter medications and nasal sprays may help relieve symptoms.
- Dust. During the cold winter months, many people reach for extra blankets and sheets. After six months in the closet, these are often covered in dust—a common trigger of sinusitis. Thoroughly wash and dry all bedding before use to eliminate dust.
- Pet Dander. We all love our furry, four-footed friends, but animal dander is one of the leading triggers of sinus symptoms. To prevent Fido from causing you pain and misery, keep pets off your bed. Vacuum frequently to remove dander from carpets and furniture, don’t let your pets roam outdoors (it’s probably too cold anyway!) and bathe them frequently.
- Indoor Heating. Indoor heating sources such as electric heaters and fireplaces can trigger sinus symptoms during the winter months. Heaters dry out the air and smoke from fireplaces can irritate the nasal passages. Invest in a HEPA air filter to remove a majority of particulates and open windows and doors to air out the house when it isn’t too cold outside.
- Food. We tend to splurge on rich foods over the holidays, but all those cookies and eggnog can wreak havoc on the digestive system. Dairy, sugar and alcohol all promote inflammation in the body, so enjoy these in moderation and be sure to eat plenty of leafy green vegetables and berries for added fiber and an antioxidant boost that will help keep you healthy.
- Viruses. Cold and flu viruses are most common in the winter months. These attack the nasal passage membranes, causing inflammation and congestion. To reduce your odds of getting sick, practice good hygiene by frequently washing your hands with warm water and soap. Get plenty of rest, eat a healthy diet and cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough to prevent the spread of germs.
Struggling with wintertime sinus issues? Our sinus and allergy experts at Pinnacle ENT can help both root out the issues causing your seasonal flare-ups, and recommend a strategy to help manage them.