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Sinusitis

Updated 23 May 2018

7 reasons why your sinusitis could be worse in winter

If you think you can only get sinusitis in spring, think again. Protect your sinuses this winter.

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Those of us who suffer the excruciating symptoms of sinusitis during spring know that the condition is associated with pollen allergies and weather changes.

There are people, however, who suffer from sinusitis all year round, and many of them find that their symptoms are actually worse during winter.

There are several factors that can aggravate sinus infections during the winter months:

1. Dry air

Depending on your environment, the air might be drier in winter, which can cause the mucous linings in your nose to dry out and the mucus to thicken, leading to congestion and infection. Combat this by using a humidifier in your home, or taking steamy showers. 

2. More humidity in the environment

On the other side of the spectrum, a wet winter season can cause a change in air pressure, which can also cause sinusitis. Sinus pain occurs when there is pressure on the air-filled sinus cavities. You can use an over-the-counter remedy such as paracetamol to relieve the pain. You can also talk to your doctor about using preventative medication such as a corticosteroid nasal spray.

3. Carpets, rugs, blankets, winter bedding

Winter is the time to fetch those cozy blankets and winter sheets from the linen cupboard, but make sure they are dust-free before snuggling. Dust is a common trigger of sinusitis. Carpets and rugs can also collect extra dust or pet dander, which can worsen sinusitis. Make sure all winter bedding is dry and dust-free, and create a pet-free zone on your bed to avoid dander.

Alternatively, if you are prone to sinusitis, choose fluff-free blankets.

4. Fireplaces, electric heaters and air conditioning

During the winter months we are more likely to use indoor heating. Electric heaters and air conditioners may dry out the air, while wood fires can irritate the nasal passages. According to Dr Garrett Bennett, a sinus surgeon from New York, USA, it is just as important to filter the air indoors as keeping it humid and warm. You can invest in a HEPA-filter to keep the air clean or make sure you regularly open windows and doors to air out the house.

woman sitting in front of fireplace

5. Pets spending more time inside

No-one wants to leave their furry pets outside in the cold, but if you don’t clean your carpets on a regular basis, Fluffy’s dander can wreak havoc on your sinuses. Be sure to vacuum often if you have carpets, and don’t forget about furnaces, skirting boards and hidden nooks and crannies that can harbour dust and dander.

dog on bed

6. A change in diet

Who doesn't like cheesy pasta and red wine on a cold winter's night? Unfortunately inflammation is at the root of sinusitis and many foods, such as dairy or sugar, and alcohol, can contribute to inflammation in the body. If you find that some foods trigger congestion, go easy on them. Also try and incorporate foods rich in antioxidants, such as leafy greens and berries, into your diet. Switch creamy soups for clear vegetable soups.

7. Cold and flu viruses

Cold and flu can ultimately lead to sinus infections. The cold or flu virus attacks the membranes of your nasal passages, causing inflammation, leading to congestion because of thickening mucus. When this lingers, it can cause a sinus infection. If the congestion and pain don't clear up, you should consult your doctor. 

Image credit: iStock

 

Ask the Expert

Sinusitis Expert

Dr Gary Kroukamp MBCHB, FCORL(SA) is an ENT Specialist, practising from rooms at Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont, Cape Town. He also has a teaching sessional appointment as an ENT Consultant at the Tygerberg Hospital. He is a member of the ENT Society of South Africa and the South African Cochlear Implantation Group. His interests in the ENT field include sinusitis and sinus surgery, nasal allergy and ENT conditions in children.

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