Sinus Care 101: Spring cleaning for your allergies

With the departure of the winter chill comes allergy season with all of its runny, scratchy, sneezy annoyances.

Stuffy nasal passages and plugged up sinuses are a common complaint and remedies can range from over-the-counter medication to sinus surgery in extreme cases.

Doctors at the Michigan Sinus Center offer the following tips to keep you breathing better:

Before you consider other measures, one of the simplest things you can do is cut down on your exposure to allergens.

“Allergy avoidance is key for patients with allergies,” says Jeffrey Terrell, M.D., director of the Michigan Sinus Center and professor of otolaryngology at the University of Medical School. “It’s the real first step, because if you can avoid the allergies you can avoid the symptoms.”

If pollen bothers you, keep your windows closed, change clothes and shower after doing yard work, and consider investing in an air purifier with a HEPA filter for your home.

Reducing your exposure to non-seasonal irritants can help, too.

Most people spend more time in their bedrooms than in any other room in the house – if you think about it, you spend about as much time sleeping as you do at work each week. So, putting allergy covers on your pillows and mattress can really help cut down on allergies to dust mites, which feed on skin flakes.

Fido and Fluffy may love sleeping in the bed with you, but keeping them out of the bedroom will keep their dander out, too. And if your basement smells too much like a basement, you may have a mold problem, which can also exacerbate allergies.

If you have chronic sinus stuffiness or discomfort, testing for and treating underlying allergies is a critical step, says Melissa Pynnonen, M.D., associate professor of otolaryngology at U-M.

“Treatment options can include medications, allergy avoidance and allergy shots,” Pynnonen explains. “Many medications for allergies are available without a prescription – including antihistamines like Zyrtec, Allegra and Claritin – while other medications, such as nasal steroid sprays, require a prescription.”

One simple, cheap and effective weapon against sinus troubles is a salt-water rinse, says Mark A Zacharek, M.D., associate professor of Otolaryngology at U-M.

“They come in two varieties – a neti pot, which is like a little watering can, and a plastic squeeze bottle, which introduces the water with more force,” Zacharek notes. “The rinse helps to clear the nasal passages and keep them moisturized.”

For those who have already been prescribed a steroid nasal spray, Terrell offers the following tip: Instead of tilting the bottle up into your nostril, hold the bottle straight up and down and lean forward over it. This will help ensure the medicine gets deep into the nose.

The Michigan Sinus Center is located in Livonia. For more information visit our nose and sinus disorders website or to make an appointment call 734-936-8051.

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