Beating the Winter Cold
Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Daniel Becker, M.D. FACS
“There’s something going around.”  These are words we hear every change of season, and throughout the winter. Instead of a “24-hour cold,” some people experience something much worse - prolonged, stuffy nose, facial pressure, discolored nasal drainage and sometimes fever and other symptoms. This can interfere with your life – sinus infections cause significant misery, and also loss of time from work.

Sinusitis means "inflammation of the sinus cavities." This happens when sinuses are exposed to anything that might irritate the membranous linings, including dust and pollution, cigarette smoke, and other irritants. Allergic reaction to mold, pollen and so forth may also irritate the nasal linings. Also, infection with a virus may irritate the nasal linings. All of these factors may cause the narrow openings in the nose and sinus cavities to narrow even further or even to shut entirely, and can lead to a bacterial infection.

We now know that sinus problems can often be resolved or controlled by managing the sinus problems at the main sinus drainage opening -- the osteomeatal complex or OMC.

In general, the OMC can be blocked by mucosal swelling or anatomic obstruction. The causes are commonly reversible with the right medical treatment. In general, medical management of sinusitis may include one or more of the following: Antibiotics, topical and systemic decongestants, topical nasal lavage, nasal saline sprays, humidification, mucolytics, decongestants, and steroids.

Medical therapy must be overseen by a doctor. Some medications for sinusitis must not be taken if a patient has other medical conditions (i.e., high blood pressure or  pregnancy).

If you are a sinus sufferer, one reason you may have more problems than others is allergy. Allergy is not just a springtime event. Some patients have winter allergies to things such as dust mites or mold.  Allergy testing can indicate what you are allergic to, as well as what environmental changes can improve your health. We no longer use shots, but instead use allergy drops that you take orally. We find that allergy drops are just as effective for our patients but do not require a weekly visit to our office, and do not require a shot!

Asthma sufferers should know that sinusitis can actually exacerbate asthma. The post-nasal drainage of diseased sinuses can irritate the reactive airways of asthmatics. Many patients who have successful treatment of their sinuses find that their asthma also improves.

Sometimes structural problems predispose you to sinus issues. A deviated septum, sinus polyps and other things can mechanically block your sinus and nasal passages. In our offices, we evaluate you for the various causes of sinus problems. We can determine if you have allergies, or if you just have general sensitivities. We can examine the inside of your nose with a thin lighted telescope (called an endoscope) that will help us identify a deviated septum, sinus polyps, and other mechanical problems.

Dr. Daniel G Becker is an ENT and Facial Plastic Surgeon for KHS. For more information, go to www.noseandsinus.com or call (856)589-6673 to schedule an appointment.