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The role of sinuses in respiratory health: Tips for sinusitis prevention and management

The sinuses often take a backseat in discussions about respiratory health, but those air-filled cavities play a crucial role in filtering, humidifying and conditioning the air we breathe. When sinus problems arise, they can lead to sinusitis, a condition that can interrupt your life.

The sinuses consist of 4 pairs: the frontal (near your forehead, between your eyes), maxillary (located behind your cheeks), ethmoid (near your temple) and sphenoid sinuses (behind the ethmoid sinuses, near your ears). The sinuses work to warm and humidify inhaled air on its way to the lungs. They also filter dust and bacteria before they can enter the lungs, preventing infection or irritation. The sinuses even play a part in our voices by influencing the tone and resonance when we speak.

Sinusitis occurs when the sinus passages become inflamed, causing a range of uncomfortable symptoms like nasal congestion, facial pain or pressure, headaches, a reduced sense of smell or taste, and fatigue. Sinusitis can last for weeks, but with some preventative steps, can be shortened or avoided altogether.

  • Stay well hydrated to keep mucus thin and promote proper sinus drainage. Aim for at least 8 glasses of water a day: 64 ounces.
  • Nasal saline sprays or neti pot irrigation can rinse out mucus and irritants from the sinuses so they can’t build up and cause an infection.
  • Use a humidifier in your home or office to maintain proper indoor humidity levels. Doing so prevents the sinuses from drying out which can cause irritation or sensitivity.
  • Avoid irritants such as cigarette smoke, allergens and environmental pollutants like dust or smog.
  • Consume a diet rich in antioxidants which can help reduce inflammation. Fruits, vegetables and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids are also beneficial in supporting respiratory and sinus health.
  • Regular exercise boosts circulation, respiratory levels and promotes overall health.
  • If you have allergies, consult a doctor for effective allergy management. Keeping allergies well-managed will prevent sinusitis flares.
  • Wash your hands frequently. Doing so reduces the spread of germs that can cause respiratory infections, leading to sinusitis.
  • If sinusitis symptoms persist, schedule an appointment with an ENT specialist. Chronic sinus infections or those that don’t go away within 1-2 weeks may require more specialized treatment.