We all expect the occasional stuffy nose, but for some congestion continues for months without end. Sinus congestion can be more than just frustrating and uncomfortable. If left to continue, a stuffy nose can become something more serious.
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Dry Air, Dry Sinuses
Whether you live in a dry climate, or are regularly exposed to heated indoor air, excessively dry air will dry out the membranes in your nose. When the mucus in your nose dries, it becomes thicker and can clog your sinuses causing pain and pressure.
Dry air can also trigger and worsen nasal congestion by causing blood vessels to become swollen with excess fluid. The excessive buildup of fluid causes the stuffy feeling and makes breathing difficult.
When the nose is dry it is much easier for illness causing bacteria and viruses to penetrate your body’s defenses. This can lead to a vicious cycle of constant congestion and other sickness without knowing dry air is the underlying cause.
Symptoms Caused By Sinus Congestion
- Discolored nasal drainage is a common symptom of sinus congestion.
- Headaches often accompany sinus congestion because nasal passages swell and create intense facial pressure and pain.
- Coughing is a frequent symptom when you suffer from nasal congestion. Excess mucus flows down your throat, triggering a cough reflex. The condition generally worsens at night.
Dry Air Affects More Than Just Your Sinuses
The humidity of our environment affects the air we breathe but has additional health impacts as well…
- Respiratory problems. Dry air can cause more than congestion. Asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, and nosebleeds can be a result of, or triggered by, dry air.
- Dehydration. Increased respiration due to dry air diminishes body fluids more rapidly.
- Certain types of bacteria thrive in low humdity. Pneumococcus, staphylococcus, and streptococcus are eliminated faster when relative humidity is higher.
- Your immune system works overtime to make up for the changes in the body after being exposed to dry air.
- Watery and itchy eyes and throat may be caused or aggravated by dry air.
- Dry skin, chapped lips and eczema are all worsened by dry air.
- Dry nostrils can lead to cracked nasal membranes, damaged cilia, poorly functioning mucus membranes and chronic sinusitis.
- Chronic joint and muscle pain may be due to, or aggravated by dehydration due to dry air.
Ways to Combat Dry Air in Your Home
If the air in your home is excessively dry, increasing the humidity can help…
- Purchase a hygrometer. Available at most home improvement stores, an indoor humidity monitor is an inexpensive way to quickly determine if dry air could be adversely affecting you or your family.
- Use a humidifier. The ideal humidity level, for skin and sinuses, is 45 percent. Plus or minus 10 percent is within a healthy range.
- Apply a warm, moist washcloth to your face to help open up spaces in your sinuses.
- Inhale steam to keep sinuses moist. Fill a bowl or sink with hot water. Hold your face several inches above the water. Use a towel to form a tent over your head and the water. Inhale steam for 5-10 minutes.
Be cautious if doing this with children, as steam can burn.
- Drink plenty of water to thin out and help expel mucus.
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Everyday Air Quality
If the air we breathe is consistently dry, our nasal membranes, skin, and bodies become dehydrated and unable to function optimally.
Portable humidifiers, available in a variety of price ranges, can easily be moved from room to room wherever an electrical outlet is available.
Central humidifiers, a slightly more significant financial investment, are built into a home or office air-conditioning system.
A central humidifier may be worth the investment if you live in an area with extremely dry air or are regularly using air-drying centralized heat and air-conditioning.
Whichever humidifier you choose, it can help wash away allergens, irritants, viruses, and bacteria from the air in your home.
Good to Know If you’re not able to clean your humidifier tank as frequently as suggested by the manufacturer, try adding a ¼-cup of white distilled vinegar along with the water in the tank to inhibit the growth of mold or bacteria.
Humidity, A Delicate Balance
There are concerns that room humidifiers may create too much moisture in the air if not used appropriately. Too much moisture could breed mold and fungi inside your home, which may further aggravate sinus or asthma conditions.
Excess moisture can encourage an increase in the number of dust mites in your home, which are a common cause of allergies. Don’t let indoor humidity get above 55 percent.
If you use a vaporizer versus a humidifier, be aware of the differences. Vaporizers use steam to provide moisture and can easily cause accidental burns in young children.
Check that carpets, drapes, bedding, and walls are not becoming damp from too much moisture.
Balanced Humidity Improves Health
Making sure the air in your home is maintained at the proper level of humidity is one of the best ways to alleviate several health concerns.
Ensuring proper indoor humidity has important skin, allergen and other health benefits while inhibiting the growth of mold, bacteria, viruses, fungi, mites and other asthma inducing agents.
Have you had any experience with humidity affecting your health? Do you have any solutions to share that will help others improve the quality of the air they breathe and their health? Please share in the comments below.