Nose Woes: Avoiding Winter’s Nasal Problems

Spencer Payne specializes in nasal problems and sinus surgery in Charlottesville
Spencer Payne, MD

Spencer Payne, MD, contributed this blog post. He treats ear, nose and throat conditions at UVA, specializing in problems of the nose and sinus surgery.

As we move away from the summer and closer to winter, a different set of nasal problems face us. Instead of the allergies to grass and weeds we may have barely survived, the common cold and the dryness of those cold long winter nights will conspire to make our noses miserable.

Your nose is just as important to keep clean and healthy as the rest of your body. For most of us nasal breathers, the nose is the first line of defense against all those germs that try to get to us through our breath so it is important to keep the lining of our noses intact and moist! This is even more true for people on blood thinners, whether the old or “new-fangled” versions.

Preventing A Dry Nose and Nosebleed

A dry nose increases your risk of infection and nosebleeds. To help fight or prevent a dry nose, emollients such as aquaphor or other water-based gels for the nose found at your pharmacy or online can be used. Using these regularly throughout the winter can help stave off the bloody noses that become more common during this time.

If despite your best efforts your nose continues to bleed more than once a week you should talk to your doctor. If you happen to be taking aspirin or another blood thinner, also check with your doctor to find out if the prescription is the best option for you.

Do Neti Pots Work?

A tried and true “solution” for almost all nasal problems is salt water! Consider nasal irrigations with salt water if you feel like your nose is dry or if you’re getting a cold.

nasal problems
Using a neti pot with a salt water solution can help cold symptoms.

Nasal irrigations can be done with either a squeeze-bottle or a neti pot, a teapot-looking device that has been used for centuries. You can find both at your local pharmacy or grocery store.

Make Your Own Neti Pot Solution

Many people prefer to buy pre-mixed packets of salt along with their irrigation device, but you can easily make a mixture at home by adding ¼ teaspoon of kosher, sea or pickling salt and ¼ tsp of baking soda to 8 ounces (1 cup) of distilled water heated to body temperature. The CDC warns against using tap water, especially in warmer areas, as the risk of certain infections can increase.

Over-the-Counter Cold Remedies & When To Call Your Doctor

If you still have a cold, other remedies available over-the-counter can help you avoid the need for antibiotics. Nasal decongestant sprays, such as products containing oxymetazoline, can offer the fastest and best relief or nasal congestion and pressure.

Be careful, though — these sprays can become addicting and should not be used for more than 4 days.   Otherwise, medications labeled for “sinus” issues abound and the active ingredient phenylephrine can also provide relief to nasal blockage. Most people think it works as well as the pills containing pseudoephedrine that are only available at the pharmacy counter. Both versions can raise your heart rate and blood pressure, though, so check with your doctor before using if these are problems you already have.

Home Remedies Not Working?

Make an appointment with an ear, nose and throat specialist in Charlottesville.

Some herbal supplements and vitamins can also help:

  • Echinacea purpurea and zinc can be used during the first 3-4 days of an upper respiratory infection.
  • Vitamin C is often recommended, but the evidence is not as strong as with Echinacea and zinc.

If fever, drainage, nasal congestion or facial pressure persist beyond 7-10 days, call your doctor. That pesky virus may have graduated into a bacterial infection, but you can usually avoid this with the steps above!

However, the best option is to keep from getting sick in the first place. Eat well and take time to sleep. Wash your hands frequently, especially when around others who may be sick.

Take care of your nose and it will take care of you!

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