A sniff, a snort, a sneeze - there's a lot of action involving your nose and sinuses. John Clinger, M.D., an ear, nose and throat surgeon at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, says the nose has more to do than stop and smell the roses.
"Your nose and sinuses actually have a job beyond just breathing and smelling," he said. "Your nose protects your lungs. For instance, on a cold winter day, your nose will warm and humidify the air before it reaches your lungs."
More cool things to know about your nose and sinuses:
- They produce mucus to protect your lungs from viruses, bacteria and particles in the air
- They produce almost a liter of mucus a day - which you swallow
- The sinuses are air-filled spaces in the cheeks, the forehead, between the eyes and back part of the nose - for a total of 10
- 80 percent of what you think is your sense of taste is really your sense of smell at work
- When you're sick, mucus production can increase to two liters a day and may affect your appetite
Clinger said that for those who want to deal with allergies and congestion with a nasal wash, a neti pot is certainly an option, but he recommends a simple over-the-counter nasal rinse squeeze bottle that costs about $10. Both need salt packets and it's important to remember to use distilled water, he said, because tap water can introduce contaminants and irritate the nasal cavity.
Beyond allergies, sinusitis is one of the most common chronic diseases Americans suffer from, he said, affecting about 14 percent of the population. Sinusitis is an inflammation, or swelling, of the tissue lining the sinuses. When they become blocked, they can fill with fluid or germs and result in infection, Clinger said. For these sufferers, their quality of life can be severely compromised without treatment. About 250,000 operations are done each year to treat people with sinusitis.
"It's more than the sniffles - these people we're operating on are really sick," Clinger said.
Bonnie Davis: firstname.lastname@example.org, 336-713-1597