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How does pollution affect my sinuses?

Air pollution has a significant effect on people’s sinuses.  It is estimated that 300,000 people will die in China this year from pollution-related illnesses, including complications from sinus problems.

There are a couple of ways that pollution can cause sinus infections.  Normally, the nose produces mucous to capture and flush out foreign particles.  When there are a large number of particles, as in a large city, the nose can produce so much mucous that the narrow openings (called ostia) from the sinuses become clogged, thus producing a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. 

Also, pollution can adversely affect the cilia, tiny hairs inside the nasal passages that capture dust and dirt and keep mucous moving.  Normally, the cilia ‘beat’ or vibrate 1000 to 1500 times per minute to move the mucous through the nose.  If the cilia are damaged or impacted, however, mucous stagnates inside the nasal passages for hours or days, allowing bacteria to breed.

If you live in a polluted area, you may want to try some simple strategies to take care of your sinuses.  Try applying a warm rag to your nose each night to loosen the mucous.  This may be followed by a saline rinse with a Betti pot neti to flush out your nasal passages.  Prevent flare-ups by keeping your home humid and wearing a facial mask whenever you enter polluted areas.