Summer is a great time to get outdoors and enjoy the sun or hit the pool. If you have sinus problems, though, the warm weather may not be as enjoyable for you as for others. While the colds that plagued you during the winter months have all but disappeared, summer brings a host of other conditions that may make your sinuses worse.
At Oasis Ear, Nose, and Throat, otolaryngologists Dr. James Osborne and Dr. Bryan Smedley know that Arizona summers, with their hot, dry weather, can leave your sinuses clogged and irritated, interfering with your outdoor plans. Why do sinuses become worse in the summer? Keep reading to find out.
Understanding your sinuses
Sinuses are air-filled cavities that reduce the weight of your head and allow you to breathe normally. The paranasal sinuses are four paired cavities located in your head near the eyes and nose; they’re named after the bones that provide their structure.
- Ethmoidal sinuses: located between your eyes
- Maxillary sinuses: located below your eyes
- Sphenoidal sinuses: located behind your eyes
- Frontal sinuses: located above your eyes
The largest sinus cavity is the maxillary sinus, and it’s the one that most often becomes infected.
Sinusitis is an inflammation of the tissue lining the sinuses. The sinuses are connected by narrow channels that help drain mucus out of the nose, keeping the nose clean and free of bacteria. When the sinuses get blocked and fill with fluid, bacteria can grow and cause an infection. The nasal tissue is almost always swollen if sinus tissue is inflamed, making breathing more difficult.
Why are my sinuses worse in summer?
There are a number of reasons summer can make your sinus problems worse.
When the temperature rises and the air is dry, as is often the case in Arizona, the mucus in your nose becomes thick and sticky. This blocks the sinuses, causing stuffiness and/or sinus headaches. Changes in barometric pressure, too, such as when a summer thunderstorm sweeps in, can also trigger sinus pain and headaches.
In extreme heat, the cilia (hair-like projections that sweep debris in your nose away) can’t function properly; mucus builds up and bacteria flood into the sinuses. When bacteria, allergens, or other irritants invade your sinuses, the membrane becomes inflamed, leading to mucus buildup, pressure, and pain.
Starting in the spring and lasting through the summer months, the air outdoors is filled with pollen from trees and flowers. While pollen is essentially harmless to most people, for those who are sensitive to it (allergic), breathing pollen-laden air causes symptoms that include sneezing; itchy, watery eyes; and nasal congestion, which, in turn, leads to sinus trouble.
While you can’t avoid pollen entirely, it helps if you stay indoors in the morning hours, when pollen levels peak. Close the windows, and keep the air conditioner on. The same goes for when you’re out in your car.
Also common during the summer months are automobile exhaust, smog, mold spores, and smoke from wildfires or campfires, the latter of which damage the cilia and the mucus membrane.
Summer’s a great time to head to the pool, but the chlorine added to the water, especially in indoor pools that have limited ventilation, can inflame your sinus tissues. And if you like to dive into the water, be aware that it can force water into your nostrils and sinuses, bathing the tissues with more chlorine. A nose clip can help prevent inflammation or infection.
Treating sinus problems
To deal with your summer sinus problems, the providers at Oasis ENT offer a number of different treatments.
For a simple sinusitis infection, you can use:
- Over-the-counter allergy medications
- Saline nasal irrigation
- Fluids (sinusitis is usually a viral infection, and fluids help)
If your symptoms don't improve after 10 days, we may prescribe:
- Antibiotics (if the sinusitis is bacterial in origin)
- Oral or topical decongestants
- Prescription intranasal steroid sprays
If you’re using nonprescription sprays or drops, don’t take them for more than three to five days — they can increase congestion.
If you’re experiencing summer-related sinus problems, it’s time to come into Oasis Ear, Nose, and Throat for an evaluation and effective treatment. To get started, call us at 623-207-7560, or book online with us today.