Sinus Health – Air Pollution
How does pollution affect our sinuses?
The lining of our sinuses and the inside of the nose are some of the most delicate tissues in the body. When exposed to prolonged contact with pollution, smog, and other contaminants, we have increased likelihood of developing chronic sinusitis. Medical researchers have conducted studies on people living in the most polluted cities in the world, from Delhi to Mexico City. They have assessed the harmful impacts of a toxic environment, and have concluded that pollution may be a key reason why more than 37 million Americans suffer from sinus infections annually. If you’ve browsed other articles on the site, you’ll know that the mucus membrane inside our nasal and sinus cavities is lined with delicate hairs called cilia. These cilia work to filter out harmful irritants that enter our nose and lungs every time we are exposed to pollution. Repeated contact with environmental pollution can predispose you to develop abnormalities in your nasal lining. This can lead to chronic inflammation with pain and pressure in the sinuses. Such abnormalities include:
- General irregularity of the cilia
- Irregular structure of the cilia
- Decreased function of the cells that produce mucus and nasal discharge (known as goblet cells)
- Presence of cells that are in various stages of development (meaning that the cells that make up the nasal lining are producing at a more rapid rate in an effort to restore cilia that has been damaged
High pollution in Mexico City
Pollutions and Impairment of the Cilia
Abnormalities in the cilia detract from their ability to move normally. This can decrease the cilia’s capacity to filter out the bacteria and viruses breathed in through the nasal passages daily. As a result, you may experience dried and blocked mucus that is unable to drain from your nasal cavity. Abnormal structure and decrease function of the cilia can be brought about in two ways: primarily, it can be a genetic disorder, of which you have no control. Secondarily, it could be a result of chronic exposure to pollution, infection, or inflammatory stimuli, referred to as Acquired Ciliopathy. This condition can you predispose to sinusitis because your body has lost the ability to filter the infected mucus and particles that enters your nose. For more information keeping your environment healthy and on cilia and their importance in the prevention of sinusitis, read the Sinuses and Your Environment article.
6 Tips to Help Fight Air Pollution
1. Minimize exposure to polluted air –
You love them but avoid friends or family members who smoke. Do your best not to walk or exercise near areas with especially high levels of smoke or smog. A note for city dwellers: Consider alternate routes to work or school. Big cities are more likely to a higher air content of soot, smog and other types of industrial pollution. Avoid these irritants. If you know that a certain area of the city is under construction, which is directly on your way to work, consider changing your route, or taking the subway, to avoid breathing in these harmful particles.
2. Rinse your sinuses –
Sometimes, exposure to polluted air is unavoidable. We simply cannot stay indoors all the time because of a fear of breathing in harmful air pollutants. Sinus rinses can help to keep our noses clean and to clear them of the irritants that may be found in our nasal cavities. The article on Rinsing the Sinuses provides a Step-by-Step process for caring for the delicate tissues inside your sinus and nasal cavities.
3. Change your Furnace and Home Air Filters –
Even though we may not directly expose ourselves to outdoor pollutants, they may still find a way to enter our homes by sneaking in through the air filter. Be sure to check your furnace and home ventilation filters for build-up of dirt and debris and change them every six to twelve months at a regularly scheduled interval.
4. Use a HEPA-filtered vacuum –
A HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air)-filtered vacuum differs from a normal vacuum in that it prevents the dust you suck up from escaping through the vacuum bag. The good news is that the vacuum not only works to trap outdoor pollutants that have made their way inside your home, but also takes care of eliminating indoor allergens that are a major cause of sinus infections (i.e. dust mites, cockroaches or pet dander.) Purchase a HEPA-filtered vacuum on-line or at your local home goods shop.
5. Fill your house with plants –
Plants are known to purify the air through their detoxifying properties. Some plants are more helpful than others in ridding your house of airborne particles that contribute to sinus problems. Look for these plants at your local greenhouse:
- Bamboo / Areca palms – This type of houseplant is recognized by NASA as capable of filtering the harmful airborne materials xylene and toluene and also acts as a humidifier, as it gives off 1 liter of water every day. The butterfly palm is easy to spot, because the upward curvature of the leaves is reminiscent of, as you could guess, a butterfly!
- Spider Plants
- Snake Plant (“Mother-in-Law’s Tongue”)
- English Ivy
- Peace Lilly
- Chinese Evergreen
- Elephant Ear Philodendron
- Red-edged dracaena
- Weeping Fig
Bamboo is good to have in your home
6. No Shoes in the House –
Studies show that a whopping 85% of contaminants and pollutants can be the result of wearing our shoes indoors. Get into a habit of leaving your shoes near the door, preferably outside if possible, to from tracking dirt into the home.
Leave those dirty shoes outside