You probably weren’t even aware you had sinuses until your first sinus headache or sinus infection. Most people don’t think about their sinuses until there is a problem. Ear nose and throat doctors know that if you keep your sinuses healthy you can avoid many sinus problems. Here’s the ENT’s guide to good sinus health.

Cleanliness is key

One of the easiest ways to avoid any type of respiratory infection is to keep your hands clean. As simple as it sounds, handwashing is powerful protection. Sinus infections get started when a bacteria or virus from your hand finds a way to your nose. Just like mom always told you, keep your hands clean and keep them away from your nose. Hand washing is particularly important when you are using public or common areas. This includes hotel lobbies, sports arenas and movie theaters. These aren’t places that you think of as hotbeds of infection, but they can be coated in germs.

Be considerate and keep your germs to yourself. When you sneeze or cough, cover your nose and mouth. If you are sick, stay at home. Naturally, you should stay away from others with upper respiratory infections. When sick, simmer water with vanilla, herbs, citrus peel, or lavender on the top of your stove. A small bowl of vinegar will also remove odors without adding fine particles in the air.

Reduce indoor allergens

Minimize exposure to allergens in your home. Vacuum and dust your home at least once a week and more often if you have pets. Wear a particle mask while you clean to further protect your sinuses. Wash sheets, pillowcases and blankets every seven days in 140°F water. Encase your mattress, box spring and pillows in special zippered allergy-proof covers. Brush pets frequently to reduce shedding. Groom pets outside to reduce the amount of allergen spread in your home.

Use humidity to your benefit

Your nasal passages and sinuses must have moisture to function properly. Don’t dehydrate your nasal passages and sinuses when air is dry. This is particularly important during the winter when air is dry. Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air in your home. Breathing dry air robs your respiratory system of moisture. Drink lots of water. You’re dehydrated by the time you feel thirst. Staying hydrated keeps your nasal secretions thin.  Use saline sprays if your nasal passages or sinuses feel dry. You can safely use saline sprays as often as necessary. Avoid nasal sprays containing decongestants.

Regular use of a neti pot will remove debris and allergens before they can cause problems. Rinse with sterile distilled water or a sterile saline solution. Don’t share your neti pot and be sure to clean it after each use.

Seek prompt treatment for sinus problems

If you have many sinus infections a year or a stubborn sinus infection that won’t go away its time to see the ENT for treatment. The ENT can determine the cause of your recurring sinus problems and recommend the most effective course of treatment.