Like so much else in life, you don’t really notice your sinuses unless there is a problem. You can go ages and never give your sinuses a thought until suddenly you have the incredible pain and pressure of a sinus headache. Keep your sinuses healthy to avoid problems. Here’s what you can do and how an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT) can help.

Keep it Clean

As simple as it sounds, the easiest way to avoid infections of the sinuses or any part of your respiratory system is to wash your hands.

Most sinus infections begin with a bacteria or virus that has been spread by touching your hands to your nose. That means to keep your hands clean and away from your nose. Wash hands frequently, especially when using public or common areas.

Of course those germs you pick up on your hands come from droplets created by sneezes and coughs. Don’t spread your germs. When you sneeze or cough, cover your nose and mouth to help others keep their sinuses clean as well. If possible, avoid people with upper respiratory infections.

Avoid Irritants

If you smoke, stop. If you live or work around others that smoke, minimize your exposure to their second-hand smoke. It’s no fun to ask a family member to smoke outside, but it’s also no fun to have sinusitis.

Don’t burn candles! This is one thing you can do to reduce indoor air pollution in your home. If you have a funky or musty odor, don’t cover it up by burning a candle. Burning candles release fine particles of soot that irritate your nasal passages and sinuses. Simmer herbs or citrus peels in water on the stovetop if you need to get rid of a smell.

Control Allergies

If you have environmental allergies, you need to minimize exposure to indoor allergens as well. Vacuum and clean frequently your home frequently. If you are very sensitive to dust, wear a mask while you clean.

If you are allergic to dust mites, wash your sheets every seven days in 140°F water and put a special allergy-proof mattress cover on your mattress and pillows.

Brush pets frequently to reduce shedding.

Keep Your Sinuses Clean and Moist

Your nasal passages and sinuses need moisture to function properly. Make sure you don’t dehydrate your respiratory system.

During the winter months, use a humidifier to add moisture to the air. Heated air is dry and when you breathe dry air, it robs your respiratory system of moisture.

Make sure you drink plenty of water. By the time you are thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. Drink plenty of water to keep nasal secretions thin and your nasal passages moist.

Use a neti pot or nasal irrigator to gently wash debris from your nasal passages and sinuses. Just make sure that you use distilled water and a sterile saline solution. Speaking of saline, you can also safely use saline sprays without the risk of rebound swelling making them superior to most decongestant sprays.

See the ENT for Help

If you have sinus infections that won’t go away or sinus infections that keep coming back see the ENT for help. Sinusitis can mimic the symptoms of colds or allergies. If you have recurring colds, see the ENT; it might be sinusitis.

The ENT can determine the cause of your recurring problems and recommend a course of treatment. Antibiotic treatment and endoscopic surgery are just a few options. The cure starts with a call, so call the ENT right away.