Myths and Facts About Snot

Myths and Facts About Snot

15 tips to help you feel better.

Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?

Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.

Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.

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When a Cold Becomes a Sinus Infection

When a Cold Becomes a Sinus Infection

You’re sneezing, coughing, and all stuffed up. It sounds and feels like a cold, alright. But as time goes on, you start to wonder. Is it turning into a sinus infection?

They’ve got some things in common, but there are ways to tell them apart. The right ID lets your doctor get you the best treatment.

It’s an illness caused by many different kinds of viruses, which are tiny infectious particles.

You can’t miss the symptoms:

You may also get a cough and a mild fever. The symptoms usually build, peak, and slowly disappear. Some medications can ease symptoms. For example, decongestants may decrease drainage and open the nasal passages. Pain relievers may help with fever and headache. Cough medicine may help, as well.

Colds typically last from a few days to about a week or longer.

Sometimes, a cold may cause swelling in the sinuses, hollow spaces in your skull that are connected to each other. The swelling can prevent the flow of mucus.

This can lead to a sinus infection. If you have pain around your face and eyes — and thick yellow or green mucus for more than a week — see your doctor.

It’s inflammation or swelling of your sinuses. Normally they’re filled with air. When they become blocked and filled with fluid, bacteria can grow there and cause infection. The result: a sinus infection. You may hear your doctor refer to it as sinusitis.

They may include things like:

These symptoms can also happen with a cold. But if they continue for more than 10 days, you may have a sinus infection.

Any condition that blocks off the drainage channels of your sinuses can cause a sinus infection, such as:

A sinus infection may start after a cold. It can also happen because of something called a deviated septum, which refers to a shift in your nasal cavity.

Your doctor will give you a physical exam and take your medical history. You might get a CT scan of your sinuses.

Your doctor may prescribe medication. He may recommend antibiotics if your symptoms go on for more than 10 days. Decongestants, antihistamines, and other drugs help lessen the swelling in your sinuses and nasal passages.

Steam and hot showers can help you loosen mucus. Your doctor may also suggest nasal saline to wash mucus from your nose.

In rare cases, when a sinus infection doesn’t go away, long-term antibiotics or surgery may be needed.

Most colds go away without medical treatment. If you have pain around your face or eyes, along with thick yellow or green nasal discharge for more than a week, check with your doctor. Also call him if you have fever or symptoms that are severe or don’t get better with over-the-counter treatments.

SOURCES:
National Jewish Medical and Research Center: “It a Cold or the Flu?”
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: “Sinusitis.”
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: “Rhinitis and Sinusitis.”
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: “Sinusitis.”
UpToDate: “Acute Sinusitis and Rhinosinusitis in Adults.”

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Understanding Common Cold — Symptoms

Understanding Common Cold — Symptoms

Symptoms of a cold can be felt about 1-4 days after catching a cold virus. They start with a burning feeling in the nose or throat, followed by sneezing, a runny nose, and a feeling of being tired and unwell. This is the period when you are most contagious — you can pass the cold to others — so it’s best to stay home and rest.

For the first few days, the nose teems with watery nasal secretions. Later, these become thicker and yellower or greener. You may get a mild cough. It won’t get much worse, but it is likely to last into the second week of your illness. If you suffer from chronic bronchitis or asthma, a cold will make it worse.

Because the common cold weakens your immune system, it can increase the risk of a bacterial super infection of your sinuses, inner ear or lungs. Community acquired pneumonias can start as a common cold. If symptoms get worse, rather than better, after 3-7 days, you may have acquired a bacterial infection. These symptoms can also be caused by a cold virus other than a rhinovirus.

Usually there is no fever; in fact, fever and more severe symptoms may indicate that you have the flu rather than a cold.

Cold symptoms typically last for about 3 days. At that point the worst is over, but you may feel congested for a week or more.

Except in newborns, colds themselves are not dangerous. They usually go away in 4 to 10 days without any special medicine. Unfortunately, colds do wear down your body’s resistance, making you more susceptible to bacterial infections.

If your cold is nasty enough, seek medical attention. Your doctor likely will examine your throat, lungs, and ears. If your doctor suspects strep throat, he will take a culture and determine if you have an infection and may need antibiotics. If he suspects pneumonia, you will need a chest X-ray.

 

SOURCES:

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: “Common Cold.”

Palo Alto Medical Foundation: “The Common Cold.”

University of Virginia Health System: “Upper Respiratory Infection (URI or Common Cold).”

National Jewish Medical and Research Center: “Getting Well When You Have a Cold or the Flu.”

Medline Plus: “Common Cold.”

FDA: “Colds and Flu: Time only Sure Cure.”

American Lung Association: “A Survival Guide for Preventing and Treating Influenza and the Common Cold.”

UpToDate.

15 tips to help you feel better.

Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?

Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.

Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.

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Is It a Cold or Sinus Infection?

Is It a Cold or Sinus Infection?

Watery eyes, a stuffy nose, sneezing: How long these symptoms last can be a clue to what’s causing your congestion. Is it a cold or a sinus infection?

If it’s a cold virus, you may find yourself close to a tissue box for several days. Most of the time, colds get better on their own in 10 days or less.

Colds bring on a nasty mix of symptoms that can really wear you down. They can include:

Because the common cold is a virus, antibiotics won’t help. But over-the-counter medications may make you feel better.

“The remedies you choose should be targeted at specific symptoms, so something for your headache, for your congestion, for your fever,” says Camelia Davtyan, MD, a professor of medicine at UCLA.

Davtyan also stresses getting plenty of fluids and rest. The latter, she recognizes, is often hard.

“Getting enough rest can be a problem, because people don’t want to skip work and they have so many things to do,” she says. You may also have a hard time staying asleep at night because you can’t breathe through your nose.

Davtyan recommends sinus irrigation. A neti pot helps thin mucus and flush out your sinuses with a mix of distilled water and salt.

“People who irrigate when they have a cold usually do better,” says Davtyan.

When your nasal passages become infected, that’s a sinus infection. And they’re harder to get rid of. Viruses, bacteria, or even allergies can lead to sinus infections.

Colds don’t usually cause sinus infections, says Davtyan, but they do offer a breeding ground for them.

“You touch your nose a lot when you’re sick, and each time you bring more bacteria to the sinuses,” she says. “Because your sinuses can’t drain, the bacteria stay there and grow.”

Look for the following symptoms:

If you think you have a sinus infection, you may need to see your doctor.

“Mostly, these acute infections go away on their own or after a simple course of antibiotics,” says ear, nose, and throat specialist Greg Davis, who practices at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle.

Davis recommends sinus irrigation for sinus infections. It can help ease your symptoms while you wait for the antibiotics to do their job. Steroids, decongestants, and over-the-counter mucus thinners can also ease your discomfort, he says.

See an ear, nose, and throat specialist if your sinus infection doesn’t go away after one or two courses of antibiotics, Davis says.

Some people have sinus infections over and over. The only known risk factors, Davis says, are allergies and smoking (another reason to quit!) In rare cases, an acute infection can become chronic if it’s not treated successfully.

If you have chronic infections, and antibiotics and other treatments don’t help, you may need sinus surgery, Davis says.

Your doctor will enlarge the small or inflamed and swollen openings of your sinuses, allowing them to drain, and letting you breathe more easily.

SOURCES:

Greg Davis, MD, otolaryngologist, University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle.

Camelia Davtyan, MD, clinical professor of general internal medicine, UCLA.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: “Common Cold: Symptoms,” “What are the symptoms of sinusitis?”

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15 tips to help you feel better.

Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?

Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.

Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.

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WebMD does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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What Causes Sinus Problems?

What Causes Sinus Problems?

What made your good sinuses go bad?

The problem isn’t the sinuses themselves. They’re just hollow air spaces within the bones between your eyes, behind your cheekbones, and in the forehead. They make mucus, which keep the inside of your nose moist. That, in turn, helps protect against dust, allergens, and pollutants.

That’s all normal. So what happened to yours?

If the tissue in your nose is swollen from allergies, a cold, or something in the environment, it can block the sinus passages. Your sinuses can’t drain, and you may feel pain.

Sinuses are also are responsible for the depth and tone of your voice. This explains why you sound like Clint Eastwood when you’re all stuffed up.

There are eight sinus cavities in total. They are paired, with one of each in the left and right side of the face.

Blockages. Each sinus has a narrow spot, called the transition space (ostium), which is an opening that’s responsible for drainage. If a bottleneck or blockage happens in the transition of any of your sinuses, mucus backs up.

An extra sinus. About 10% of people have one. It narrows that transition space.

Deviated nasal septum. Your nasal septum is the thin wall of bone and cartilage inside your nasal cavity that separates your two nasal passages. Ideally, it’s in the center of your nose, equally separating the two sides. But in many people, whether from genetics or an injury, it’s off to one side, or “deviated.” That makes one nasal passage smaller than another. A deviated septum is one reason some people have sinus issues. It can also cause snoring.

Narrow sinuses. Some people just have variations in their anatomy that creates a longer, narrower path for the transition spaces to drain.

Sinus sensitivity and 

allergies

. You may be sensitive to things in your environment and to certain foods you eat. That can cause a reaction that leads to swelling in the nose.

Your doctor can prescribe medications to control your symptoms. If you have sinus problems and allergies, you should avoid irritants such as tobacco smoke and strong chemical odors.

Use these tips to reduce inflammation and prevent problems:

If your sinus problems are related to allergies:

SOURCES:

Ford Albritton, MD, director, the Center for Sinus and Respiratory Disease at the Texas Institute, Dallas.

Jordan Josephson, MD, director, NY Nasal & Sinus Center; attending physician, Lennox Hill Hospital; author, Sinus Relief Now.

Kidshealth.org: “When Sinuses Attack.”

National Institutes of Health: “Sinusitis.”

WebMD Medical Reference: “When a Cold Becomes a Sinus Infection.”

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Nasal Saline Irrigation and Neti Pots

Nasal Saline Irrigation and Neti Pots

If you’re one of the millions of Americans dealing with sinus problems, you know how miserable facial pain and clogged nasal passages can be. In their search for relief, many sinus sufferers have turned to nasal saline irrigation, a therapy that uses a salt and water solution to flush out the nasal passages.

Although several methods of nasal irrigation exist, one of the most popular is the Neti pot — a ceramic or plastic pot that looks like a cross between a small teapot and Aladdin’s magic lamp. Although nasal irrigation using the Neti pot has been around for centuries, its use is on the rise in the U.S. The Neti pot originally comes from the Ayurvedic/yoga medical tradition.

Some ear, nose, and throat surgeons recommend nasal irrigation with a Neti pot or other method for their patients who’ve undergone sinus surgery, to clear away crusting in the nasal passages. Many people with sinus symptoms from allergies and environmental irritants also have begun to regularly use the Neti pot or other nasal irrigation devices, claiming that these devices alleviate congestion, and facial pain and pressure. Research backs up these claims, finding that nasal irrigation can be an effective way to relieve sinus symptoms when used along with standard sinus treatments. For some people, nasal irrigation may bring relief of sinus symptoms without the use of medications.

The basic explanation of how the Neti pot works is that it thins mucus and helps flush it out of the nasal passages.

A more biological explanation for how the Neti pot works has to do with tiny, hair-like structures called cilia that line the inside of the nasal and sinus cavities. These cilia wave back and forth to push mucus either to the back of the throat where it can be swallowed, or to the nose to be blown out. Saline solution can help increase the speed and improve coordination of the cilia so that they may more effectively remove the allergens and other irritants that cause sinus problems.

There aren’t any official medical guidelines, but Neti pots usually come with an insert that explains how to use them. You might also want to ask your family doctor or an ear, nose, and throat specialist to talk you through the process so you can get comfortable with the Neti pot before trying it on your own.

Typically, to use the Neti pot or other nasal irrigation device, mix 3 teaspoons of iodide-free, preservative-free salt with 1 teaspoon of baking soda and store in a small clean container. Mix 1 teaspoon of this mixture in 8 ounces of distilled, sterile or previously boiled and cooled water. 

If you experience burning or stinging, cut the amounts of dry ingredients to make a weaker solution. For children, use a half-teaspoon with 4 ounces of water.

Once you’ve filled the Neti pot, tilt your head over the sink at about a 45-degree angle. Place the spout into your top nostril, and gently pour the saline solution into that nostril.

The fluid will flow through your nasal cavity and out the other nostril. It may also run into your throat. If this occurs, just spit it out. Blow your nose to get rid of any remaining liquid, then refill the Neti pot and repeat the process on the other side. It’s important to rinse the irrigation device after each use and leave open to air dry.

In studies, people suffering from daily sinus symptoms found relief from using the Neti pot or other nasal irrigation system daily. Three times a week was often enough once symptoms subsided.

Research has found that the Neti pot is generally safe. A small number of regular users experience mild side effects, such as nasal irritation and stinging. Nosebleeds can also occur, but they are rare. Reducing the amount of salt in the solution, adjusting the frequency of Neti pot use, and changing the temperature of the water may help to reduce side effects. 

To help prevent infection, always use distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water. Also, it’s important to properly care for your nasal irrigation device. Either wash the device thoroughly by hand, or put it in the dishwasher if it’s dishwasher-safe. Follow by drying the device completely after each use.

If you experience side effects or develop an infection, talk to your doctor.

Neti pots are available over-the-counter at many drug stores, health food stores, and online retailers. They usually cost between $15 and $30.

SOURCES:

CDC.

National Institutes of Health.

Rakel, D. Integrative Medicine, 2nd ed, Saunders, 2007.

Rabago, D. Annals of Family Medicine, 2006; vol 4: pp 295-301.

Rabago, D. Journal of Family Practice, 2002; vol 51: pp 1049-1055.

Jean Kim, MD, PhD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

David Rabago, MD, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Harvey, R. The Cochrane Library, 2007.

American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: “Saline Sinus Rinse Recipe.”

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Sinus Problems: Home Remedies and Tips

Sinus Problems: Home Remedies and Tips

Are you among the 37 million Americans who have sinus problems each year? If so, there’s a lot you can do at home that can make a difference. Even better, many of these things are simple and inexpensive.

First, it’s crucial to figure out why you have sinus problems, says Jordan S. Josephson, MD, a Manhattan ear-nose-throat specialist and author of Sinus Relief Now. “Allergies are a fairly common reason for sinus problems,” he says.

The kinds that affect the nose include hay fever and indoor allergies.

Other reasons? “A dry nose leads to more sinus problems,” says Richard F. Lavi, MD, an allergist in Twinsburg, OH. “Nasal dryness leads to congestion, thickened mucus, and worsened sinusitis.”

Whatever the trigger, you can pick and choose from these five tips, or try all of them.

When the heat is on, the inside of your nose gets dry, says Russell B. Leftwich, MD, an allergist in Nashville, TN. Mucus isn’t cleared as well as usual, which makes sinus problems more likely.

He can’t recommend a specific indoor temperature range as ideal, but he offers this guide: “You are better off wearing a sweater and keeping it cooler than cranking it up so you are comfortable wearing only a T-shirt.”

Let your nose guide your indoor temperature range. “If you are not waking up with nosebleeds or congestion, that is probably a good temperature range,” Lavi says.

Keep your home from becoming too dry or too humid. “Dust mites love greater than 50% humidity,” Lavi says. If you’re allergic to those, that’s bad news for your sinuses.

Too much humidity indoors can also encourage the growth of mold, which may also set off sinus problems for some people, says Todd Kingdom, MD, a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Experts have different views on the value of room humidifiers for creating a sinus-friendly home.

“A room humidifier never makes a difference,” Leftwich says. “There is too much air to humidify.”

But Josephson says using humidifiers in the bedroom beginning in October through March or April can make a difference in keeping sinus problems at bay.

Vaporizers can keep you more comfortable if you’re in the midst of a sinus problem, Leftwich says. But you need to have it close by. “It doesn’t do any good to have a vaporizer on the other side of the room.” You’ll need to clean the machine daily so bacteria don’t grow in them.

Breathe the mist coming from vaporizers, but be careful if there’s steam. ”Most vaporizers don’t produce any steam, just a mist,” Leftwich says. “But those vaporizers that do make steam and certainly steam from a tea kettle or pot on the stove must be used with caution.” Steam can burn you, so don’t come into contact with it.

An energy-efficient house has a drawback. “You seal up a house to make it more energy efficient, and you end up with stale air that aggravates sinus problems,” Leftwich says.

The solution: “Opening up the house on a warmer day to clear the air is a good thing,” he says. Just don’t do it if the pollen count is high.

The value of having air ducts on your heating and cooling system cleaned is another area of debate among experts. Leftwich calls it a waste of time and money. Some patients told him they got sicker after cleaning the ducts, he says, probably due to aggravating airborne dust. But Josephson says if the air smells dusty or moldy, it might be worth a try. It’s also a good idea to change your air conditioner filters on a regular basis.

Drink “at least a quart a day,” Leftwich says. Most of that should be plain water, he adds.

“The more the better,” Josephson says. He tells his patients to drink enough H2O every day so their pee is generally clear.

Salt-water nasal rinses for your nose can help, too. You can buy a kit or mix up your own at home. The recipe: Mix about 16 ounces (1 pint) of lukewarm distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water with 1 teaspoon of salt. Some people add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to take the sting out of the salt. Use a bulb syringe to flush your nasal cavities and clean out mucus and debris.

Neti pots are another option. It looks like a tea pot with a long spout. To use it, you’ll mix about a pint of lukewarm distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water with a teaspoon of salt. Next, tilt your head over a sink at an angle of about 45 degrees. Place the pot’s spout into your top nostril and gently pour the solution in.

The salt water will flow through your nasal cavity, into the other nostril, and perhaps into your throat. Blow your nose to get out any water, then repeat the steps on the other nostril.

Clean your neti pot regularly.

Cigarette smoke, cleaning products, hairspray, and other materials that give off fumes can all make your sinus problems worse.

“Anything that has a strong odor of fumes can be a problem, especially if you are susceptible,” Leftwich says. Ask family members to quit smoking.

If you’re sensitive to pet dander, bathe or clean your pets weekly, Lavi says. And as much as you might want to let your pet snuggle up at night, it’s best for you to not do that.

SOURCES:  

Todd Kingdom, MD, professor and vice chairman, otolaryngology–head and neck surgery, University of Colorado School of Medicine and National Jewish Health, Denver.

Jordan S. Josephson, MD, ear-nose-throat specialist, New York City; staff physician, Manhattan Eye Ear and Throat Hospital; author, Sinus Relief Now.

Russell B. Leftwich, MD, allergist and chief medical informatics officer, State of Tennessee Office of eHealth Initiatives, Nashville.

Richard F. Lavi, MD, allergist, Twinsburg, Ohio; member, American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

WebMD: “Sinus Infection.”

WebMD: “Neti Pots.”

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The Truth About Mucus

The Truth About Mucus

Mucus is something everyone has, and some people wish they had a lot less of the stringy, gooey stuff. Sure, it can be gross to blow globs of snot into tissue after tissue when you have a cold or sinus infection, but mucus actually serves a very important purpose.

“Mucus is incredibly important for our bodies,” explains Michael M. Johns III, MD, director of the Emory Voice Center and assistant professor of otolaryngology — head and neck surgery at Emory University. “It is the oil in the engine. Without mucus, the engine seizes.”

How much mucus is normal, and how much is too much? What does its color tell you about your health? Can you just get rid of it, or at least cut down on it, and how should you do that? Here are answers.

Mucus-producing tissue lines the mouth, nose, sinuses, throat, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract. Mucus acts as a protective blanket over these surfaces, preventing the tissue underneath from drying out. “You have to keep them moist, otherwise they’ll get dry and crack, and you’ll have a chink in the armor,” says Neil L. Kao, MD, associate professor of medicine at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine.

Mucus also acts as a sort of flypaper, trapping unwanted substances like bacteria and dust before they can get into the body — particularly the sensitive airways. “You want to keep that environment, which is a sterile environment,” free of gunk, says Johns. “Mucus is kind of sticky and thick. It’s got viscosity to it that will trap things.”

But mucus is more than just sticky goo. It also contains antibodies that help the body recognize invaders like bacteria and viruses, enzymes that kill the invaders it traps, protein to make the mucus gooey and stringy and very inhospitable, and a variety of cells, among other things.

Even when you’re healthy, your body is a mucus-making machine, churning out about 1 to 1.5 liters of the stuff every day. Most of that mucus trickles down your throat and you don’t even notice it.

However, there are times when you do notice your mucus — usually not because you’re producing more of it, but because its consistency has changed.

“Typically, the mucus changes character. It gets thicker,” Johns says. “When it has mass effect you feel it, and when you feel it, you want to hock.” Some people just naturally have thicker, stickier mucus than others.

It generally takes a bad cold, allergy, or contact with something irritating — like a plate of nuclear-hot Buffalo wings — to throw your body’s mucus production into overdrive.

For instance, during an allergic response to an offending trigger, such as pollen or ragweed, mast cells in your body squeeze out a substance called histamine, which triggers sneezing, itching, and nasal stuffiness. The tissue of the mucus membranes starts leaking fluid, and your nose begins to run.

Drinking milk may also make some people produce more mucus. Kao says that’s due to gustatory rhinitis, a reflex reaction that’s triggered by eating. Gustatory rhinitis is also why your nose runs when you eat hot peppers. Milk proteins cause the same type of response in some people. But although you may feel like you have more phlegm, you’re not going to worsen a cold by drinking a glass of milk, Johns says.

If you’ve ever stopped to look at the contents of the tissue after you’ve blown your nose, you may have noticed that your mucus isn’t always perfectly clear. It may be yellow, green, or have a reddish or brownish tinge to it. What do those colors mean?

You might have heard that yellow or green mucus is a clear sign that you have an infection, but despite that common misperception, the yellow or green hue isn’t due to bacteria.

When you have a cold, your immune system sends white blood cells called neutrophils rushing to the area. These cells contain a greenish-colored enzyme, and in large numbers they can turn the mucus the same color.

But “you can have perfectly clear mucus and have a terrible ear and sinus infection,” Kao says. If you do have an infection, you’ll likely also have other symptoms, such as congestion, fever, and pressure in your face, overlying the sinuses, Johns says.

Multi-hued mucus also relates to concentration of the mucus. Thick, gooey mucus is often greenish, Kao says.

Mucus can also contain tinges of reddish or brownish blood, especially if your nose gets dried out or irritated from too much rubbing, blowing, or picking. Most of the blood comes from the area right inside the nostril, which is where most of the blood vessels in the nose are located. A small amount of blood in your mucus isn’t anything to worry about, but if you’re seeing large volumes of it, call your doctor.

People with chronic sinus problems who are constantly blowing their noses understandably want the goo gone. Over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants are one way to do this. Decongestants cause the blood vessels in the lining of the nose to narrow, reducing blood flow to the area, so you’re less congested and you produce less mucus.

Decongestants are fine for when you can’t breathe due to a cold, but they’re not so good for thick mucus in general. “The reason is the decongestants dry you up and they make the mucus thick, and often the opposite effect happens because you feel like you have thick mucus,” Johns explains. So you take more decongestants and get into a vicious mucus-producing cycle. Decongestants also have side effects, which include dizziness, nervousness, and high blood pressure.

Antihistamines block or limit the action of histamines, those substances triggered by allergic reactions that cause the tissue in the nose to swell up and release more, thinner mucus (a runny nose). The main side effect of older antihistamines is drowsiness. They also can cause dry mouth, dizziness, and headache.

You can also thin out the mucus with guaifenesin, a type of medicine called an expectorant. Thinner mucus is easier to get out of the body. Possible side effects of guaifenesin are dizziness, headache, nausea, and vomiting.

If you want to go a more natural route, an alternative for removing mucus is with nasal irrigation. The neti pot, a little teapot-shaped device, is one form of nasal irrigation. Others include the bulb syringe or squeeze bottle.

Every nasal irrigation method works by the same basic principle: You shoot a saline (salty water) solution up one nostril to loosen up all the mucus that’s collected in your nasal cavity, which then drains out the other nostril. It’s similar to cleaning gunked-up food off a dinner plate in the dishwasher, Kao says.

According to the CDC, if you are irrigating, flushing, or rinsing your sinuses, use distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water to make up the irrigation solution. It’s also important to rinse the irrigation device after each use and leave open to air dry.

Nasal irrigation is a good thing, but as the old saying goes, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Rinsing out your sinuses washes out the bad, nasty bacteria and other critters that can cause infection. However, one study showed that when people do it too often, nasal irrigation might actually increase the risk of infection because it also washes away some of the protective substances that help prevent you from getting sick. So use your neti pot or other nasal irrigation device when you need it, but take a break from it when you feel better.

SOURCES:

CDC. Michael M. Johns III, MD, director, Emory Voice Center; assistant professor of otolaryngology — head and neck surgery, Emory University.

Neil L. Kao, MD, associate professor of medicine, University of South Carolina School of Medicine.

2009 Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, Miami, Nov. 5-10, 2009.

NHS. “Five facts about colds.”

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The Truth About Mucus

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