Does bushfire smoke cause sinus issues?

Even if you’re not in a high-risk group, bushfire smoke can still inflame and irritate the tissue in your nose, Corlin says. This can cause congestion and tender cheeks, she says, making it feel as if you have a sinus infection. Although “from the purest medical standpoint,” Dykewicz says, that does not necessarily mean “that it’s truly sinusitis”.

Bushfire smoke exposure can also weaken your immune system as it strains to protect itself against the air pollution, which in turn can make you more susceptible to illnesses in general – such as the flu, COVID-19 or an actual sinus infection, Corlin says.

When you breathe in smoke, it passes through the mucus membranes in your nose, which are lined with hairlike structures called cilia; these are the first line of defence against dirt, dust and other particles.

Some scientists think that bushfire smoke can damage those cilia, making it more difficult to clear mucus from the nose, says Dr Raj Fadadu, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine who has studied the health effects of wildfire smoke. This may provide a habitable environment for bacteria to grow, he says, which could potentially lead to sinus infections.

How to handle sinus struggles

If bushfire smoke is present and you’re experiencing symptoms in your nose or anywhere else in your body, stay inside, Corlin says. If you must go outside, wear a well-fitting mask, such as an N95. Rest and hydration can also improve your symptoms and can help fight off a potential infection, Corlin adds.


Nasal sprays can provide short-term relief from sneezing and congestion, Dykewicz says. But if you use sprays containing decongestants such as oxymetazoline or phenylephrine, don’t use them for longer than three to five days. Any more than that may trigger what doctors call rebound congestion, which can further irritate and swell your nasal passages, making a stuffy or runny nose worse.

Nasal irrigation may also help alleviate symptoms, Dykewicz says, but if you do try it, be sure to use sterile or distilled water, or water that has been boiled for at least a minute and then cooled.

If your symptoms last longer than 10 days, consider consulting a doctor, Fadadu says, as you may have a sinus or other type of infection that might benefit from antibiotics.

The New York Times

Make the most of your health, relationships, fitness and nutrition with our Live Well newsletter. Get it in your inbox every Monday.

Source link