Most of us are familiar with the old cliche “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity”. And that’s no joke. Humidity is oppressive and inescapable. Breathing is tough when the weather is muggy and activities aren’t quite as much fun. And, as it happens, this very same (wretched) humidity can sometimes result in an elevated risk of getting a sinus infection.
If you have a sinus infection, how can you tell?
In a lot of ways, a sinus infection (medically called sinusitis) is a pretty general sort of disorder. Sinus infections take place when fluids accumulate in your sinuses. Once this fluid builds up, it can become infected by viruses or sometimes bacteria. This infection can be very uncomfortable and will typically produce even more fluid.
Here are a few symptoms to watch for:
- Jaw and tooth pain.
- Headaches (particularly those that feel like they’re due to “pressure”).
- Sinus drainage that just doesn’t seem to stop.
- Lasting nasal congestion. Generally, if you have blockage caused by a sinus infection, it will linger at least ten days.
Not every sinus infection will present with every one of these symptoms. As a general rule, you should seek advice from your primary care physician if you have cold symptoms that don’t seem to recede or are particularly severe.
Can you actually get a sinus infection from humidity?
A wide range of underlying conditions can trigger a sinus infection. Sometimes, excess fluid can become entrenched after you have a common cold which can become infected and lead to sustained illness.
But it seems hard to believe that humidity could cause a sinus infection.
It isn’t! Very high humidity really can cause sinus infections. The reason for this is that your respiratory defense systems don’t function at maximum efficiency when the air is heavy and wet.
And for a little thing called cilia, that’s particularly true. These tiny hairs are found all through your nose and their primary function is to move protective mucus around where it’s needed. Cilia also help filter out harmful pathogens, dirt, dust, and other irritants. But your cilia don’t function as well when it’s humid. And that can result in more sinus infections.
And even though more germs get in, that’s not the only reason. Even something as ordinary as excess dust or more extended exposure to allergens can cause the sort of fluid buildup that leads to sinus infections.
How much humidity is too much?
In order too function effectively, your cilia and defensive mucus do require some humidity. Under typical conditions, this is not something you need to be concerned about. But when you see dew points going into the 70s, it’s a good idea to take a little care.
Can humidity that triggers infections be protected against?
You can’t completely avoid the humidity that can trigger an ear infection but you can decrease your risk. There are some measures you can take to keep your sinuses healthier and less prone to infection. Some of the most prevalent include the following:
- Avoid allergens and irritants: If there are things you know irritate your nose, stay away from them when it’s humid. For instance, when it’s really humid avoid a walk in the forest if you’re allergic to tree pollen. You should also pass on things like the barbecue at the neighbor’s house if smoke aggravates your nose.
- Keep your cilia healthy and in good working order by using nasal sprays: If your cilia get too dry, for example, they won’t be capable of protecting you any better than if things are too humid. You can provide your sinuses with the perfect amount of moisture with nasal sprays.
It will be a good plan to come in for a consultation if you keep getting ear infections and that includes when it’s humid. It’s possible that you’re more susceptible to infection because of the shape of your sinuses. In other situations, we might be able to recommend specific medications that can help counter a recurrence of your symptoms and keep your sinuses healthy.
Get back to loving summer
Summer is one of those amazing times of the year, there’s a lot to do and enjoy. And the last thing you want is to be indoors nursing a sinus infection when you could be out on a hike, swimming at the beach, or watching a ball game.
But humidity can be a factor in developing sinus infections. If you’re particularly worried about sinus infections, make an appointment with us to talk about preventative steps you can take when the air gets a little extra sticky!