Brrr! Bundle up out there, New York and New Jersey. The holidays might be over, but the cold weather certainly isn’t. Now that we’re well into a new year, make sure you’re putting on some additional layers as you head back to work and school. Unfortunately, staying warm isn’t our only issue. As much as we love the outdoors, breathing in all that cold, moist air can have lasting adverse effects on our sinuses. In this blog, you’ll learn how New York Weather affects your sinuses. But don’t worry. We’ll also give you tips on overcoming that sinus trouble.
What Are Sinuses?
Most people are only vaguely aware of their sinuses. That is, until they feel pressure or pain around their noses and eyes. But have you ever wondered what your sinuses are actually for? We promise they have a function beyond causing you misery.
Your sinuses are a network of connected cavities. Because they are filled with mucous and mucous membranes, they can help filter the air we breathe. Believe it or not, you have four types of sinuses:
- Frontal sinus: in your forehead.
- Maxillary sinus: around your cheeks
- Ethmoid sinus: runs along the bridge of your nose
- Sphenoid sinus: the deepest of the four, located behind your nose
What Do Sinuses Do?
We all know that we mainly use our noses to breathe. Recent years have seen an influx of research and media devoted to the importance of nasal breathing (For example: see James Nestor’s book Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art). Breathing through your nose filters allergens and particulate matter. Your nose and sinuses help “clean” the air that you breathe. Mouth breathing doesn’t offer this kind of advantage.
Furthermore, nasal breathing is better for the lungs than mouth breathing. It improves the quality of the oxygen in your lungs. Other benefits of nasal breathing include:
- Warms and humidifies air
- Reduces chances of snoring
- Increase lung capacity
- Cuts down on coughing
- Improve circulation
When Sinuses Get Sick
Like any other part of the body, the sinuses can become ill. As mentioned above, this is when most of us are aware of our sinuses. It‘s hard not to notice them when they’re inflamed or achy. We’ve all been there. Your nose is running, and your eyes itch. But it seems like no matter what medicines you take or how hard you try; your sinuses won’t cooperate.
The cold season means germs are afoot. Washing your hands often certainly helps. Because bacteria and viruses from the air and hands can cause sinusitis. Sinusitis is an infection in the sinuses. Remember that the sinuses are mucous membranes. One purpose of a mucous membrane is to trap germs and keep them from getting further into the body. One potential drawback is that the sinuses become inflamed when the germs are stuck in the sinuses.
If inflammation occurs, the mucous membranes will swell.
Some symptoms of sinusitis include a runny nose. Pay particular attention if the runny nose lasts longer than a week. Also, observe any discolored mucous. Coughing at night can disturb sleep. Because the sinuses might be inflamed, look for swelling around the eyes and nose. Further symptoms include headaches, sore throat, fever, and post-nasal drip.
Why Does Weather Matter?
Take a moment and remember your mom. You can easily recall when she would goad you for going outside on a cold, wet winter day without the proper attire. “Don’t forget your coat,” she’d call. “Do you have your mittens?” she’d wonder. Why all the fuss? “Because you’ll catch your death of cold.”
Mom is roughly halfway right. Getting wet and cold won’t necessarily make you sick. But what cold, damp air can do is dry out your sinuses. As we mentioned, mucous membranes secrete mucous to ward off infections. If your sinuses dry out, they do become more susceptible to infection.
Wintery conditions in New York and New Jersey typically last from November through April. With that in mind, take the proper precautions to prevent yourself from getting a cold. In most cases, this means washing your hands multiple times daily. Any time you touch something that numerous people also touch — door handles, elevator buttons, stair rails, etc. — is an excellent time to wash your hands. Especially after the pandemic, it’s almost impossible to be too careful with our hygiene. If need be, carry a small supply of hand sanitizer with you.