Rains: Protect yourself against sinus headache, respiratory tract infections, experts warn

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As this year’s rainy season sets in across the country, the weather has become naturally cold, resulting in an astronomical increase in the incidence of respiratory tract infections. During this period, people also become susceptible to several types of influenza, as cold temperature and high humidity are associated with increased occurrence of respiratory tract infections.

According to the National Health Service in England, a common type of respiratory infection is the sinusitis, which is very common during the cold weather as it comes with a headache. Sinusitis is a common condition in which the lining of the sinuses becomes inflamed. It’s usually caused by a viral infection and often improves within two or three weeks.

The sinuses are small, air-filled cavities behind your cheekbones and forehead. The mucus produced by your sinuses usually drains into your nose through small channels. In sinusitis, these channels become blocked because the sinus linings are inflamed (swollen).

An Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Ile Ife, Osun State, Dr. Adekunle Adeyemo, says sinus headaches cause a dull, deep, throbbing pain in the front of your head and face.

“Bending down or leaning over usually makes the pain worse, as do cold and damp weather. Sinus headaches often begin first thing in the morning, and may be better by afternoon,“ he says.

Adeyemo notes that someone experiencing sinus headache will find it difficult to touch his face as the pain is worse with sudden movements of the head and bending forward, especially in the morning, because mucus collects and drains through the night.

What can worsen the pain, he says, is sudden temperature changes, like going out into the cold from a warm room, and the headache often starts when you have a bad cold or just after a congested or runny nose.

Other symptoms may be related to sinus inflammation (sinusitis) are yellow or green discharge from your nose, red and swollen nasal passages (nasal congestion), mild-to-moderate fever that is always accompanied by fatigue and a sense of not generally feeling well, he notes.

Adedyemo adds that the people who have a high risk of having sinus infection are those with history of allergies, especially hay fever, or asthma.

He stresses that climbing or flying to high altitudes, frequent swimming or diving can make people susceptible to the disease.

In the case of chronic sinusitis, he further says, it is usually detected through imaging tests, including an x-ray, CT scan, or an MRI or through an allergy test by an ENT specialist, who may perform a nasal endoscopy using a fiber optic scope to look at your sinuses.

A pulmonologist at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, Oyo State, Dr. Uche Adifu, notes that while some chronic sinusitis respond to medication, others do not as there are different stages of the infection.

Adifu adds that this kind of sinusitis may involve an endoscopic sinus surgery performed by a doctor, which may be done to remove polyps or bone spurs.

“Some doctors also recommend enlarging the sinus opening. A newer procedure called balloon rhinoplasty involves inserting a balloon inside the sinus cavity and then inflating it; these are done by an ENT specialist,” he said.

Adifu advises that several supplements may help prevent or treat sinus headaches, either by reducing sinus inflammation, or by helping to ward off colds, saying, “Such supplements include bromelain, quercetin and probiotics. Because supplements may have side effects, or interact with medications, you should take them only under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care specialist.

“It is very important to note that sinus congestion often acts up during pregnancy. There are many medications that pregnant and breastfeeding women should not use. Check with your doctor before using any supplements if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.”