Arizona Smoke-out: Solving a Sinus SOS

Smoke from the Wallow wildfire. Photo courtesy of John Fowler, CC BY 2.0 Smoke from the Wallow wildfire. Photo courtesy of John Fowler, CC BY 2.0When I wrote my recent series of columns about quitting smoking, I was talking about smoking cigarettes. Since then it seems the state of Arizona has suddenly taken up a nasty smoking habit of its own. And the second-hand effects are getting pretty hard to avoid—the wildfire has sent a planetary plume of smoke and ash over neighboring states, making it difficult to even go outside. (It's provided some amazing sunsets, however. We’ve had mango sky starting several hours before sunset, and the moon looks like a slice of tangerine).

While I feel greatly for those who are put out by it, and those who are putting it out, I must admit their output is becoming hazardous to a great many people—even from where I live more than 200 miles away. Sure, it’s irritating to the eyes and sinuses of nearly anyone, but asthmatics and others with sensitive respiratory systems are really getting a hazardous dose. A doctor on the radio earlier surmised that they’d be dealing with a lot of sinus infections as a result.

One of the reasons I quit smoking was to ease the nasty sinus problems I had developed. Over the last couple days I’ve been starting to remember those issues more vividly than I’d like—in fact I’m starting to re-live them.

The last time I had a sinus infection, I took a bunch of antibiotics that threw my digestive system into disarray, causing the worst colitis flare I’ve ever had. Upsetting the intestinal flora with antibiotics can be very hazardous for IBD patients. Hoping to avoid repeating that horrible experience, this time I am armed with a preventative that I didn’t have back then, but am sure glad I’ve since discovered: sinus irrigation. It sounds yucky but it’s amazingly effective.

When left alone, airborne crud tends to collect in the sinuses. This leads to inflammation and restricts the nasal passageways, which makes them harder to clear out. Saline solution from the Sinus Rinse flushes the cavities clear while soothing the irritated tissue.

Satellite image of Wallow North fire. Photo courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, CC BY 2.0 Satellite image of Wallow North fire. Photo courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, CC BY 2.0Some people call on the Neti Pot for this job, which is an old-fashioned remedy that uses a funny little teapot full of salt-water to pour through the nostrils. While this might still be a popular remedy, it’s somewhat of an anachronism. Suffice it to say, much better technology has come along since they first started carrying Neti Pots at the apothecary.

The Sinus Rinse bottle is my golden ticket nowadays. There are a couple of brands out there, NeilMed being my preferred option. Most pharmacies now carry it. Rather than relying on gravity to do the job of drawing the solution through your nostrils, squeezing the bottle propels it through the sinus cavities with much greater force than the Neti Pot is capable of. It’s like the difference between a pressure-washer and a squirt-gun. The end result is a tremendously effective way to clear out the accumulated junk.

While this works wonderfully as a solution for inflamed sinuses, it’s equally useful as a preventative. I use it daily in the shower to stop any contraband from stowing away in there. When I notice more inflammation due to seasonal allergies or other irritants (such as the entirety of a neighboring state being on fire) I step up the routine, doing it twice a day or more—however often seems necessary. It’s a great method of both irritation reduction and infection prevention.

To the people and firefighters of Arizona, my heart goes out to you, and may you have plenty of water to put out the fire. To everyone in the path of the smokescreen (or experiencing other sinus challenges), my heart goes out to you too, and I wish you plenty of sinus rinse to soothe that burning nose.

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Tags: Supplies/Accessories/Equipment , Treatments

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About the Author

Andrew Tubesing is an acclaimed advocate and humorist on the subject of inflammatory bowel disease.