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SEASONAL SNIFFLES

Thursday, November 24, 2016

If the changing seasons always leave you scrambling for a box of tissues, you may have more than just a passing bout of the flu. Pearl Mathias explains how your sniffles may be caused by temperature changes and what you can do to prevent them

We’ve experienced a roller coaster ride when it comes to the temperature over the past few weeks and the changing weather usually brings along a case of the sniffles for most of us. So, between chilly mornings and scorching afternoons, many of us reach out for pain relievers or other remedies to deal with a runny nose, which is usually caused by sinus issues. After all, there’s nothing else you can do about the recurring problem, right? It may not be that simple. Weather fluctuations can irritate the membranes of your nose, leading to swelling and the onset of symptoms similar to those of hay fever such as a runny nose, congestion and sneezing — a condition called non-allergic rhinitis. So, how do you know if this temperature change that’s causing all your sniffling and sneezing? Read on to find out.

WHY IT HAPPENS

Because of the erratic climate changes, even people with a healthy immune system are prone to respiratory infections and coughing fits. We experience a sudden rise in temperature after heavy rainfall or a chilly morning. These drastic changes can trigger a runny nose and other flu-like symptoms.

  •  As winter sets in, days become shorter, reducing your exposure to direct sunlight, which can lead to vitamin D deficiencies and weaken your immune system. Because your immune defences are compromised, viruses can survive in your body for a longer period of time and multiply with relative ease.
     
  •  The dry, cold air during winter can dry out your nasal passages, irritating your throat and lungs, and causing coughs. You may even experience a range of breathing problems due to the blockage of your nasal passages.
     
  •  Even if you do feel the occasional breeze, the wind is hot and humid during the summer, leading to you sweat more. Your chances of respiratory allergies and infections increase due to dust particles and sweat, triggering a sore throat and a dry cough. Your breathing is also affected because of congestion, especially in crowded spaces.
     
  •  Coughs that are caused by allergies, which are triggered when you breathe in smoggy air, are common during summer. Smog contains a pollutant called ozone, which attacks lung function and inflames the protective lining of your lungs. It also triggers asthma.
     
  •  During the monsoon, the common cold and flu usually spread like wildfire, accompanied by headache and sore throat. Due to the damp weather, symptoms such as a runny nose and nasal congestion also accompany the cough, making it worse.
     
  •  Apart from day-to-day climate changes that we can’t control, we unknowingly subject ourselves to extreme temperature variations every day, such as exposing ourselves to air conditioned office environments for long periods of time, and then stepping outdoors in hot, humid weather. This sudden temperature change can also trigger respiratory problems that lead to a runny nose.

HOW TO DEAL WITH IT

The specific way to deal with non-allergic rhinitis depends on what causes or brings it on. However, here are a few tips to help reduce discomfort and relieve that stuffy nose, no matter what has caused it.

  •  Rinse your nasal passages: Use a specially designed squeeze bottle or a neti pot to irrigate your nasal passages. This home remedy, called nasal lavage, will help keep your nose free of irritants. To prevent infection, use water that’s sterile (previously boiled and cooled), or filtered. Also make sure that you rinse the device after every use (with sterile water) and leave it out in the open to dry.
     
  •  Blow your nose: This seems like a no-brainer, but we must mention it. If mucous or irritants are present, blow your nose regularly, but very gently.
     
  •  Humidify Set up a humidifier if the air at home or in your office is dry. But, remember to clean it regularly. You can also breathe in the steam from a warm shower to help loosen the mucous in your nasal passages and clear your head of stuffiness.
     
  •  Avoid triggers: If you can identify things that cause or make your symptoms worse, avoiding them will make a big difference.
     
  •  Avoid overusing nasal decongestants: Using medications for more than a few days at a time has been found to worsen a blocked nose.

FOODS THAT CAN HELP

  •  Guavas, oranges and lemons contain vitamin C, which acts as a natural antioxidant.
     
  •  Orange, yellow and red fruits and vegetables are rich sources of beta carotene, which is known to have immune-protective action that can fend off infections.
     
  •  Including some crushed garlic in your cooking will help keep your immune system in good condition.
     
  •  Besides being good for digestion, yoghurt also improves immune function and protects your body against common bacterial and viral infections.
     
  •  The vitamin E in almonds will help to keep your immune system healthy. So make sure that you eat a handful every day.


 

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