Do you think about your sinuses very much? If you suffer from allergies or headaches then you might, but most people don’t really consider them until they become a problem. I recently have been having problems with my sinuses. I have headaches, frequent colds and stuffy noses. I started reading more about what my sinuses are and what they do, and it’s pretty fascinating. Bear with me as this might get a bit medical…
The sinuses are hollow areas in the head. There are four pairs of sinuses but the largest are the Frontal sinuses, which are above the eyes, and the Maxillary sinuses which are on the sides of the nose. Scientists don’t know exactly why we have sinuses, but the general theory is that they are an area which can moderate the air we breathe by warming cold air, adding moisture and filtering particles. Scientists also believe that they makes our head lighter so that we can be more agile. Your entire respiratory tract is covered in a thin mucus membrane or mucosa. The same membrane in your lungs is also in your sinuses. This membrane serves as the first line of defense against airborne pollutants and circulates between and pint and a quart of mucus every day to filter out pollutants. Humans inhale about 23,000 times a day which corresponds to about 3,000 gallons of air. People who live in heavy industrialized areas and especially areas with coal-fired power plants inhale a number of pollutants every day including particulates, oxides of sulfur, oxides of nitrogen, hydrocarbons, ozone and carbon monoxide. Of these pollutants the ones that cause the most trouble are particulates. These can come from a number of sources including roads, construction sites, farm fields, factories, power plants, fireplaces and car or bus exhaust. These are especially harmful to cyclists because they are filtering many more times the amount of pollution than pedestrians. When these larger particles are inhaled they become lodged in the nose and sinuses. In these heavily industrialized areas it is like a fine sandpaper is rubbing your lungs 23,000 times a day. These particles cause sinus irritation and inflammation. When the sinuses become inflamed, they cannot drain properly and become open to infection because there is no movement. Gross hunh?
Did you know that sinusitis is the most common chronic condition in the United States? It is one of the most common reasons for doctor visits. If we add asthma, bronchitis and allergies to sinusitis there are well over 90 million people in the United States suffering with a chronic respiratory condition. One in Three of Americans suffers from a chronic respiratory condition. In his book, “Sinus Survival: The Holistic Medical Treatment for Allergies, Colds and Sinusitis”, Robert S. Ivker talks about the devastating effect of particulate pollution. He says, “In 1993, calculations derived from studies at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Harvard School of Public Health estimated that 50,000 and 60,000 deaths a year are caused by particulate pollution. This number far surpasses that of any other type of pollutant and is one that rivals the death toll from some cancers. The most harmful particles are small – less than 10 microns in diameter – and are produced chiefly from industrial plants and to a lesser extent from the exhaust of diesel vehicles.”
Are we missing something?? We spend millions of dollars on health care, antibiotics, finding cures for cancers, and quitting smoking, but little time addressing the causes of these problems. Why is it so difficult for us to draw personal connections between the ailments of our lives and the health of our environment? Often times we can understand and comprehend how serious the pollution problem is, but then somehow separate our own personal health from it. We must understand how much this affects our everyday lives! How many of you are affected by a respiratory condition?