Health Tips

Summer Cold or Sneaky Sinuses?

While sniffing and sneezing is most commonly associated with the winter months, the classic commercial that exclaimed “summer colds are the worst” may have been on to something…sort of.

Symptoms of a true cold virus can last up to 10 days, with the first two or three being the most contagious. However, during the summer months tree and grass pollen, as well as outdoor molds, can mirror cold symptoms. They typically include congestion, itchy eyes, a scratchy throat and runny nose.

If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from sinus problems, especially during the summer months, there are ways to minimize the misery:

  1. Reduce Pollen Exposure – It’s impossible to completely avoid pollen, but you can reduce your exposure by remaining indoors as much as possible during the morning hours when pollen levels are at their peak. Also keep windows closed and the air conditioner on, even while in your car. In addition, use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA air filter, and if you have a dog that spends time outdoors, bathe him or her frequently.
  2. Keep Nasal Passages Moist – Sinus infections most often begin as colds, so safeguarding your sinuses can help ward off rhinoviruses. One spray in each nostril of an over-the-counter salt water (saline) spray several times daily is your first line of defense.
  3. Irrigate Nasal Passages – Nasal irrigation, also called nasal douching, moistens passages and helps rid them of bacteria, viruses and other conditions that can lead to sinus infections. Most commonly performed with a “neti pot,” which can be purchased at a drug store, nasal irrigation involves tilting your head over the sink and filing your nostril passage with warm, salt water. Turn your head and repeat on the other side. This should be done once a day.
  4. Avoid Nasal Irritants – Protect the mucous membrane that lines your nostrils by avoiding common irritants like auto exhaust, smog, mold spores, swimming pool chlorine and cigarette smoke.
  5. Remain Hydrated During Flight – Dry, germ-filled airplanes are a breeding ground for sinus infections. To protect yourself, use saline nasal spray frequently and drink lots of water while in flight.
  6. Medicate Carefully – Nonprescription antihistamines like Claritin and Zyrtec can help with allergy symptoms. If you’re congested, too, add an over-the-counter decongestant like Sufafed, or pick an antihistamine that includes a decongestant (indicated by a “D” in the name).

Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus and in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Schedule an appointment online today.