Complementary therapy self-care information for patients

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bhma.org

Catarrh and sinusitis

Summary – Although there is a lack of gold standard research evidence in this area, we both experience that the therapies listed here can be useful in everyday healthcare. We believe the relevant information should be made available if there is some evidence of benefit, positive clinical experience, an absence of safety concerns and patients wish to try them. Hence the return of this popular series on the evidence-informed potential for trying complementary therapies and self-care approaches.

Catarrh – a rather old-fashioned term for over-production of mucus – can be in response to infection or an allergy or – so it is often said, because a person is eating a ‘mucus-producing diet’. (The idea is controversial but anecdotal evidence suggests that persistent ‘catarrh’ is sometimes due to a food intolerance). Allergy to pollen, house dust mite or animal dander (the dead skin shed by pets) is certainly a common cause, and this would usually stop once exposure to the allergen ceases. The sinuses are hollow air-filled cavities in the head situated behind the nose and eyes and in the cheeks and forehead. They make the skull lighter. The cavities are lined with mucus-secreting membrane and are connected to the nasal cavity by narrow channels. If the sinuses become inflamed, the condition is known as sinusitis.

If the channels that connect the sinuses to the nose become blocked, mucus can collect in the sinuses causing a build up of pressure and pain possibly accompanied by a raised temperature. Acute sinusitis is usually caused by a virus. As with colds, the immune system generally deals with the virus within a couple of weeks. Antibiotics do not kill viruses, and even if the infection is bacterial, the immune system will usually clear it up. So antibiotics are not needed for most cases of acute sinusitis and most GPs will not prescribe them. So are there other options? Chronic sinusitis lasts more than 12 weeks or may be a recurring problem. It is an uncommon cause of headaches. If you suffer this way, knowing why you are susceptible and what might be triggering attacks could help prevent them. Blockage of the sinus channels is more likely in people with an abnormality of the nose, such as a deviated nasal septum or nasal polyps.

Harmless airborne substances trigger allergic reactions in some people. People with allergies such as hay fever are more likely to suffer from catarrh and develop sinusitis. Some allergens, notably pollen, cause seasonal rhinitis. This affects one in five people; half also suffer from asthma and many people get eczema too.

Non-seasonal allergens can cause perennial rhinitis possibly due to allergies that include dust mites, fungus spores, animal dander and workplaces irritants such as wood dust and chemicals.

Allergy tests would be useful, but are not always accurate. It has been proposed that overbreathing (which may cause the problem or be due to breathing Summary Although there is a lack of gold standard research evidence in this area, we both experience that the therapies listed here can be useful in everyday healthcare.

We believe the relevant information should be made available if there is some evidence of benefit, positive clinical experience, an absence of safety concerns and patients wish to try them. Hence the return of this popular series on the evidence-informed potential for trying complementary therapies and self-care approaches. INTEGRATING CAM © Journal of holistic healthcare  Volume 11 Issue 1 Spring 2014 25 difficulties connected to having a blocked nose) can increase nasal congestion (James 2005). Over-breathing (with the upper chest) could be due to anxiety, posture or simple habit. Learning slow breathing techniques could be helpful.

Catarhal children may develop ‘glue ear’. Ask your doctor to order a hearing test if you or teachers at school suspect your child has a mild hearing problem.

Children who are breast-fed seem to be less prone to glue ear – possibly because the shorter teats on bottles fail to exercise muscles that open the eustacian tubes through which middle ear normally drain away).

Symptoms

Symptoms of catarrh include:

  • a persistently runny or blocked nose
  • a cough and irritation caused by mucus running down the back of the throat
  • mouth-breathing. Symptoms of sinusitis include:
  • pain and tenderness in the face that may be worse when bending forward
  • nasal discharge
  • nasal congestion or blockage
  • headache and possibly toothache, if the sinuses behind the cheeks are affected
  • raised temperature.

Caution: See your doctor if symptoms do not improve within three days.

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