Health Watch By Steve Mullenix

The North Jefferson News




Each year, more than 37 million Americans suffer from a very common condition called sinusitis.

Sinusitis is an inflammation of the lining membrane of any sinus. The body’s nasal and sinus membranes respond similarly to viruses, allergic insults and common bacterial infections. The common reaction is that the membranes become swollen and congested. This congestion causes pain, pressure and possibly mucus production which further aggravates the inflammation. This results in a runny, drippy nose.

Congestion of the nasal membranes may even block the Eustachian tubes leading to the ears, resulting in pain, and a feeling of blockage or pressure in the ears. This is due to fluid that is backed against the ear drum.

More often than not, individuals want to treat the condition with over-the-counter (OTC) medications. There are many different OTC medications available to relieve the common complaints of sinus pain and pressure. Most of these medications are combination products that include a pain reliever, such as acetaminophen, with a decongestant or an antihistamine.

The goal of an OTC medication is to:

• Reopen the nasal passages

• Reduce the nasal congestion

• Relieve the pain and pressure symptoms

• Reduce the potential for complications

OTC medications are available in a number of different combinations and dosage forms. Selecting the combination that is correct for your condition requires some understanding as to the cause of your condition and the action of the medication.



Nasal saline sprays (non-medicated nasal spray)

As an invaluable addition to the list of OTC medication, a nasal saline spray is ideal for all types of nasal problems. The added moisture produced by these saline products reduces the thick secretions and assist in the removal of infectious agents. There is no risk of becoming “addicted” to nasal saline. It can be applied as a mist to the nose up to six times a day.



Nasal decongestant sprays (medicated nasal sprays)

Medicated nasal decongestant sprays clean nasal passages almost immediately and are useful in treatment of the initial stage of the common cold or viral infection.

For individuals with recurrent nasal swelling due to seasonal allergy problems, products such as cromolyn sodium nasal sprays are better alternatives. These products can be used up to four times a day during the allergy season to prevent the release of histamine from the tissues.



Decongestant medications

Pressure and congestion are common symptoms of sinus passage swelling. Decongestant medications are OTC products that relieve this swelling, but do nothing to treat the cause of the inflammation. They reduce blood flow to the nasal membranes leading to improved airflow, decreased pressure in the sinuses and head, and subsequently less discomfort. Commonly known products in this class are medications such as Pseudoephedrine, Phenylephrine, and phenylpropranolamine.



Decongestant-combination products

Some medications are combinations of products to relieve both the symptoms and discomfort of the condition. Combinations such as Tylenol Sinus or Advil Cold and Sinus contain a decongestant as well as a pain reliever.



Antihistamine medications

Antihistamines combat the allergic response leading to nasal congestions. These products are used to relieve the allergic response of itching, sneezing, and nasal congestion. They relieve the drainage associated with the allergic reaction, but not the congestion. Antihistamines tend to cause a little sedation or drowsiness. Recently, a new class of antihistamines identified as non-sedative antihistamines, have greatly reduced this unwanted side effect.

There are a number of other combinations available also, antihistamine with decongestants. Antihistamines with decongestants and pain relievers. Another possible combination is a decongestant with cough suppressant, with or without pain medications. The combinations are quite confusing, so don’t hesitate to ask for assistance. Your physician or pharmacist is invaluable in selecting the right combination of product or products for your symptoms.

Steve Mullenix (R.Ph) co-owns The Pharmacy in Mount Olive with his wife, Sherry Mullenix (J.D., R.N.). They can be reached at 631-1201.

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