Coronavirus-Proof Your Nose

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is neglecting nasal washing as part of our fight against viral pathogens

Nasal Wash

Nasal Wash

Everybody’s talking about washing their hands, especially the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), which dispenses reliable health information for the public to use for their protection.

But what about your nose? Should you wash your nose too? As it turns out, yes, you should, says Lon Jones, DO, a physician specializing in family medicine from Plainview, Texas; in fact, you should wash you nose several times a day at least, he adds.

“Your nasal passages are a primary defense against viruses, especially if they’re working optmally,” Dr. Jones, author of and author of No More Allergies, Asthma, or Sinus Infections, told HealthyLivinG.

The problem is, we have cold and flu and now COVID-19 when we do because that’s precisely when our nasal passages are least effective.

“Cold season and some of our susceptibility to COVID-19 is here because of the dry air that follows turning the heat on in our homes and work places,” he says. “Low humidity dries out and irritates the nasal passages and sinuses. Optimal humidity for respiratory health is between 40% and 60%. When it is less than that, our nasal defenses are crippled and we have cold season. It would help us immensely if we added to the CDC recommendations to help our own nasal defenses work optimally by humidifying our homes to at least 40%, or using nasal sprays that pull water into the nose.”

NOSE CARE

If your home or office environment becomes too dry, your risk for infection will increase.

That is because the nose becomes dried out and less effective.

To combat this drying effect, Dr. Jones recommends the use of a substance called xylitol, which is a five-chain sugar molecule that has been turning up in the news lately as a preventive for dental caries and middle ear infections. It isn’t tested against the coronavirus, but its benefit to the body’s initial defenses, its physical barriers.

“The reason why it is important to use xylitol saline washes especially at this point in time is to hydrate the nasal mucosa and assist he immune system in cleaning out the bacteria, viruses, and pollutants before they have a chance to attach,” he says. “The most important thing to do is to keep your nose hydrated. Anything that dries it out will increase your susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections. Using every six hours is the best way to keep the nose clean and avoid most respiratory problems.”

Xylitol nasal wash works in three ways:

1. Prevents viral adhesion: Numerous studies show that the nasal mucosa catch and trap virusesl. Xylitol prevents bacteria from sticking to tissues by stimulating healthy mucosa.

2) Opens the airway: Xylitol’s hypertonic solution opens the airway by pulling moisture out of swollen sinus tissue. A study showed that people who used a xylitol saline solution had a 35% higher peak airflow in the nose when compared to those who used saline alone. Additionally, the extra moisture in the nose helps to wash the nasal passages of pollen, dander, bacteria, viruses, and other irritants.

3) Hydrating: The nose is the body’s filtration system, designed to catch and dispose of airborne irritants. To work properly, the nose needs to be hydrated with the mucus thinned to a point that it can easily flow. Microscopic hairs called cilia can then wash away the irritant-laden mucus. Mucus also provides a protective layer so contaminants cannot reach the tissues. If the nasal passages and mucus are dry, the mucus cannot catch the contaminants nor wash out of the nose. A xylitol-saline nasal wash pulls moisture into the nose, which hydrates the sinus cavity and thins the mucus, assisting the body in its natural defenses to rid it of contaminants.

Dr. Jones says, “The nose works best when it is hydrated, when the mucous is thin and easily swept along by the cilia; this is how the nasal cleaning system works. When you dry it the mucous there are breaks and cracks in the mucosal layer...that bacteria and virus can then very easily get through and attach and infect the underlying tissue.”

Xylitol-saline nasal washes such as Xlear are widely available at drug stores. Just remember to wash your nose too the next time you wash your hands. It will only take a moment and could be important protection.

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