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Blocked Nose

What can I do about my son's blocked nose?

Question

My teenage son has suffered from a blocked nose since he was little. Numerous visits to the doctor have not helped. A nasal spray has had little effect, although he doesn’t use it regularly. His symptoms always worsen at this time of year. I would appreciate your advice.

Answer

The nose is the primary passage way for air entering the respiratory system. The first part of the passage way is called the vestibule, which is contained within the soft part of the nose at the front. The vestibule is covered by a lining of cells that contain coarse hairs to trap dust particles, insects and such like, and prevent them from entering the nasal cavity. The rear of the nasal passageway has folds of cartilage (conchae), which protrude into the nasal cavity. These conchae are lined with layers of moist cells. As air passes through the conchae, it is moistened and either warmed or cooled depending on the temperature outside.

The lining of the rear bony part of the nose is generally kept moist by secretions from the various sinuses that surround the nasal cavity. Any excess secretions from the sinuses, due to an infection, such as a cold, or over-discharge of mucus as a result of an allergy or eating mucus-producing foods, can block the nose. Tears drain into it, too, which is why you get a blocked nose if you've been crying as well.

The partition in the nose separating the two passages is called the septum. You can see in many adults that this veers or deviates to one side, which can cause permanent blocking of the nostril. In my opinion, a baby is not born with a deviated septum but acquires it due to birth injuries (forceps delivery or very rapid, very slow or difficult labour) or as a result of being breast-fed more on one side, which inclines them to sleep on that side. The inner nasal lining is full of tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that help to keep it moist.

When pollen or allergic particles or chemicals come into contact with this lining, the blood vessels dilate so that fluid gushes forth to flush out these 'enemies'. A similar thing happens when a virus attacks the lining: you get a runny nose at first, then a stuffy nose as the lining becomes inflamed. Over-the-counter nasal drops are designed to constrict the blood vessels so that the discharge stops, swelling goes down and the nose clears. The problem is that if you use such drops for a long time, they cease to have an effect on the blood vessels and nerve endings, so they stop working and the nose becomes permanently blocked.

These are my suggestions to help your son

  • The role of mucus-producing foods is often disputed, but it is quite plain to see. If you eat chillies, your nose runs and your face flushes as blood vessels dilate. The same response is likely to take place if you consume a lot of dairy products, citrus fruits, ice-cold soft drinks (which chill the body and trigger a cold-type reaction), rice, bananas and fried food. So you should avoid these foods when you or your family has a blocked nose.
  • Also avoid yeast-containing products and canned foods with preservatives (which often cause discharge), alcohol (particularly wine and champagne, which may contain traces of moulds that can trigger a reaction), and mushrooms (which are fungal products).
  • On the other hand, foods such as mustard, ginger, garlic, cherries, pomegranates, ginseng, yams, basil, cinnamon, cloves and thyme are known to reduce excess mucus, so try to increase your son's intake of these.
  • Ensure against constipation, which increases excess mucus discharge, by drinking eight large glasses of room-temperature water daily, and take Qurs Mullayam, a herbal supplement tablets: one three times weekly at bedtime for three months.
  • Take lauq sepistan, a herbal preparation, to help control mucus production and regulate nasal congestion: ½ tsp twice daily for one month.
  • To help flush out the nasal passages, use a neti pot; details are given in my book Therapeutic Yoga, co-authored with Jiwan Brar.
  • Retention breathing is also beneficial: inhale through the nose counting slowly to three, hold the breath for six, then exhale slowly through the mouth for six. This helps to retain carbon dioxide in the blood, which sends signals to the brain of a possible threat and, in response, the nasal passage ways clear. Practise this breathing exercise for five minutes, five times a day.

I also advise consulting a qualified homoeopath and /or acupuncturist. Your son may also be allergic to dust mites, mould, pollen, and so on. Talk to your GP about having this tested and, if he does have an allergy, consider a desensitization programme.

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