Some of us seem to suffer on a regular basis with a runny nose or fits of sneezing. Others just have the odd occurrence of the dribbly sniffles. It's not nice, running out of hankies, too much of an audience to use your sleeve, and those honking rattling snorts just aren't sexy. Sometimes human noses can be so bad that the sense of smell completely vanishes, and in the worst cases, air simply cannot get through and breathing has to be done through the mouth.
Not being able to smell (anosmia) is not considered a disability when compared to losing sight or hearing, but the possibilities for harm from, say, undetected gas leaks can be very real. Likewise, the results of a sneezing fit (or even just once) while driving could be fatal. People have been known to haemorrhage due to sneezing. It's a serious business.
Other benefits may include clearer speech, improved sleep and so improved alertness during the day, and the taste of food will improve. Social confidence may also return if it was lost.
What Can be Done?
Suffer it like a grown-up! No, no, there is more we can do. At first reading, it may seem unpleasant, disgusting or just plain nasty, but compared to raindrops hanging on the end of your nose for everyone to see, it's well worth doing.
Yep, that's right. Douching your nostrils. Sounds pretty grim, and indeed it can be – at first. After a couple of weeks it will be no worse than brushing your teeth and you'll wonder what the fuss is about when family members start complaining that you should be doing it behind closed doors, not over the kitchen sink.
Mostly used after nasal surgery, it can also be used for those suffering polyps or allergies, sneezing fits or even just catarrh during a cold. For children do check with your GP before trying this, in case there is something more serious or a reason not to use this method.
The idea is that water, or better still, saline is used to clean inside the nose. Plain water can be used, or mix one teaspoon of salt in a large glass of cooled boiled water and use that. For the perfect recipe, add one teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in with it as well.
There are a few different ways to get it up your hooter.
- Pour some in a saucer or a cupped hand, raise to nostrils and just sniff
- Use a straw (not recommended due to risk of damage)
- Use a syringe (minus the needle!) to squirt it up there
If the nose is very blocked, it's likely to dribble out again, so do hang over the sink while doing this. If some does get through to the back of the throat, spit it out (although swallowing it will not harm you). Anything that comes out with the spit (and it can be in a variety of colours, consistencies and shapes!) can be washed away with no further thought.
It can be helpful to use all the water in the glass in the beginning, but as time goes on a smaller amount may be used for the same benefit. Experiment!
If the cause of the problem is seasonal, get into the habit of doing this twice a day when you brush your teeth during the entire season as it will help to wash out the allergens as well as dry up any mucus. Otherwise, try for at least two weeks to see if there is any improvement in symptoms. It does get easier with constant practice, and becomes part of your daily routine.
Some companies do sell canned 'saline' with a nozzle for easy squirting, and these are easier to use for babies and young children - available from pharmacists. They also sell small suction devices for clearing babies' noses.
Tip of the Day: Wash your face after douching, not before.
They seem to be everywhere these days. With steroids, without steroids, for colds, hay fever, with or without prescription, you name it. They are simple and easy to use, but work best when used following a douche – the medicine needs to get to where it will be most useful and if the nose is blocked it's just not going to. There is also the probability that if you do make some breathing space up your nose, the mucus that was gathering behind will suddenly be free to drip out. Using a mix of douche and spray will keep this under control.
These are easy to use. Insert the nozzle into one nostril, hold the other one closed, and squirt. Breathe it in, repeat if necessary and then do the other nostril. Try not to blow your nose immediately.
It's not enough to tip your head back and drip. The best way to use this type of medicine is to assume the position.
Find a comfortable surface, or get a pillow. Stand on your head. If this is not possible, put your head on the pillow, on the floor or large piece of furniture and draw up your knees close as if you were going to do a head over heels. Your nostrils should be pointing upwards. In this elegant position, drip the amount of drops required into each nostril and stay in place for a couple of minutes.
Some people may find lying on a bed with their head hanging over the end is a more comfortable position, but standing on your head really is the best way.
If you stand up too soon the drips will just run out, or if the nose is particularly bad, so again, it's a good idea to douche first.
Hopefully these tips will lead to a return of breathing through the nose, the lessening of sniffs and sneezes, the joy of a really good root around will be yours again, and the sense of smell should return. This is a great thing when hanging around near lovely flowers, or in the presence of gorgeous people when covered in lovely smelling stuff, but may be seen as more of a problem when travelling on the tube at evening rush hour during August.