Head colds, upper respiratory infections and some practical advice

Cold and flu season is upon us. If there is one thing that gives patients who have experienced smell loss a bad case of the jitters it's a head cold. However long you have been nursing this recovery sense of smell--whether two months or 10 years--you hold your breath and pray that this new cold is not going to dash your hopes and put you back to square one.

I want to start with the reassurance. In most cases of head colds, you will come out fine at the other end. But here are a few pointers, many of which are just common sense, but they bear repeating. 

1. Our olfactory epithelium, that little bit of pink stuff high inside the inside of our noses with which we smell, is fragile stuff. Treat the inside of your nose with the respect you would treat the inside of your brain (because that's what it is). Do not put anything into your nose that is not meant specifically for that purpose--please be cautious.

2. A flu shot is a good way of avoiding or reducing the effect of the flu. It's not too late.

3. Wash your hands or use hand disinfectant when you have been out of the house. And if you have been to the pharmacy, an ATM, a school, the hospital, the grocery store...use it twice. I always use hand disinfectant before I go into a supermarket, as well as when I come out.

4. Check out the "nose" section of the pharmacy to see what's new in the aisle that has nasal rinse bottles. You can get saline gels to moisturise the nasal passages if central heating is drying you out. Coldistop drops, which I have discussed extensively on the Facebook page, were originally designed to moisturise and heal the tissues of the nose. They are unfortunately only available in German speaking countries at the moment. 

5. If you must use OTC nasal sprays like Afrin and Otrivine, please do so only according to directions. They can cause a rebound effect if overused and cause unnecessary nasal congestion as a result. You might try spraying only one nostril at a time for instance, to give the other nostril time to rest. 

6. If you are stuffy at night, try out one of the nostril dilators available on Amazon or other websites. Sometimes the stuffiness is very close to the nostrils and a simple device like this (meant for snorers) can give instant relief. Design improvements have been made and they do stay put!

7. NeilMed rinse bottles. Obviously. If you aren't using one, then do--they are highly recommended by the ENTs I know. Neti pots are also good. Please be sure to sterilise in between uses if you have any kind of a cold.  

Those are my top tips. Stay healthy! To read about how to use nasal rinse bottles, click here.  You might also want to read about how to apply nose drops here.