Humidity aggravates nasal congestion

Washington: Sinus disease, triggered by infection or allergy, is a common yet highly irritating medical condition that blocks the nasal passage. But not many may know that it is aggravated by humidity.

"Effective treatments may need to include a focus on restoring optimal humidity and temperature in the patient`s nasal airflow," said Kai Zhao, bioengineer at the Monell Centre who led the study.

In the study, 44 healthy volunteers rated symptoms of nasal congestion after breathing air from three boxes: one containing room air at normal humidity, another containing dry air at room temperature, and the third containing cold air, reports the journal Public Library of Science ONE.

The volunteers reported reduced nasal congestion after breathing from both the cold air box and the dry air box as compared with the room air box, with the cold air box decreasing reports of congestion most effectively.

Calculations revealed that humidity was also an important factor, with lower humidity associated with decreased feelings of congestion, according to a Monell Centre statement.

The authors speculate that temperature and humidity interact as air moves through the nasal cavity to influence nasal cooling. It is this cooling that is then detected by `cool sensors` inside the nose to influence the feeling of air flow as being either easy or obstructed.

"Someone in the desert, all other things being equal, should feel less congested than someone in the jungle," said co-author Bruce Bryant, sensory scientist at Monell.

"In the low humidity of the desert, there is more evaporative cooling inside of the nose, such that the temperature of the nasal passages is lower. This leads to a feeling of greater air flow -- and less sensation of obstruction," added Bryant.


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