[Written in collaboration with Dyson.]
When it comes to respiratory diseases, the two most common ailments include asthma and rhinosinusitis (sinusitis), which affect around 10% and 12.8% of Malaysians, respectively.
To put those numbers into perspective, in our team of 12 at GRVTY Media Malaysia (Vulcan Post Malaysia’s parent company), at least three individuals, including myself, suffer from sinusitis.
With how common these ailments are, it’s no surprise then that there are quite a few misconceptions about them. Not to mention, there are several natural remedies I’ve seen online that claim to be able to alleviate these symptoms completely.
To get to the bottom of what’s true and false, we interviewed Dr Helmy, a Consultant Respiratory Physician at Pantai Hospital, to get a few doctor-verified facts about asthma and sinusitis.
Dr Helmy specialises in diagnosing and treating diseases related to the respiration system, which include the lungs, nose, throat, airways, and more.
He’s also the co-founder of Asthma Malaysia, which aims to raise awareness and provide reliable resources for asthma patients and healthcare workers.
The science behind the two diseases
Sinusitis is a disease where the space within the nose (sinuses) becomes swollen and inflamed, making it near impossible for individuals to breathe through their nose with ease.
In addition to that, the swelling will cause pressure in the nasal area, which can cause headaches for some.
These are some of the symptoms that I experience almost daily, and there are occasions when I would wake up in the middle of the night because of sinusitis-induced headaches.
Furthermore, I occasionally go on sneezing fits too, sometimes to the point where my nose would bleed from rupturing my nasal passages.
On the other hand, asthma is more severe as the symptom includes the swelling of the respiratory airway, making it hard for those who are suffering from this disease to breathe. Other than that, common symptoms include wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness.
Here are more facts to know about asthma and sinusitis.
1. Your symptoms depend on your genetics
As someone who suffers from sinusitis, the disease tends to act up whenever I’m around pets, causing swollen itchy eyes and nose.
However, I have noticed that some suffering from the same ailment do not suffer from the same sensitivity as I do.
When asked why some individuals suffering from these ailments are more likely to exhibit symptoms than others, Dr Helmy mentioned, “This is usually genetically-predetermined, and those with atopy tend to be more sensitive to allergic triggers such as dust and dust mites.”
To elaborate, atopy is a problem with your immune system that makes you more likely to develop allergic reactions. Those who demonstrate atopy tend to produce an exaggerated amount of immunoglobulin E (IgE), which causes swelling.
“Their bodies can react in different ways (asthma attacks, rhinitis, eczema), depending on which part [of the respiratory system] is affected and where the triggers come from,” he continued.
2. Temperature and your circadian rhythm affect the severity of the conditions
Another thing worth mentioning is that my sinusitis symptoms are usually more severe in the morning or when I’m sleeping in a cold room.
Our editorial writer Claudia exhibits the same symptoms, too when she wakes up in the morning, but has expressed that it usually subsides towards the end of the day.
When asked why this is the case, Dr Helmy highlighted that our endogenous circadian system, the temperature of the air we breathe in, and the humidity of the room could be determining factors when it comes to the seriousness of both asthma and sinusitis symptoms.
Dictionary Time: Endogenous circadian cycle refers to our body’s internal sleep-wake cycle that repeats roughly every 24 hours.
3. Natural remedies do help, but only to a certain extent
When I looked up various ways to address sinusitis and asthma symptoms, I often found natural remedies like inhaling steam from hot boiling water, using essential oil rubs, and more.
Having tried some of these remedies myself, I realised that they either did not work or only alleviated the symptoms for a very short period of time.
Commenting on the efficacy of these remedies, Dr Helmy agreed that they mainly provide surface-level relief and usually do not have the necessary ingredients to dampen the inflammation, which is the root cause of these disabilities.
Thus, he suggested taking antihistamine medications, while steroids should be reserved for more severe cases.
For more severe cases, corticosteroids (steroids) that come in many forms, such as nasal sprays and inhalers, are recommended as they can provide controlled doses for sinusitis and asthma.
There are steroids in the form of tablets and intravenous administrations, but they’re usually reserved for very severe situations and prescribed in a controlled manner, as excess use can lead to osteoporosis, weight gain, and more.
“As the name suggests, antihistamines block the effects of histamine in the body. Steroids work more generally and are used predominantly to reduce inflammation in the body,” Dr Helmy explained.
4. No surgery can permanently cure both conditions
Other than remedies and medications, a more drastic method I have considered is to undergo surgery to remove the nasal polyps and scar tissues that are causing the swelling.
When asked for his opinion on surgical intervention, Dr Helmy said that while it may be a viable option, my condition might not be cured fully as the nasal polyp may recur after a few years.
Not only that, but going under the knife may not be as effective for some, and it might introduce other unwanted medical complications. Instead, before taking drastic measures, he recommends doing the following.
5. However, there are proven methods to help alleviate these symptoms
It’s best to first identify and understand what causes these ailments to become more severe and take the necessary steps to avoid them.
For example, if I find myself sniffling on my bed, I should clean my bed and mattress more often to eliminate dust and dust mites.
In addition to that, Dr Helmy recommended that we take additional precautions when cleaning by wearing a mask and a pair of gloves to minimise exposure.
For indoor space, investing in a good air purifier with a HEPA filter and other air purification technologies, like a Dyson, can also help scrub the air of contaminants to help reduce asthma and sinusitis symptoms.
- Find out more about Dr Helmy here.
- If you’re interested in owning a Dyson air purifier, the brand is offering an RM400 discount here.
Featured Image Credit: Dr Helmy Haja Mydin