Instead of buying over-the-counter drugs to treat your stuffy nose this fall, just throw your money in the garbage.
The results will be the same, except you won't be fattening the billfold of Big Pharma...
Earlier this month, a group of researchers from the University of Florida petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") to get drugs containing phenylephrine (the most commonly used decongestant) off the shelves.
Modern studies show that phenylephrine is as effective as a placebo... It doesn't work.
This same research group challenged the drug's use in 2007. But the FDA demanded more evidence, relying instead on outdated studies from the 1960s and 1970s which supported the use of phenylephrine.
In 2022, remedies containing phenylephrine generated nearly $1.8 billion in sales. It's found in popular products like:
- Vicks DayQuil and NyQuil Severe Cold & Flu
- Sudafed PE Sinus Congestion
- Mucinex Sinus-Max
- Robitussin Peak Cold Nighttime Nasal Relief
You probably have some in your medicine cabinet.
If you do, give it the old heave-ho. I'm hoping these products will come off the shelves soon (but I'm not holding my breath).
But even if you see them in the store, don't waste your money and time taking pills that don't work and can have harmful side effects. Instead, here are three easy and effective ways to keep your nasal passages clear and healthy...
1. Keep your nose warm.
Researchers from Harvard University Medical School in Boston set out to uncover the biological mechanism of action regarding how folks develop seasonal upper respiratory tract infections – which often come with nasal congestion.
Using surgically collected tissue samples from the inferior turbinate mucosal walls (pictured below) which line the nasal passages at the tip of the nose, researchers monitored the cellular activity of the nasal tissue while exposing it to cold temperatures.
Turns out, simply breathing cold air damages our nasal tissue and reduces our ability to fight off sickness. The researchers found that a temperature drop of just 9 degrees Fahrenheit was enough to cause nearly half of the immune cells that fight viruses and bacteria at the entry point to die.
Protecting yourself is as easy as keeping your nose warm. Don a scarf or pop on a mask when you go outside in the cold... especially if you're prone to sickness in the fall and winter. I've been telling folks this for years.
To keep your nose warm, do what I do... Wrap a scarf around your face when you're outside on a chilly day. Friends and family tease me for bundling up, but I like to be safe – and healthy.
2. Keep your air filters clean.
Breathing dirty air – with dust, dander, and mold particles – irritates your nasal passages and makes you feel sick... especially if you have allergies. But studies show that using a high-efficiency HEPA air filter can cut your exposure to these harmful air particles in half.
I keep a HEPA air filter in my bedroom and I clean it once a week. But it's not the only filter to think about...
Clean out and replace filters in your central heating and cooling system, as well as your gas furnace. Dirty filters reduce airflow, which puts a strain on your system.
In the kitchen, be sure to clean the filters on your range hood and microwave fans. Not all models contain filters. But if they do, take them out and clean off all the grease and debris. That way, the fan won't blow out all the germs and grit the next time you run it.
3. Use a neti pot.
The neti pot is another one of my preferred methods to keep my nasal passages healthy. This is an old Hindu device used to wash the sinuses with saline.
Studies show that using a neti pot is effective for treating nasal congestion and reducing the need for medication. Do what I do and use the neti pot once a day during allergy season, or if I feel a head cold coming on.
But if you try it, be careful... And follow the instructions. If you don't use sterilized or distilled water, brain-eating organisms found in tap water can enter the brain through your sinuses. In late 2011, two deaths in Louisiana were blamed on improper use of the neti pot.
Having a warm nose, clean air, and irrigated nasal passages will help keep you healthy and your congestion at bay as we head into the season of allergies, cold, and flu.
What We're Reading...
- Something different: Stolen van Gogh painting worth millions returned in an Ikea bag.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
September 19, 2023