It’s the season to be jolly, but if you live in the northern hemisphere, it’s also winter, and that’s the season for colds, flu, and a blocked nose. Getting a cold is never much fun, but from a myofunctional therapy perspective, it’s not good at all, and it’s even worse for children.
You see, when children get a cold, they get stuffy and congested. And when that happens, they’ll start breathing through their mouth because they have to. Even the slightest bit of congestion can have an effect. If it becomes only ten percent more difficult to breathe through the nose, then we’ll automatically revert to mouth breathing.
If the symptoms of a cold persist for long enough, then a mouth breathing habit might become permanent. With all the negative health consequences linked to mouth breathing, it makes a lot of sense to try to stop this habit in the first place.
In my practice, most of the adult patients I see can trace their mouth breathing symptoms to their childhood. This is where it all begins. Children are growing and developing, so a mouth breathing habit will change the shape of their face and jaws, and this will have life-long consequences.
Even if you’re an adult, mouth breathing is still detrimental to your health, so I wrote this article to offer some helpful hints that might help you prevent or deal with winter colds.
What Should You Do To Avoid Getting Sick?
Obviously, the best bet is to just not get sick at all.
That’s much easier said than done when we’re constantly being exposed to people who already have a cold. Between family and friends, work colleagues or schoolmates, it’s hard to avoid being sneezed on, or touching a contaminated surface or object.
Wash Your Hands, Often
My first tip is to wash your hands, and to do it often. While most people seem to pick up a cold from germs that are airborne, those germs can also be transmitted from surface contact.
Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water (don’t use antibacterial soap), and then drying them properly with a clean towel or paper towels gives you a good chance to avoid picking up something you really don’t want.
Don’t Touch Your Face
Washing your hands is a great start, but keeping your hands away from your face is also a good idea. It’s remarkably easy to transfer germs to your mucous membranes if you touch your eyes, nose or mouth, so think about the “One Foot Rule”, and don’t allow your hands to come closer than that to your face if you can avoid it.
Look After Your Immune System
Even if you’re super-careful about your personal hygiene, it’s still absolutely possible to be exposed to germs that could cause a cold. If your immune system is in top-notch shape, then you’ve got a much better chance of not being affected at all.
Getting enough good-quality sleep helps, as does minimizing stress as much as you can. Add in a healthy diet without much processed food or sugar, and you’re on track for a healthy winter season.
Eat Your Probiotics
Research is showing that the immune system is powered by the gut microbiome, which means that you need to have a healthy gut balance to improve your immunity.
Eating probiotic-rich foods can help, as can a diet low in processed and junk foods. Be sure to fill up on foods like yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir. You can even take probiotic supplements but do your research – the quality definitely varies (I’ll be writing an article on these healthy foods soon).
Stay Well Hydrated
A well-hydrated body functions better on every level. Being dehydrated when you’re ill means you’ll be less able to fight off and flush out any infection. So be sure to keep up your hydration, and that means getting in lots of water. Coffee, tea, soft drinks and energy drinks don’t count.
What To Do If You Get Sick
I used to underestimate how important this was, but over the years, I’ve learned that it’s really important to find a way to breathe through your nose when you’re sick. I know that can feel impossible, but here are a number of tools that you can use to help:
Try This Exercise To Unblock Your Blocked Nose
Something that I always recommend is this simple exercise that helps unblock the nose in only five minutes. It’s the most viewed video on my YouTube channel, and it works well if you do it right.
If you’re so blocked up that it’s not even possible to begin this exercise, then you can try starting out with one of the options below.
A common approach to clearing the nose is to use a nasal spray, or take an allergy medication, antihistamine, or decongestant. You can buy these products over the counter, or if your symptoms are bad enough, your doctor may prescribe you a stronger version of these medications.
I usually recommend using as little of these medications as possible because I prefer to treat symptoms naturally whenever I can. I quite like, and often recommend Xlear’s range of natural nasal sprays. These innovative and effective sprays are all-natural and contain only xylitol, purified water, salt, and grapefruit seed extract.
Xlear would be my first choice over any of the options listed above. However, in some bad cases, these medications can be the only thing that works. Each person is different, so it’s important to determine what’s best for you.
Try A Neti Pot
One natural approach that many people like to use to clear a blocked nose and general congestion is called a neti pot. These irrigation devices are a cross between a little teapot and the kind of lamp a genie would use in a children’s fairy tale.
The goal of using a neti pot is to flush out the nasal passages using a salt and water solution. Before using a neti pot, consult with your doctor to see if it’s appropriate for you, and be sure to read the user’s manual.
Another way to help keep your nose clear is to use steam. Steaming has been used for a long time to open up the nasal passages because it can make it easier for the sinuses to drain. This can be as simple as taking a shower or breathing deeply over a container of steaming hot water.
Use Your Nose As Much As Possible
Regardless of which options you try to keep your nose clear, or which ones work for you – if you’re congested at all, or are fighting off a cold, then you need to focus as hard as you can on using your nose to breathe.
Just breathing through your nose whenever possible will help keep it clear. But as soon as you stop nasal breathing and revert to mouth breathing, your nose will begin to block up all over again. So breathe deep, and breathe through your nose every chance you get, and try to get your kids to do the same – it’ll definitely help.