Recurring Sinusitis? Listen to this Smoke Signal

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Recurring Sinusitis? Listen to this Smoke Signal

The nose is one of the most versatile organs of the body. It cleans the air we breathe to prevent infection. When you smoke a cigarette, you are not only destroying your lungs, but you are also destroying the nasal passages from doing their job to prevent illness. To understand how smoking damages your sinuses, it’s important know that the membranes in your nose and sinuses are constantly producing mucus that acts as a protective blanket for your entire respiratory system.

The mucus membranes line the nasal and sinus passages with microscopic hair cells (called cilia). Cilia constantly moves the mucus made in the nose and sinuses from front to back and then down the back of the throat and into the stomach. The nose and sinuses produce about one to two quarts of mucus each day. Once the cilia moves the mucous to the stomach, the stomach acid kills and destroys the irritants. Our stomachs tolerate bad stuff much better than our lungs. Think of these small hair cells as canoe paddles that push the mucus. The mucus catches things that make us sick that we breathe through the nose. This could be allergens, dirt, viruses, and bacteria. The nose is an intricate part of our body that is constantly working to prevent infections.

However, this is all disrupted when you smoke cigarettes. The smoke from a cigarette enters the nose and airways burning these small hair cells. They become paralyzed, prohibiting the nasal cleaning system to work properly. This leaves the mucus loaded with these offending irritants inside the nose which eventually creates inflammation, weakens the immune system, and then causes infections. When the cilia are damaged by smoking, the mucus backs up in the sinuses and bacteria begins to grow and multiply which usually leads to sinus infections.

The instant you inhale tobacco smoke, it will begin to irritate your whole upper airway and your nose will produce mucus which becomes susceptible to colds, infections, and allergies. Smokers will suffer with recurring and chronic sinusitis much more frequently than non-smokers. They experience worse surgical outcomes. In fact, smokers need more antibiotics and steroids to treat sinus infections and have a higher risk for cancer of the nose and sinuses. A smoker’s intranasal and intra-sinus bacteria change from healthy normal bacteria to harmful. Even those exposed to secondhand smoke will statistically visit their healthcare providers for infections. (1)

Other disturbing facts about smokers are as follows. First smokers will spend more time in hospitals than non-smokers. Smokers are twice as likely to die before age 65 and every cigarette smoked reduces a smoker’s life expectancy by 20 minutes. (2) Chronic rhinosinusitis, a common condition brought on by smoking, can also lead to facial pain, poor sleep and trouble breathing.

Once a smoker quits smoking, the lining in the nose and sinuses does indeed recover but it often takes years to restore the nasal lining to its normal integrity. Symptoms can reverse within 10 years. It’s not over night but the result and benefits are worth it! Discuss smoking cessation options with your primary care provider. There are options and ways to help you overcome the habit of smoking. Don’t burn your life expectancy at both ends. Seek help to stop smoking today and you’ll enjoy a return to normal sinus and nasal health.

At Sinus and Allergy Wellness Center, we are dedicated to providing unique treatment plans for all of our patients. We will work with you every step of the way to complete a plan that will reverse any symptoms related to your ear, nose or throat that are disrupting your life. Visit us in Scottsdale or Fountain Hills, AZ today!

By: Franklyn R Gergits DO, MBA, FAOCO


1) July 13, 2017. It takes 10 years for your sinuses to recover from smoking.

2) How smoking harms your sinuses.