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How to care for your ENT problems at home

Many patients with conditions of the ear, nose and throat (ENT) have an array of symptoms and conditions, with the most common being vertigo, nose bleeds, sinus and tinnitus. These conditions are sometimes triggered randomly and it is not uncommon for patients to ask me for on-the-spot remedies that will alleviate their misery to feel better. For instance, in the case of a nose bleed, there are steps to follow and monitor before assessing whether to rush to A&E or see a specialist. 

Here are some common ENT problems, ways to manage them at home if they act up and when to see a specialist.

Vertigo

Vertigo is a sensation of feeling off balance. Often, vertigo is caused by inner ear problems such as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), Meniere’s disease or vestibular neuritis.  During a vertigo episode, you may feel like you are spinning. For most patients with vertigo, symptoms are short lived and usually require no management. Your doctor may provide medicines such as prochlorperazine and some antihistamines to relief the dizziness. Otherwise, you may try these head movement exercises at home:

Epley Maneuver 

  1. Sit on the edge of the bed. Turn your head 45 degrees to the side of the vertigo. 
  2. Quickly lie down on a pillow, with your head still in a 45 degree angle. Wait 30 seconds for the vertigo to stop. 
  3. Turn your head halfway (90 degrees) to the opposite side without raising it. Wait 30 seconds. 
  4. Still keeping to this opposite side, turn your head and body so you’re looking at the floor. Wait 30 seconds. 
  5. Slowly sit up, and wait on the bed for a few minutes. 

This exercise may be repeated thrice.

Brandt-Daroff Exercise

  1. Sit on a flat surface, with your legs dangling as they would on a chair. 
  2. Turn your head as far as you can to the left, then lay your head and torso down to the right. Your legs should not move. Stay for 30 seconds. 
  3. Sit up and turn your head back to center position. 
  4. Repeat the exercise for the opposite side — turn your head to the right as much as you can, then lay down on your left.

However, if your vertigo is severe and doesn’t resolve within a week, consider seeing a specialist. In addition, if the vertigo is accompanied by light-headedness when you stand, it might be a case of hypotension and management of the condition should be initiated.

Nose Bleeds

Many patients come with concerns about nose bleeds, especially for their young children. While that is understandable as nose bleeds may look scary, nose bleeds are actually very common and do not require a specialist’s attention. Very often, nose bleeds may simply be triggered by dry air, sinus infections, and nose picking. In the event of a nose bleed at home or outside of home, follow these steps to manage the nose bleed: 

  1. Sit down and lean forward. Do not lean back! 
  2. Pinch above the nostrils and breathe through your mouth 
  3. Continue for about 10 minutes or till the bleeding stops 
  4. If the bleeding persists, hold for another 10 minutes and suck on ice cubes

See a specialist if you get nose bleeds more than once a week, have other accompanying symptoms such as chest pain, have difficulty breathing, feel dizzy or tired during a nose bleed or have severe bruising and are bleeding from other places like your gums.

Sinusitis

A sinus infection occurs when your nasal cavities become swollen, infected or inflamed. It can be caused by many things, from the flu to allergies. Common symptoms of sinus include a decreased sense of smell, fever, stuffy or runny nose, headache, fatigue and cough. The severity and length of your symptoms will depend on the type of sinus you have. Bacterial sinusitis tends to come with mucus, fever and frontal headache for over 10 days. Viral sinusitis may be accompanied by a low-grade fever and a sore throat and usually improves within 10 days. Allergic sinusitis comes without fever, but with a raspy throat and lots of sneezing and itchy eyes. As you can see, the symptoms are pretty similar. 

The next time you get stuffed up, try these home remedies: 

  1. Take a hot shower or breathe in steam from a cup of warm water
  2. Use a nasal saline spray to keep your nasal passages from drying out
  3. Place a warm, wet towel on your face. It may relieve discomfort and open your nasal passages. 
  4. When sleeping, prop yourself up — keeping yourself elevated might make breathing easier
  5. Stay away from your sinus triggers 

If your symptoms don’t improve within a few weeks, you likely have a bacterial infection and should consider seeing a specialist. You could have an underlying condition that is causing your chronic infection and in this case would require special treatment.

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