A Message from your Sinuses: Please Quit Smoking

“You need to quit smoking!” If you’re a smoker, you’re probably sick of hearing people tell you that – but what if the message was coming from you, and more specifically your sinuses? If you’re a smoker and have sinus problems, cigarettes may be the culprit. Here are a few reasons why your sinuses could use a break from the smoke.

Everyone knows that smoking is bad for your lungs and throat, and studies have linked smoking to various forms of cancer. Your sinuses however, also receive significant damage from smoke.

Cilia are miniscule hair-like formations that protect the nasal cavity and sinus region, very similar to the lining of your lungs, and the damage done to the cilia in your sinuses by smoking is comparable, thus sinus cancer is a legitimate possibility for smokers.

Cilia simply quit working when exposed to smoke – the reason many smokers experience respiratory problems and also sinus issues. These cilia are responsible for protecting your respiratory system from invaders.

The human body naturally produces about 64oz of mucus each day. In general, you end up swallowing it without even noticing – but when the cilia are damaged the mucus backs up into the sinus cavity, giving the bacteria time to sit there and multiply. The result is often a sinus infection.

Some smokers may end up having surgery on their sinuses to treat these issues. Ear, nose and throat doctors have noticed that the outcomes from surgery for patients who smoke are not as positive as the benefits received by non-smokers.

An additional negative effect of smoking on the nose is that it dulls your sense of smell, and since this makes up a great deal of our sense of taste, food can also begin to taste differently. In fact, after quitting smoking you will likely enjoy food much more.

For parents especially, second-hand smoke should be a concern – your children can suffer frequent sinus or ear infections from passive inhalation of smoke. If anyone in your household is experiencing these effects, you should consider the possibility that the condition is being caused or worsened by cigarette smoke.

You hear it all the time – but this time the plea to break free of the smoking habit is coming from your sinuses, and those of your loved ones.

By Eric Cohen, MD