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Second Hand Smoke, Molds and Sinus Congestion

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About 10 to 15% of the population suffers from chronic sinus congestion or rhinosinusitis.  Environmental factors like second hand tobacco smoke, pollen and molds can greatly increase risk of sinusitis.  Oftentimes, sinus problems are worse during certain times of the year, such as the early spring tree pollen season.

A recent study in the April 2010 issue of Archives of Otolaryngology reported that exposure to second hand smoke was about twice as common in people with rhinosinusitis than without.  The study recommended that rhinosinusitis patients avoid exposure to second hand smoke as much as possible.

Other studies have reported that exposure to high levels of molds and pollen can worsen sinus problems.  Heavy mold exposure can also increase risk of damage to the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland makes many critical hormones such as thyroid stimulating hormone, growth hormone and adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH).  One study reported on 79 patients with a history of heavy mold exposure, fatigue and chronic rhinosinusitis.  Of these 79 patients, 81% were deficient in thyroid hormones and 51% were deficient in growth hormone.  Lack of thyroid hormones and/or growth hormone can cause chronic fatigue.

 A comprehensive treatment plan of anti-fungal medications, hormone replacement and reducing indoor mold growth resulted in significantly less fatigue and sinus problems in 93% of the patients.   This research by Dennis et al. was published in the September/ October 2009 Toxicology and Industrial Health.

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