Mucosal membranes in nasal passages are thin and have a very rich vascular environment underneath. They dry easily, so you need to increase humidity in your nose, nasal passages, and sinuses. Use a humidifier, houseplants—which give off moisture as they metabolize water—or put small plates of water throughout your house. The slow evaporation humidifies the air.
Also drink and eat moistening foods and things with a lot of mucilage—the thick, absorbent shells of seeds. Add a cup of water to half a cup of ground flaxseeds, and put it in the fridge overnight. By morning, the water on top will be a jellylike consistency, which, when consumed, can help boost moisture in mucous membranes. Or try making marshmallow or wild oat tea.
The main function of the sinuses—to warm the air you breathe in—gets taxed during the wintertime. The body compensates by dilating blood vessels in the nose and sinuses. Three or four times a day, put a small cloth into very warm water, ring it out, and put it over your nose and sinuses for about three minutes. Then do the same for 30 seconds with cold water.
—Eric Chan, ND, Pangaea Clinic of Naturopathic Medicine, Richmond, British Columbia
Ear, nose, and throat specialist
If you find it's mostly clear stuff that you're blowing out, usually in the morning, it's likely that the nose is starting to make mucus to make up for nighttime dryness. Also, blowing your nose causes trauma to the membranes, which can contribute to bleeding.
If it's really dry, even just rubbing your nose can cause it to bleed. Then a scab may form, and if it falls off, or if you pick it off by accident, your nose will start to bleed again. Moisturize the inside of your nose with an ointment like Vaseline or a saline nasal air gel, such as AYR or Naso-Gel. Squirt a generous amount inside your nose before going to bed, because that's when it gets really dry and you might not realize it. Certain foods also cause runny noses. Spicy foods may trigger it; if that happens, prescription nose sprays can minimize the response. While certain saline sprays offer relief, overuse in the wintertime can dry out the nose, causing the very problems you're trying to solve. If that's the case, cut back on the nasal spray and try using a humidifier.
—Doris Lin, MD, Central Carolina ENT, Raleigh, North Carolina
Several acupuncture channels relate to the nose, including the large intestine and stomach. We have a tendency to eat very damp- or phlegm-producing foods, such as cold and raw foods, alcohol, and dairy. Stress and a dry climate can also cause qi [pronounced "chee"] stagnation, halting the movement of energy in the body.
Foods that are good for keeping energy moving include rice, grains, millet, yams, any variety of squash, and lean organic meat. The yeast in beer is very hard on sinuses.
To help keep sinuses moist and open, massage by gently pressing on them. And try not to swallow too much phlegm. Blowing your nose is OK because moving phlegm out is good. You don't want to keep it stuck in there to recirculate in your body.
Definitely avoid antibiotics, which clear out infection but tend to lock pathogens in. From a Western perspective, pathogens create unhealthy flora, like candida. From a Chinese perspective, they create damp heat that congeals into phlegm and blocks sinuses. Afrin and nasal sprays really need to be used on a limited basis.
—Ann Wolman, LAc, The Chinese Acupuncture and Herbology Clinic, Asheville, North Carolina