Ear, Nose, Throat

Does a runny nose mean I’m getting a cold?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Why does my nose run in cold weather? Does it mean I'm getting a cold?

DEAR READER: Cold air is not only cold, but also dry. The lungs are built to deal with air that is warm and moist. So, a main function of your nose is to make the air you breathe in warm and moist. Bones in the nose (called turbinates) are covered with blood-filled membranes. The blood running through the turbinates is at body temperature: around 98.7 degrees F. The heat in the blood warms the cold air you breathe in.

Do I need surgery to remove a nasal polyp?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I think I have a nasal polyp. Will I need to have surgery to remove it?

DEAR READER: A nasal polyp is a noncancerous tumor that grows from the lining of your nose or sinuses, usually in the nasal passages. Nasal polyps often grow in clusters and obstruct airflow in and out of the nose.

What will help my sinus headaches?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a woman in my 30s who has suffered from sinus headaches for years. Allergy medications haven't helped. What else can I try?

DEAR READER: Seasonal allergies can cause sinus congestion, sneezing and a runny nose. But when you experience pain and pressure in your head, it may be time to consider other causes. That's because sinus problems do not usually cause headaches. At least, they don't cause what most people refer to when they use the term "headache." Most people with sinus congestion refer to "head congestion," not headache.

How can I prevent bacterial sinusitis?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've had four bouts of "bacterial sinusitis" over the past several months. How can I kick this infection for good?

DEAR READER: Sinusitis is inflammation of the sinuses. Everyone has sinuses, and many of us are not happy about that. Like you, my sinuses frequently get inflamed. Sinuses are the moist air spaces behind the eyes, forehead, nose and cheeks, on each side of our head.

How do I treat a perforated eardrum caused by an ear infection?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have a perforated eardrum caused by an ear infection. How will it be treated? Will my hearing be permanently affected?

DEAR READER: Your eardrum is a thin membrane involved in hearing. It separates your ear canal (the part that is open to the outside) from your middle ear. The eardrum is delicate -- and it has to be. Sound waves that enter your ear move the eardrum, which begins the process that allows you to hear.

Should I try to remove an earwax blockage?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have a lot of wax in my ear. Should I try to remove it? How?

DEAR READER: Earwax is created when the oily substance made by cells lining the ear canal mixes with dead skin and debris. Normally, the mixture slowly moves out of the ear on its own. But sometimes earwax gets blocked in the ear. Certain conditions make this more likely:

What’s the best way to stop a nosebleed?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My son suffers from occasional nosebleeds. What's the best way to stop a nosebleed?

DEAR READER: Many people suffer from nosebleeds. I tend to get them this time of year when the air is cold and dry, as it irritates the normally warm, moist surfaces inside the nose. Most nosebleeds occur when a blood vessel in the nose's soft cartilage leaks.

What can I do to help reduce my tinnitus symptoms?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have tinnitus, and the constant sound is driving me crazy. What can I do?

DEAR READER: Tinnitus is commonly known as ringing in the ears. This phrase can be misleading, however. Some people hear ringing, while others hear whistles or a combination of sounds. Unusual sounds in your ears may seem like a trivial problem -- unless you have it.

Why do I sneeze when step outside from a dark room into the sunlight?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Often when I step outside from a dark room into the sunlight, I sneeze. Why does this happen?

DEAR READER: My colleague, Dr. Robert Shmerling, looked into this question once. I learned from him that there are many people like you, and even more who suddenly sneeze when they move suddenly from a warm environment to a cold one (or vice versa).