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Guide to ENT care

From hygiene to disease prevention, get familiar with the basics of ears, nose, and throat health.


BY IVAN OLEGARIO, M.D.


The ears, nose, and throat—ENT—are grouped together medically because a problem in one of these organs is very likely to cause problems in the other two. Acting in concert, ENT comprises what is known as the “universal airways”.

Because two of these organs are connected to respiration and digestion—important functions that we need to stay alive—it is vital that we keep all three organs in good condition.


Ears



Hearing deteriorates over time, and hearing loss can accelerate without proper care.

Hygiene
The ear canals are designed by nature to be self-cleaning. Any excess wax and dirt are naturally pushed out of the ear canal safely and effectively by the ear itself. Using cotton buds or metal ear cleaners puts you at high risk of accidentally puncturing your ear. You could also scratch your ear canal and cause an infection. You could also be pushing your earwax back in, compacting it and creating a blockage that, eventually, only a doctor can remove. Use cotton buds to clean the areas outside the ear canal only.

Prevention

Do not pour liquid into your ears—whether water, oil, or medication—unless it is prescribed by your doctor. Be careful with ear piercings. Make sure you have them done by a licensed doctor or midwife, to help ensure that the tools are sterile.

Never self-prescribe antibiotics. You may end up misusing drugs that could result in grave hearing problems. If you feel any need for antibiotics, consult your doctor and get the right prescription.



Nose



The mucus and hair inside your nose trap dirt and filter the air you breathe before they reach your lungs.

Hygiene

Like the ear, the nose does not require much maintenance. However, research shows that rinsing your nose every day helps prevent sinus infections. Nasal irrigation is an old yogi practice that has found its way into mainstream use. It involves pouring saline solution into the nose to rinse it. This helps ease stuffy sinuses. However, it should not be used in cases of acute sinus infection (i.e., fever or moderate to severe pain around the eyes) as it may spread bacteria.


Throat



It would be impossible for you to swallow, breathe, and speak without a healthy throat.

Hygiene

Gargling cleanses the upper part of the throat by washing away bacteria. It also gets rid of some of the plaque-causing agents on the tongue and gums.

The best homemade gargle is still the classic warm-water-and-salt combination. Drinking water after every solid meal also helps wash off food debris, which can also breed bacteria.

Prevention

Sore throat can spring from ear and nose infections. Keep your immune system in top shape by eating and sleeping right, and avoiding smoking.

Throat clearing can irritate the vocal cords and won’t remove the mucus that causes the scratchy feeling. Instead, drink water to wash away the mucus.

If you have problems with your ears, nose, and throat, see your ENT specialist. However, proper nutrition, rest, and regular visits to your family doctor can keep these important organs healthy and free from disease.


Want to know more about this topic? Grab a copy of HealthToday's December-January issue for the full article on Guide to ENT care.






Guide to ENT care
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