A bad cold three weeks ago blocked me and left me extremely deaf, and the congestion doesn’t seem to want to shift. Do you have any suggestions?
Derek Jones, Coventry.
Feeling stuffy in the days or weeks after a cold or respiratory infection — including Covid — is a common experience.
It occurs because viruses that infect the respiratory tract cause inflammation in the mucous membrane that lines the nose and sinuses, as their presence encourages immune cells to accumulate there.
This inflammation takes time to settle and there may also be a residual blockage in the Eustachian tubes – the tubes that ventilate the middle ear. These run to the back of the nose and help equalize pressure with the outside world.
Mucus can also work its way from the back of the nose into these tubes, clogging them up and causing a feeling of numbness.
Feeling stuffy in the days or weeks after a cold or respiratory infection – including Covid – is a common experience
While this usually clears up within a few days (the mucus drains out of the back of the nose on its own), this isn’t always the case.
The easiest solution is to use a decongestant nasal spray, which reduces inflammation in the nasal passages by narrowing the blood vessels.
After use, pinch your nose and blow hard with your mouth closed to increase the pressure in the Eustachian tube. This should help loosen the mucus.
However, you say in your longer letter that you are not advised to use a decongestant if you are taking medications for high blood pressure (since decongestants shrink blood vessels, they can raise blood pressure).
In this case, I’d recommend trying an Otovent self-inflation device, which consists of a nosepiece attached to a balloon, and can be bought from pharmacies for around £10.
Insert the nosepiece into one nostril and hold the other closed with a finger. Then inflate the balloon by exhaling with the mouth closed. The idea is that the pressure from the inflated balloon opens the Eustachian tube, aiding drainage.
While this usually clears up within a few days (the mucus drains out of the back of the nose on its own), this isn’t always the case
Use three times a day for several days. If this does not help, you may need a referral to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor.
One solution is to put a small balloon under local anesthesia through one nostril into the Eustachian tube. The balloon is then inflated for a few moments and can clear the blockage by allowing better drainage.
The other tube is then treated. A second option is a minor surgery called a myringotomy (normally performed under local anesthesia in adults and general anesthesia in children), where a small incision is made in the eardrum and the sticky fluid is drained.
A grommet, a small tube a few millimeters in size, is then inserted to help ventilate the middle ear. Over time, the tube is ejected from the ear as the incision heals.
There is a risk of complications – for example, in a small number of cases, the incision does not heal as it should.
Hope you find some relief soon.
My daughter studied nutrition. She always thought that eating less than the required number of calories would make you lose weight. But she has found that when some people reach a certain weight, their loss plateaus drop, even though their calorie intake is still low. Why is that?
Sue Rushworth, Southport.
Calories are a measure of the energy we get from what we consume – different foods have different caloric values. When the food we eat provides more calories than we need, the excess is stored as body fat.
Eating fewer calories than your daily energy requirement will lead to an attack on the fat stores in tissues and organs around the body.
However, as a person’s weight decreases, their calorie needs decrease as the body adapts to food deprivation. It does this by reducing the energy provided for various processes – digestion itself can become less efficient.
Weight loss can also affect the microbiome, the colony of microbes, including bacteria, that largely live in the gut, which in turn affects the rate at which calories are burned.
So consuming fewer calories than needed in the long run can slow down weight loss, but in a calorie deficit, weight continues to be lost.
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Answers should be taken in a general context. Consult your own doctor in case of health problems.
In my opinion: How to prevent allergy in babies?
Today it is not uncommon to board an airplane and be told that you are not allowed to consume nuts anywhere on board, as this can pose a serious threat to a fellow passenger. It is a clear reminder of the seriousness of food allergies.
A few tiny nut particles, even inhaled rather than ingested, can be fatal.
Seven years ago, the LEAP study showed that giving small amounts of peanuts to children ages four to 10 months at high risk of allergy prevented allergies in 80 percent of them. This was a striking revelation.
The subsequent EAT study in 2020 found that early introduction of six allergy-causing foods (ground peanuts, cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, sesame and whitefish) also prevents future allergies in infants who are not at high risk.
I believe that one of the best things a person can do for their baby is to introduce small amounts of allergenic food in this way.
The NHS advice is that you can do this with these foods one at a time from about six months of age so that any reaction can be noticed – but check with your GP first if there is a family history of an allergy.
Today it is not uncommon to board an airplane and be told that you are not allowed to consume nuts anywhere on board as this can pose a serious threat to a fellow passenger [File photo]