Health Team

UNC gift eases soldiers' sinus woes

A nurse and a doctor at University of North Carolina Hospitals are helping up to 100,000 soldiers get some relief from sinus problems caused by Afghanistan's dry, dusty climate.

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Our armed forces in Afghanistan face potentially dangerous situations every day. They're also working in harsh conditions that can cause a variety of health issues.

But a nurse and a doctor at University of North Carolina Hospitals are helping up to 100,000 soldiers get some relief.

No matter where soldiers serving in Afghanistan go, it's hard to avoid the dry air, the wind and the sand.

UNC nurse Katie Sams' husband Alex is there, and it's taking a toll on his sinuses.

"He called home one day, and he didn't complain. Alex never complains, but I could hear it in his voice. It was very congested," she said. 

He told her that he's not alone.

"They can't even sleep at night because they're so congested," she said.

So Sams went to Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon Dr. Brent Senior about sending a few sinus rinse kits to the soldiers. 

The idea of sinus rinses goes back hundreds of years. They are similar to neti-pots, which use gravity to pour solution into one nostril and out the other. 

Senior spoke to the owner of NeilMed, maker of a squeeze-bottler version, and the company responded in a big way.

"We have pledged 100,000 units each, which is a retail value of about $2 million dollars," said Nina Mehta, NeilMed president.

For first-time users, the all-natural saline solution squeezed into the nose is a bit of a surprise.

"The first time, it feels like you've got a wave up your nose," Sams described.

"It's a huge amount of flushing that occurs in your nose, and it is a bit uncomfortable, but the effect is great," Senior said.

The relief is immediate, and it comes without the side effects of medications. The solution is isotonic – it has the same concentration of salt that occurs naturally in the body.

The soldiers say it's just what they needed. Several shipments have already arrived in Afghanistan, and the troops are sending back messages of thanks.


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