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"Paying Through the Nose— The Cost of Nasal Woes"

by Hana R. Solomon, MD

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The numbers are always changing, and they are not going down. Americans spend billions of dollars every year treating nasal, allergy, sinus, ear and asthma problems. The dollars spent are only part of the price tag. The cost in terms of work time, away from school, sitting in a doctor’s office and time spent feeling lousy is sky-high. How about time spent in the bathroom dealing with the side effects of a medication? What about lost sleep, lack of focus, and impatience with family and co-workers?


If your nose isn’t working properly, you are losing time and money, as well as impacting your quality of life. You are, quite literally, paying through the nose. Consider these figures, just a sampling of the numbers illustrating the annual cost of nose woes:
  • Billions of dollars spent on medicine and treatment for allergic rhinitis.
  • Over 50 million Americans suffer from allergies and asthma each year.
  • The majority of all antibiotic prescriptions are written to manage respiratory infections.
  • Billions of dollars spent on the evaluation and treatment of ear infections.
  • Quality of life is significantly reduced for those who suffer from hay fever.
  • Asthma is the most common cause of school absenteeism due to chronic conditions.
  • Billions of dollars spent to treat asthma per year.
  • Children typically have two to nine viral respiratory illnesses per year.
  • Those with allergic rhinitis often suffer from sinusitis as well as asthma.


Okay, that’s the bad news. The good news is you don’t have to just suffer and spend money. You can do something to manage both the symptoms and the cause of these conditions. Let’s see what an expert has to say about this situation.

Mucus Serves As a Frontline Defense Let’s Hear From The Expert Marilyn James-Kracke, Ph.D., is an associate professor of medical pharmacology and physiology. She teaches students preparing for careers in medicine, pharmacology and nursing; she is an expert on drugs! Her comments are based on her knowledge and personal experience.

"Sick days cost the American economy billions per year. Lost workdays stress both employers and employees. For those without substitutes to fill in, the thought of becoming ill invokes panic. To cope, they take extra precautions to stay well. I am one of those “solo” workers. I try to remain in tip-top shape by washing my nose twice daily. I look upon my classroom as a microcosm of society because the pharmaceutical industry, health care industry and the population of this country affect the topics we discuss. By allowing my imagination free rein, I can foresee industry, business, politics and finance benefiting if society assumes responsibility to reduce health care costs. Can nose washing help to cap these costs to improve the well-being of the nation? Permit me to expound on this topic. Teachers benefit if children are not sneezing and coughing throughout the class. Words of wisdom are more audible when there is no din of barkbark-barkers, ha-ha-chachoo-ers and foghorn nose blowers. For daycare teachers, wiping the noses of toddlers is an occupational hazard. School-aged children blow their own noses with variable degrees of success but still innocently spread airborne pathogens to menace everyone sharing the same air. Since not breathing is not an option, flushing nasal germs down the drain to manage their virulence makes more sense to reduce absenteeism. Do you remember substitute teachers who provided comic relief from an ogre-ish one? That was fun, but we learned little that day. It was a hardship when excellent teachers were absent or mothers collapsed in their line of duty. Working mothers should view nose washing as job and salary protection insurance. Wherever people gather in confined spaces, they contract the airborne illness. Planes, trains and buses are common perpetrators of germ warfare. How many people frugally save for a special vacation only to become sick as a dog while traveling? Think of nose washing as a form of travel insurance. What are our alternatives? Should we wear face masks to manage the spread of illness? We expect everyone to be vaccinated and toilet-trained, wash their hands, sneeze into tissues, brush their teeth and shower. Has the time come to add nose washing to standard daily hygiene? What do I want to achieve?

My intentions are to:

• Encourage the reduction of suffering and manage the spread of illness to immune-compromised patients like the elderly, infants and those undergoing chemotherapy.
• Make schools healthier learning environments.
• Make workplaces healthier and workforces more productive.
• Lower the cost of healthcare that is bankrupting the economy.

Americans must “save for a rainy day.” Saving trees by reducing tissue use is a good idea too. Nasal washing manages the need for certain drugs and hospital treatments. Given a choice between washing my nose for a minute a day and being congested all day perpetually, I will wash my nose. We must demonstrate that nose washing does not cause drowning or even discomfort."


Marilyn James-Kracke, PhD Associate Professor Medical Pharmacology and Physiology University of Missouri-Columbia

Chapter from "Clearing The Air One Nose at a Time: Caring for Your Personal Filter" by Hana R. Solomon MD, 2013"
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References:
Mudarri, D. H. (2016). Valuing the Economic Costs of Allergic Rhinitis, Acute Bronchitis, and Asthma from Exposure to Indoor Dampness and Mold in the US. Journal of environmental and public health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4903...

AAFA. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. (n.d.). https://www.aafa.org/allergy-facts/.

Antibiotic Use in Outpatient Settings. (n.d.). https://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/assets/2016/05/a...

Hsu, J., Qin, X., Beavers, S. F., & Mirabelli, M. C. (2016, July). Asthma-Related School Absenteeism, Morbidity, and Modifiable Factors. American journal of preventive medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4914...

Cotton, M., Innes, S., Jaspan, H., Madide, A., & Rabie, H. (2008, March). Management of upper respiratory tract infections in children. South African family practice : official journal of the South African Academy of Family Practice/Primary Care. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3098...