If making healthier life choices in 2015 tops your New Year’s resolution list, make sure it includes improving your ENT health–that of your ears, nose and throat. Healthier changes that can improve your physical and mental health can also improve your ENT health.

If you have had more than your fair share of sinus issues this year, here are some things you do to ensure you will need a lot less tissues in 2015.

Steps to Healthier Sinuses

Keep your sinuses healthy by incorporating the following practices into your normal routine:

  • Practice good hygiene, especially when you are sick. Frequently wash your hands and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Keep your hands away from your eyes and face. Avoid contact with others who are sick with the flu, cold or upper respiratory infection.
  • Drink plenty of water. Water keeps the mucus in your sinuses flowing smoothly, so try to drink at least six glasses of water each day. Water also keeps your throat moist. Warm tea with honey also soothes a sore throat, as does gargling with warm saltwater.
  • Use a humidifier to keep your sinuses from becoming dry. Dry sinuses causes mucus buildup and congestion. Keep humidity under 50 percent. Anything over 50 percent will breed dust mites, an allergen that is not kind to sinuses. Standing in a hot shower also helps.
  • Studies have shown that nasal irrigation effectively reduces sinus infections. Irrigate your sinuses with a sterile saline solution to keep them clean and healthy. You can use an irrigation kit or neti pot, both of which can be found at your local pharmacy and/or health food store.
  • Avoid air irritants and pollutants such as pet dander, smoke from cigarettes (including secondhand smoke), wood, fumes, smog and dust. All of these cause nasal swelling and congestion. They can trigger allergies if you are allergic.
  • Sudden changes in air pressure, such as that which occurs on an airplane in flight or when scuba-diving, can affect your sinuses. Check with your doctor to see if you should take a decongestant or nasal spray before doing any of these activities. Sudden air pressure changes also can affect your ears, referred to as barotrauma. Symptoms include ear pain, hearing loss, clogging or ringing of the ear and ear hemorrhage.

If sinus problems persist, see a qualified ENT doctor. There may be an underlying condition causing your sinus problems that require more extensive treatment, such as a deviated septum or nasal polyps. Whatever the cause, the ENT doctor will determine the best treatment option for you.