Breathe Easy

Dr. Peter D. Costantino, Sinus & Cranial Base Tumor surgeon and Executive Director of New York Head and Neck Institute, speaks on the link between nasal health and COVID-19.

After months of uncertainty, health experts now understand that we contract COVID-19 through five openings in your face lined with mucous membranes. Dr. Costantino says, “It’s called the coronavirus because of the sharp spike proteins on the surface. The proteins of a COVID-19 particle can easily attach to the sticky surfaces of our mucous membranes, allowing the virus to infiltrate our cells.” Though the virus cannot penetrate through our skin, it’s important to keep hands clean and away from the face, as viral particles can be easily transferred to mucous membranes this way. Viral contraction through the mouth is much less likely, as enzymes in saliva are capable of destroying the virus. The most likely method of contraction is through the unprotected mucous membrane of the nose, which is why mask-wearing and strong sinus health are effective methods of prevention. 

Many believe that flushing of the sinuses can aid in the prevention of COVID-19, but Costantino stresses that this can “cause more problems than it solves.” Salt solutions, eucalyptus and other homeopathic remedies flooded through the nose can inflame the mucous membrane and wash away the natural layer of mucus, leaving the tissues irritated and susceptible to infection. “Imagine, if the membrane of your nose is healthy and has the normal amount of mucus coating, and you wash that away and leave the tissue exposed, you are actually increasing the chance of the virus attaching itself to your nasal cavity.” Instead, Costantino recommends managing allergies and congestion through the use of an antihistamine, a steroid nasal spray or a saline solution. Hydrated sinus cavities are healthiest, and the use of a humidifier prevents nasal pathways from drying out, bleeding and contracting infection. 

As for masks, Costantino believes that medical grade is the safest bet. He recommends using surgical masks whenever possible, specifically the N95 or KN95. If you don’t have access to medical-grade models, be sure that your mask is 3-ply minimum, to ensure that virus particles cannot permeate through the fabric. While N95 masks can shield you from breathing in viral particles, standard surgical masks have been shown to prevent you from exhaling viral particles into the air around you, spreading it to others. Bottom line, Costantino says: “Masks work. Everyone in the country should have one.” 

Dr. Peter D. Costantino is a nationally & internationally recognized Craniofacial and Cranial Base Tumor Surgeon practicing in New York City. He specializes in both endoscopic (minimally invasive) and open cranial base surgery, and also specializes in adult craniofacial reconstruction. He is dual board certified in Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery and in Facial Plastic & Reconstructive surgery. In 2007 he became the Founder & Executive Director of the New York Head & Neck Institute. 

Watch Dr. Costantino’s IG Live with Purist Editor In Chief Cristina Cuomo here.