why can't i breathe?!
February 18, 2008 6:25 PM   Subscribe

SinusFilter: why can i actually breathe when i am walking around or doing housework whereas if i am just sitting on the couch i can't?

a couple of months ago, my allergies seemed to have returned despite a several-year absence. on top of this, i have caught some sort of severe head cold several days ago. needless to say, this has caused my sinuses to go haywire. i was snorting afrin for awhile until i realized how bad continued use of it was and went off it cold-turkey. miserable. in my miserable sickness, i have barely been able to breathe through my nose the past couple of days. but i noticed today when i walked to the pharmacy that my sinuses felt clear and i was able to breathe while i was out walking. when i came home and sat back out on the couch again, i was immediately congested again. but then, i just spent the last 30 minutes or so sweeping the floors and emptying the garbage and noticed that while i was doing that, my sinuses cleared again and i could breathe. when i sat back down on the couch again, i immediately became congested yet again.

what's going on? why does this happen?? why can't i sit (or lay down for that matter) and breathe through my nose like i can while i am up and about??
posted by violetk to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
From what you said, it sounds like you may be really allergic to something in your home, more specifically your couch or anything around your couch. It may be mold, pet dander or anything else that has been introduced into your environment sense you started to notice the breathing problems.

Is there anything relativity new in your home that may be the culprit?

You should have your doctor take a look at you.
posted by CreativeJuices at 6:33 PM on February 18, 2008

Response by poster: creativejuices, i have considered that but nothing has changed since i have started to become allergic again. in fact, if anything, i have one less allergen in the loss of my cat last summer. i have a dog, but i have had him for almost three years now, since he was a baby…there's just been no change that i can think of.

i have run the question by some friends. they all agree that it always happens where movement clears up their congestion where as sitting or laying down will bring it back—but we none of us can figure out why.
posted by violetk at 6:37 PM on February 18, 2008

Higher blood pressure decongests the mucus membranes...?
posted by gjc at 6:39 PM on February 18, 2008

If it is not something as simple as an allergen, I would seriously talk to your physician!
It is way better to err on the side of caution.
posted by CreativeJuices at 6:53 PM on February 18, 2008

I have had this happen in the past when I have had colds with severe congestion. I was so exhausted that all I wanted to do was sit or lie down, but if I did, I couldn't breathe. Standing up immediately cleared it up. As soon as I sat down again, it came back.

I don't have an answer for you, but I'm as curious as you are to know why this happens.
posted by bedhead at 7:20 PM on February 18, 2008

I know exactly what you are talking about, and while I have no medical reason for it, I think it's a matter of gravity and circulation.

While you are walking around and doing chores, your body is "actively" circulating blood for your movement, while sitting on the couch puts you into a bent position and really limits your available movement.

I suppose I made a reverse correlation because I notice when I lay on my bed and hang my head off the side (like when you're a kid and you're bored), I'll get a gigantic rush to my head and I tend to feel like my sinuses are stuffed up.

Now to throw in the obligatory: Have you seen your doctor yet?

For my past sinus infections that had me stuffed up, my doctor liked to prescribe a 10 day course of antibiotics, an antihistamine of some sort, and some methylpredinsolone to cut down on the inflammation.

Hope you get to feeling better.
posted by skwillz at 7:32 PM on February 18, 2008

Higher blood pressure decongests the mucus membranes...?

I think you're on the right track here but heading in the wrong direction, perhaps. When you sit down on the couch, I think your blood pressure at the level of your head actually rises until your heart rate and other aspects of your vascular system adjust to the lesser demands of a sitting position.
posted by jamjam at 7:44 PM on February 18, 2008

Vasomotor rhinitis, maybe?
posted by loiseau at 8:38 PM on February 18, 2008

I always assumed it was sheer gravity. If I tilt my head down (like I might if i were sweeping, etc), snot flows out of my sinuses and I can blow my nose easily. If I lay down, it all pools in my sinuses and I have to breathe out of my mouth.

Also, if I lay on my right side, it all goes thataway. And vice versa with the left.

Mucinex helps a bit in general (get the good stuff from behind the counter at the pharmacy though).
posted by infinityjinx at 9:10 PM on February 18, 2008

I have very similar symptoms, though my sinuses are now a mess of scar tissue from multiple surgeries. I still get congested and things still feel better when I get off my duff and move around. I have no actual knowledge except for surmises based on my own perceived experience.

Having said that, I think it is much less complex than blood pressure, but rather your sinuses naturally open up when you move your body. When I run, my sinuses open up and I breathe more easily, but when I sit down to relax (and no longer need the increased oxygen flow), they constrict back down to their "relaxed," congested levels.

Is this an accurate description of what's happening in my body? I doubt it. But when I'm really stuffy, I'll put on my coat and go for a walk around the block and will invariably feel better (though perhaps colder and more tired than before). When I'm so uncomfortable that I'd rather be tired and cold than warm and stuffy, I know it's time to call the doctor (if I haven't already).

Now that I write this down, it occurs to me that I should probably ask the doctor about this phenomenon. I *am* using it intentionally and it does provide me with relief: perhaps there is some diagnostic benefit that I'm missing.
posted by terceiro at 11:36 PM on February 18, 2008

Does your posture contribute? Is there a difference when you sit up straight vs. slouching, lounging, or lying horizontally?
posted by bassjump at 11:38 PM on February 18, 2008

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