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The Mucociliary Blanket

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The nasal and sinus cavities are normally able to clear mucous on their own through a transport system called the mucociliary blanket.  This term refers to the self-cleaning lining of the nose and sinuses which supports microscopically small hair-like filaments, called cilia, that rhythmically beat mucous through narrow sinus passageways towards the back of the nose and into the throat.

The sticky mucous traps viruses, bacteria, fungus, pollens, and dirt particles. The cilia then sweep the mucous containing these particles towards the throat in a conveyor belt-like fashion. This system can be hampered by dehydration which causes the mucous to thicken and become heavy. Trapped organisms are no longer swept away, allowing them to multiply in place and enter the sinus lining, leading to inflammation and infection.

It is very important to promote this mucociliary transport, especially if you have sinus problems. This can be done by:

  • Drinking at least 64 ounces (2 liters) of non-caffeinated fluids per day.
  • Using nasal saline spray (*Simply Saline*, Ocean, Deep, Ayr) frequently, i.e. every 2-3 hours.
  • Exposing yourself to steam 1-2 times per day (via a shower, facial steamer, etc.).

Sometimes swelling within the nose from either allergies, irritation, or infection can also impede this self-cleaning system. In these cases, nasal saline irrigation is used to assist mucociliary transport. We have a separate information sheet which describes how to perform this irrigation.


We enjoy teaching our patients about their medical problems and the treatment plan that we have recommended. We believe that with this education, our patients are more likely to get better and to stay better.


These information articles are intended for use by our patients in conjunction with regular care from Drs. Siegel and Bosworth. Use of this information by others can lead to a delay in diagnosis with potential worsening of health. If you are not one of our patients, please schedule an appointment so that we can help you to feel better as soon as possible.

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 Siegel & Bosworth - Ear, Nose & Throat Center
15204 Omega Dr., Suite 310, Rockville, MD 20850
Fax (240) 361-9001
Please read our disclaimer before reviewing this information. Any information provided on this Web site should not be considered medical advice or a substitute for a consultation with Siegel & Bosworth ENT Center. If you have a medical problem, contact us for diagnosis and treatment. |D|