Preventing Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

There are many ways to prevent ear, nose, and throat (ENT) disorders or keep them from getting worse. The most common ENT disorders are infections and allergies, and some congenital issues (like a deviated septum) can make you more prone to recurrent symptoms.

Frequent hand washing is the single most important thing you can do to avoid infections. When possible, minimize your exposure to illness, and practice good hygiene. Since it is difficult to teach good hygiene to small children, toddlers who attend daycare or preschool are at a higher risk of developing ENT disorders, like ear infections and throat infections. And they may bring those contagious infections home to the rest of the family.

Here are some things you can do to prevent ENT disorders.

Doctor examining patients throat in doctors office
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Preventing Ear Infections

Ear infections are common ENT disorders. They occur when germs enter the ear and become trapped there.

Here is a list of ways to prevent ear infections:

  • Avoid exposure to cigarette smoke.
  • Get a diagnosis and treatment if you have allergies.
  • Avoid exposure to contagious respiratory infections if possible.

Certain inherited traits can make some people, especially children, more prone to ear infections. Sometimes children who experience repeated ear infections need to have ear tubes placed to help prevent recurrent infections.

Preventing Sinus Infections

Sinus infections occur when germs enter one of the hollow cavities in the skull surrounding the eyes and nose. A sinus infection may feel like a very bad cold that doesn't go away after the usual 2 to 3 weeks.

Here are some ways you can protect yourself.

  • If you have a cold, use a saline nasal spray (available over the counter) to keep your nasal passages from becoming blocked.
  • Do not fly if you have a cold. If you must fly, consider the use of a decongestant and nasal spray 30 minutes before take-off.
  • Try using saline nasal spray daily for chronic sinusitis.

If you have chronic sinusitis, make sure you talk to your doctor to see if you have an allergy or a blockage that's preventing you from getting better.

Preventing Sore Throat

There are many causes of sore throat, including infections, acid reflux, sleep apnea or more severe and rare disorders, such as cancer. A very common cause of sore throat is a bacterial or viral infection, so practicing good hygiene, such as frequent hand washing, is a good way to prevent sore throat.

Here are some other suggestions:

  • Get plenty of rest and exercise to bolster your immune system.
  • Avoid exposure to cigarette smoke.
  • Do not spend long periods of time outside in poor air quality areas.
  • Get treatment if you have esophageal reflux.

If your sore throat doesn't clear up within a few days, see your doctor.

Preventing Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition where a person stops breathing for brief periods of time while asleep. It is very common in the United States and can be harmful if left untreated. Fortunately, there are many treatments available, and sleep apnea can often be cured.

Here are some good ideas to prevent or keep sleep apnea at bay:

  • Maintain healthy body weight.
  • Avoid alcohol or sedatives at bedtime.
  • See a doctor, who can identify and treat tonsillitis, nasal polyps, or other disorders that can cause airway obstruction.
  • Quit smoking if you smoke.

If sleep apnea persists it should be treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).

A Word From Verywell

Not all ENT disorders can be prevented. Some are caused by inherited traits; however, following these suggestions may serve to keep you healthier in the future. Hand washing remains at the forefront of disease prevention. These guidelines can also help strengthen your immune system, decreasing the likelihood of catching an illness and limiting the amount of time you spend sick.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Better Nutrition. Prevent sinus infections: You might be pleasantly surprised to learn these simple tips for side-stepping a painful sinus infection, created by an ear-nose-and-throat doctor.

  • University of Michigan Health System. SoreThroat (Pharyngitis).

  • California Department of Health Services. BUILT: Toxics… Tobacco and Your Kids.

By Kristin Hayes, RN
Kristin Hayes, RN, is a registered nurse specializing in ear, nose, and throat disorders for both adults and children.