Background: The impact of deployment to combat zones on the respiratory and sinonasal health of U.S. soldiers is an emerging public health concern. Retrospective studies have shown a correlation between deployment and development of post-deployment pathology, particularly of the aerodigestive system. Respiratory disease, including sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, and asthma, are commonly reported in soldiers deployed to the Middle East and Southwest Asia.
Methods: Current literature pertaining to combat zone exposure and development of respiratory disease was retrieved using PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, and Google Scholar.
Results: Several types of combat zone exposures exist that may play an influential role in the development of upper and lower respiratory tract diseases. Exposures including foreign dusts, harsh environments, particulate size, and close living quarters may play a causative role. The effect of combat zone exposures has been better examined for lower respiratory tract diseases; however, with the theory of the unified airway, the upper respiratory tract may also be involved. There is evidence that the upper respiratory tract is susceptible, with an increased risk for development of sinusitis and sinonasal disease; however, the quality of evidence of the present literature is generally low.
Conclusion: More research is necessary to determine a pathophysiologic mechanism between combat zone exposure and the development of sinonasal disease. Practicing otolaryngologists should be aware of the possibility of combat zone exposures that could contribute to rhinologic symptomatology.
Keywords: air pollution; asthma; paranasal sinus diseases; particulate matter; rhinosinusitis; sinusitis.
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