Just about everyone is likely to get a sinus infection or sinusitis at some point in their lives. Sinusitis is an uncomfortable, even painful condition, but shouldn't cause any serious issues.
More importantly, you may be able to deal with sinusitis at home.
So, what natural treatments can you try to treat your sinusitis at home? How can you know if you have sinusitis, and when is it time to visit a doctor?
Let's find out.
What Is Sinusitis?
Sinusitis is sometimes confused with a standard runny nose and congestion. While sinusitis does involve those symptoms, it's much more intense than a basic cold.
Sinusitis is an inflammation of the tissue lining the sinuses. This causes pain and swelling, as well as mucus build-up. Instead of air flowing through the sinuses, fluid and mucus build up in these passages. Untreated sinusitis can lead to infections, which can cause abscesses to form in the sinuses, as well as other unpleasant side effects.
Unlike a common cold, which you can recover from in a couple of days, acute sinusitis can persist for up to two weeks. Chronic sinusitis can last even longer.
Symptoms of Sinusitis
The symptoms of sinusitis include normal cold symptoms, only worse and with a few extra symptoms. Signs of a sinus infection include:
- A blocked nose
- A cold that doesn't go away
- Postnasal drip
- Thick and unpleasant nasal discharge
- A persistent cough
- Pressure or pain around the eyes and/or sinuses
- Sinus pain
- Fever and possibly fatigue
- A headache in the forehead area
If you suspect that you have sinusitis, it's wise to get checked out by a doctor, to assess whether you need antibiotics or not. If left untreated, sinus infections can cause more serious symptoms, like tooth pain, pus in the nasal cavity, increased sinus pressure and sinus pain, and extreme fatigue.
Home Remedies for Sinus Infections
You may be able to treat sinusitis infections yourself at home, without needing to visit a doctor. Here are a few natural home remedies and self-care treatments that can help to ease the symptoms of a sinus infection.
1. Homemade Salt Solution
Saline solution sinus rinses can help to ease swelling and nasal congestion, as well as reduce the chance of infections. With a product like a neti pot, also known as a nasal douche, combine one cup of water with half a teaspoon of salt. Use warm water rather than hot water, and be sure to use distilled or sterile water.
If you're using tap water, boil it first to get rid of any impurities, then let the water cool until it's just warm.
To rinse with the saltwater, snort the saltwater up through one nostril while holding the other nostril closed with a finger or thumb. Remove your finger as you snort. This allows the salt water to move through and out either or both nostrils.
It's worth noting that nasal douching isn't a pleasant experience. However, neither is suffering from sinus infections for weeks on end. It can also be messy, so you might want to conduct your nasal rinse in the bath or over a sink. This process is known as nasal irrigation.
2. Steam Treatments
Breathing in steam can help to ease swollen sinuses, and can also thin out thick, clogged mucus.
The simplest way to conduct a steam treatment is to boil a pot of water on the stove. Once the pot is steaming, take it off the heat. Make sure you keep children away from you and be sure to use a heat-resistant mat.
Next, lean over the pot, making sure that you're at least twelve inches away from the water. Be aware that you're close to hot water, and you could get burned if you aren't careful. Drape a cotton cloth or towel over your head and the pot. This will help to enclose the steam.
Breathe deeply, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Continue breathing over the pot for up to ten minutes, or for as long as the water steams. The steam should ease the swelling in your nasal passages and dislodge trapped mucus. You may need to blow your nose during and after the steaming process, but this is a good sign - it means that the steaming is working.
3. Spicy Foods
If you've ever eaten something a little too spicy for you, you'll be aware of the effect it has. A streaming nose, watery eyes, and stinging nasal passages are all reactions produced by capsaicin, the product that gives chilies and peppers their famous spicy flavor. The capsaicin can help to unclog swollen, blocked sinuses, so eating spicy foods can actually help to relieve the symptoms of sinusitis.
Good foods to eat to ease sinus problems include:
- Raw garlic
- Raw onions
- Spicy mustard
Eating these foods won't treat your sinus infection, but it can ease the symptoms.
4. Avoid Triggers
If you suffer from allergies, try and avoid your triggers. Triggers can make your current sinus infection much worse, as your sinuses react to whatever you're allergic to. Exposing yourself to allergy triggers can also cause sinusitis in the first place.
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, like hayfever, try and take some antihistamines to ease your symptoms. If you have other allergies, like pet allergies, avoid your triggers or take allergy medication.
5. Rest and Hydrate
Never underestimate the importance of resting and staying hydrated during an illness. Drinking plenty of water can help to gradually relieve the swelling in your sinuses. Resting or staying at home allows your body a chance to recuperate. It also allows you to manage your surroundings to avoid allergy triggers, and handle your sinusitis in a relaxed environment.
6. Take OTC Medication
Nasal sprays, antihistamines, and other allergy medications are all available as OTC (over-the-counter) medications. You can get these medications at a pharmacy and use them in the comfort of your own home. Neti pots, nasal sprays, and nasal irrigation treatments can all be used side by side to tackle a nasty sinus infection. Even if these treatments don't deal with the root cause of your sinus infection, they should deal with the nasal congestion.
For example, using a neti pot can help to fight infection and ease the symptoms of chronic sinusitis.
When To See a Doctor
If your home remedies don't seem to be working after a week or two, it might be time to visit a doctor. If your sinus infection is getting worse, staying unchanged, or even if you keep getting sinusitis, visit your doctor.
Certain types of sinus infections, like chronic sinusitis or serious infections, may need antibiotics and medical treatment to go away. Repeated sinus infections may have an underlying cause. For example, nasal polyps or a deviated septum can cause infection, blockages, and postnasal drip.
In some cases, a doctor might recommend surgery to deal with repeated sinus infections. You may also need treatment for any abscesses or infections which could have developed.
Some sinus symptoms may indicate a much more serious infection. Contact your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms:
- Swelling around the eyes or forehead
- A severe headache
- Confusion or dizziness
- A stiff neck
- Vision changes, including double vision
The Bottom Line
Sinus infections are deeply unpleasant. They're painful, embarrassing, and take a good week or two to go away. However, with a little at-home care, proper rest, and nasal treatment, you can handle your sinus infection at home, just as comfortably as you would a regular cold.
It's worth noting that colds and flu can often lead to sinus infections. Staying warm and healthy during winter months, when colds are most prevalent, can prevent you from developing a nasty sinus infection at all. But if you do, these home remedies should help relieve sinus pain and pressure, helping you to breathe easy once more.