What is a sinus infection?
A sinus infection, also called sinusitis, is a common problem that causes your sinuses to swell up. The sinuses become inflamed and cause symptoms that can be similar to the common cold. In fact, many people can contract a sinus infection after having a cold or the flu.
Around 31 million Americans are affected by sinusitis, spending more than $1 billion each year on medications to treat it. However, there are several home remedies for sinus infections that you can try that are cheap and effective.
Sinus infections are usually caused by bacterial infections, but they can also be caused by viruses or fungi. These infections can either be acute or chronic. Acute infections usually go away in two or three weeks, but chronic sinusitis can last for up to 12 weeks or longer.
Your sinus cavities have a layer of mucus that helps to trap substances like dust and germs. When the lining becomes inflamed from a viral infection, like sinusitis or a cold, it swells. This swelling forces mucus to get stuck in the sinuses, which prevents normal drainage. When this happens, bacteria and fungi can start to grow in the blocked-up fluid, causing a sinus infection.
Common symptoms of sinusitis include:
- Pain, pressure, and tenderness around the eyes, forehead, and cheeks
- Sinus headache
- Blocked nose
- Bad breath
- Reduced senses of taste and smell
- A cough that produces mucus
- Yellow or green mucus that comes from the nose
- Swelling of the nasal tissue
Anyone can get sinus infections, especially after coming off of a cold when your immunity is down. However, some people may be more prone to getting them, including:
- People with a narrow opening of the sinuses
- People with nasal polyps
- People who have a deformity of the bone between the nostrils
- People with allergies
- People with weak immune systems
Remedies for sinus infections
There are several home remedies and treatments that you can try for sinus infections.
- Nasal irrigation. Use a Neti pot or a small bulb syringe to flush out your nasal passages. Using a saltwater mixture can help to clear the mucus out of your sinuses. This is one of the most effective home treatments for a sinus infection.
- Steam therapy. Try taking a hot shower and breathing in the steam to help open up your sinus passages. You can also fill a bowl or pot with hot water and put your face over it to breathe in the steam. Drape a towel across your shoulders to trap the steam.
- Drink water. Drinking more water is a great home remedy for sinusitis since the extra fluids help to thin out the mucus. Try to avoid caffeine and alcohol and stick to water or juice.
- Warm compress. Another effective home treatment you can try is to apply a warm compress to your face to help relieve your sinus pain and pressure.
- Rest. One of the most important things you can do when you have a sinus infection is to get some rest. This helps your body to fight the infection so you can get well quicker.
- Sleep while elevated. When you rest or sleep, elevate your head with some extra pillows. This will help prevent the mucus from getting stuck in your sinuses at night.
- Use a humidifier. Add moisture to the air, especially where you sleep. This can help to clear up your congestion.
There are also some over-the-counter (OTC) medications that you can try to help relieve your symptoms.
- Saline nasal spray. This helps to keep your sinuses from drying out, in addition to helping with congestion and inflammation. Steroid nasal sprays can help with decongestion and inflammation, especially when allergies are the culprit.
- Decongestants. Taking a decongestant can help clear out mucus.
- Antibiotics. If your sinus infection is caused by bacteria, your doctor may prescribe you antibiotics to help kill off the infection.
Risks of treatments
Decongestants, like nasal sprays, should only be used for up to three days. After this amount of time, continued use can actually make your congestion worse.
Since you will likely be blowing your nose a lot when you have sinusitis, blow carefully. Blow one nostril at a time, gently, to avoid irritating the nasal passages and forcing bacteria further up into your sinuses.
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