blowing nose

You know the feeling. Your nose is either plugged or like a leaky faucet and your head feels like it’s in a vise. It feels better to keep your eyes closed because they’re puffy and sore. And your throat feels like you swallowed nails. Sinus problems can be downright miserable. They can be caused by a number of things, including:

  • Sinusitis. Sinusitis is an infection that causes inflammation and swelling of your sinuses. The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) says that 90-98 percent of sinusitis cases are caused by viruses, which can’t be treated with antibiotics.
  • Don’t Use Decongestants and Antihistamines
    Unless you have allergic rhinitis, decongestants and antihistamines don’t help sinusitis. In some cases, they make it worse.
  • Chronic Sinusitis. This is an inflammatory condition that normally lasts more than three months. Nasal polyps, which are noncancerous growths, often accompany chronic sinusitis.
  • Allergic Rhinitis: If you have allergic rhinitis, your immune system triggers the release of histamines that irritate your nasal membranes, causing congestion and sneezing. Allergic rhinitis can lead to sinusitis.

Fortunately, there are effective remedies you can use to alleviate the pain and discomfort of sinus woes.

1. Water, Water Everywhere


Drink fluids and run a humidifier or vaporizer. Why is this important? Fluids and humidification help thin mucous and help drain your sinuses. They also lubricate your sinuses and keep your skin hydrated.

2. Nasal Irrigation

nasal irrigation

Nasal irrigation is very effective at relieving nasal congestion and irritation. Saline irrigation simply means gently flushing out your nasal passages with a saline solution. You can do this with special squeeze bottles, bulb syringes, or an inexpensive apparatus that looks like Aladdin’s lamp. The saline mixture is available prepackaged or you can make your own:

  • Dissolve 1 teaspoon sea salt or pickling salt (don’t use table salt, which usually contains additives) in 1 pint of distilled, sterilized, or filtered water.
  • Add a pinch of baking soda to the mixture.
Antibiotic Overuse
Sinus infections are the fifth leading reason antibiotics are prescribed, according to the IDSA. But antibiotics are only effective in treating 2 to 10 percent of these infections.

You will want to irrigate your sinuses while standing over a sink or basin to capture the liquid. Pour, spray, or squirt a liberal amount of the solution into one nostril while tilting your head so it flows out the other nostril. Do this with each nostril. Although the process sounds a little strange if you’ve never done it before, most people find it soothing. It also flushes away bacteria and irritants.

3. Steam


Steam helps relieve congestion by loosening mucus. Give yourself a steam treatment using a bowl of hot water and a large towel. Add menthol, camphor, or eucalyptus oils to the water, if you like. Place the towel over your head so it falls along the sides of the bowl, trapping the steam inside. Most people do this until the steam dissipates. The steam from a hot shower can also work but is a less concentrated experience.

4. Chicken Soup


It’s not an old wives’ tale. A number of studies support the benefits of chicken soup in helping ease congestion. One study found that chicken soup reduces inflammation associated with sinus congestion and colds.

So what’s the secret? Scientists haven’t identified the active ingredient in chicken soup, but they speculate that the steam combined with the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of the soup’s ingredients are what help clear the sinuses.

5. Warm Compresses


The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) recommends rotating warm and cold compresses on your sinuses.

  1. Lay back with a warm compress draped across your nose, cheeks, and forehead for three minutes.
  2. Remove the warm compress and replace with a cold compress for 30 seconds.
  3. Do this two to three times.

You can repeat this process two to six times each day.

When to See Your Doctor

It’s time to see your doctor if you experience:

  • symptoms that last longer than 10 days
  • a fever of 102℉ or higher
  • symptoms that get worse, including a spike in your fever, or you have increased greenish nasal discharge
  • changes in vision

You should also see a doctor if you have asthma or emphysema or you take medications that suppress your immune system.

You’re Not Alone

According to the AAO-HNS, more than 37 million Americans have at least one bout of sinusitis a year. But these easy home remedies can help relieve your symptoms and have you breathing easy sooner.