Dry sinuses occur when the mucous membranes in your sinuses lack proper moisture. This can lead to dry nasal passages, discomfort, nosebleeds, and similar unpleasant symptoms. In severe cases, untreated dry sinuses can become infected and require antibiotics.
Luckily, having dry sinuses is a common complaint that is usually easy to treat. With a combination of the proper home treatments and guidance from your doctor, your symptoms can be alleviated.
What are the symptoms of dry sinuses?
Dry sinuses can cause many uncomfortable symptoms in your head, nose, mouth, and throat. Some of these common symptoms include:
- sore throat
- sinus pain or pressure
- dry nose
- dry mouth
When your sinus cavities are dried out, it means you’re not producing enough mucus. This causes your throat, nose, and mouth to become dry as well. When your sinuses get too dry, the tissues become inflamed and irritated.
Irritation in the sinuses can also lead to headaches, aches and pains in the cheeks where the sinuses are located, and sinus pressure.
What causes dry sinuses?
There are several conditions and irritants that can cause dry sinuses, including:
Seasonal allergies like allergic rhinitis (hay fever) can keep the sinuses irritated, causing the tissue to become dry and inflamed. This can lead to thickened or sticky mucus, which makes the problem worse. Allergic rhinitis can be triggered by allergies to:
- blooming plants
Sometimes, over-the-counter or prescription allergy medications can also cause your sinuses to dry out.
Depending on where you live and when certain plants bloom, you might experience allergies more than once a year. Symptoms of seasonal allergies include:
- runny or stuffy nose
- sore throat
- itchy or watery eyes
- itchy throat, sinuses, or ear canals
- postnasal drainage
- fluid on the ears
- shortness of breath
If you have pets in your house like dogs or cats, it’s possible that you could be allergic to their dander. You might need allergy testing to determine whether your pet could be contributing to your symptoms.
Making an appointment with your doctor or an allergist will give you insight into what is triggering your dry sinuses.
Antihistamines and decongestants
Over-the-counter and prescription medications formulated to dry out excess mucus also tend to dry out the nasal passages and sinus tissues. Antihistamines and decongestants are the medications that most commonly cause this problem.
But there are other medications that can dry your mucus membranes. If you’re taking prescription medication and think it might be causing your dry sinus problem, talk to your doctor about its potential side effects. Your doctor might want to change your prescription or recommend a different over-the-counter medication.
Low humidity in your home can cause your nasal passages and sinuses to become dry and irritated. Running the central heating unit (or other heaters) in your home during the winter months can dry out the air. During cold weather, it’s common for people to experience nosebleeds from lack of proper humidity in the house.
Chemical and environmental irritants
Many chemicals and products for cleaning, home repair, and more can irritate your nasal passages and sinuses. This can cause you to have dry sinuses, sore throat, dry nose, nosebleeds, or other symptoms similar to allergies. Some chemicals and products that can irritate your sinuses include:
- household cleaning products
- cigarette smoke
- industrial irritants (such as chemicals in the workplace)
- paint or varnish fumes
- strong perfumes and other synthetic fragrances
Sjögren syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that prevents the body from creating enough moisture. People with Sjögren syndrome tend to have dry eyes and dry mouth most often. But because the disorder affects the entire body, it can also cause mucus membranes to become too dry. In some individuals, this can lead to dry sinuses.
Some of the symptoms of Sjögren syndrome include:
- dry mouth
- dry eyes
- dry skin
- joint pain
- vaginal dryness
- skin rashes
- chronic inflammation
How are dry sinuses treated?
There are many ways you can treat dry sinuses at home to alleviate discomfort caused by seasonal allergies, irritation from chemicals, or drying from medications or dry air. To get relief, you can:
- place a humidifier in your bedroom at night to keep the air from getting too dry
- stop taking drying medications, such as antihistamines (or ask your doctor or pharmacist to help you choose something with fewer side effects)
- drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
- get some fresh air if the air in your house is stale or stagnant
- remove as many allergens and irritants from your environment as possible
- irrigate your sinuses with sterile saline using a neti pot or similar product
- use nasal spray to hydrate and lubricate your nasal passages and sinuses
- take a hot shower and inhale the steam
- diffuse essential oils like lavender, peppermint, or lemon for allergies
In some cases, your doctor might need to recommend treatment for your dry sinuses. Make an appointment with your doctor if you:
- have an autoimmune disorder like Sjögren syndrome
- are taking prescription medicaiton that causes dry sinuses
- think you might have a sinus infection (sinusitis)
Your doctor may:
- adjust or change your prescription to alleviate drying side effects
- prescribe antibiotics for acute or chronic sinusitis
- treat your Sjögren syndrome symptoms with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, or immunosuppressants
- recommend allergy testing to pinpoint the allergens that are triggering your symptoms
What is the outlook for dry sinuses?
Untreated dry sinuses can lead to prolonged discomfort as well as acute or chronic sinusitis. When the membranes in the sinuses stay irritated, this sets the stage for infection. It’s important to treat your symptoms as quickly as possible. Your symptoms should resolve quickly with the right approach.
See your doctor if you have symptoms of sinusitis, including:
- facial pain
- sinus headache
- thick nasal discharge that is cloudy, green, or yellow
- nasal congestion
- irritated or sore throat
- hoarse voice
Your doctor may prescribe a round of antibiotics to treat the infection in your sinuses. You will need to increase your water intake to stay hydrated and help thin the thickened mucus. With plenty of rest and proper treatment, your symptoms should be alleviated in 7–10 days.