If you have unpleasant symptoms such as a stuffy nose, facial pressure, and posturing nasal discharge, they may be a sign of a sinus infection that is accumulating in your nasal cavity.
Sinus infections, also known as sinusitis, affect about 31 million people in the United States each year, and they spend more than $1 billion on over-the-counter medications to treat them, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
Fortunately, most cases of acute sinusitis go away on their own, Moshe Ephrat, MD, an otolaryngologist certified by the Otolaryngology and Allergy Association in New York, told Ahubreviews.com.
Because a little self-care is usually all that’s needed to alleviate sinusitis symptoms, we’ve asked some otolaryngologists what they do when they have a sinus infection — and how you can proceed with your own healing process.
1. ‘I Pop a Decongestant’
“When I feel the initial signs of a sinus infection, I will do what I can to facilitate the discharge and allow it to clear itself,” Ephrat said. It’s important that your sinuses be allowed to drain, as the buildup of mucus can eventually become contaminated with bacteria.”
He accomplished this with over-the-counter medication: “I like Mucinex D – a 12-hour ointment and committed nose – and take it daily until the symptoms go away.”
Dr. Ephrat adds, make sure to drink in the morning so it gets out of your system in the evening, otherwise, it may keep you up at night.
2. “I use Sinus Wash”
When Nicole Aaronson, MD, a pediatric otolaryngologist at Alfred I. DuPont Children’s Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware, has a sinus infection, watering or “washing” the sinuses with saline — and immediately — will significantly improve a child’s blockage.
“Sinus washing works by manually removing scum, irritants, mucus, and bacteria from the nose,” she said. I prefer bottle squeezing to the usual one, but it’s a matter of personal comfort.”
How to wash your sinuses
Fill the distilled or boiled water to cool to room temperature (never use tap water!) Enter a clean nasal wash bottle ($12.99; CVS.com). Dr. Aaronson says the bottle must be less than three months.
Add a package of saltwater according to the instructions of the product.
Place the bottle on one side of the nostrils and slightly tilt the head forward. Squeeze the bottle slowly and gently (squeezing too hard will push water onto the fallopian tubes in the middle ear, which can be annoying, Dr. Aaronson says.
Repeat as needed to reduce congestion and mucus buildup.
Dr. Aaronson recommends washing the sinuses under the shower, so everything messy can easily be washed away.
3. ‘I’ve always been hydrated’
Another measure Dr. Aaronson uses to soothe sinus infection symptoms is water retention — especially with hot tea.
“Hydration helps to dilute mucus viscosity, making it easier to flush mucus out of the nose and sinuses,” she said. Steam from hot liquids is especially useful for diluting the secretions in your nose and soothing your throat.”
If the throat is particularly sore (due to coughing or runny nose), add honey to the tea to cover and soothe the mucous membranes. She said: “There is also some data on the antibacterial properties of medically grade manuka honey which improves infection and speeds up healing.
4. ‘I take anti-inflammatory drugs’
“During the first week of a sinus infection, I will take anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Advil Cold & Sinus, to both reduce inflammation and reduce swelling,” said Ameet R. Kamat, MD, director of the sinus and cranial surgery. at White Plains Hospital in New York, told LIVESTRONG.com. “This allows me to breathe more easily and improves my ability to communicate.”
Always follow the instructions on the packaging when taking over-the-counter medications and talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you’re worried about side effects or interactions with other medications.
5. ‘I switched to Steam’
Dr. Kamat also keeps a humidifier in his bedroom and a super-wet shower to “improve the hydration of the nasal mucosa and reduce the viscosity of mucus, so that my body can get rid of infected substances and clear my sinuses better.”
Result? The airway is more open and breathing is better.
6. ‘I Keep Salt Water Spray on Standby’
Saline sprays have the same effect as sinus washing, helping to clear mucus and soothe the nasal passages.
“I love using Euka’s Allergy and Cold Mineral Spray throughout the day,” said Beverly Hills-based ENT physician Shawn Nasseri. It is infused with essential oils, including eucalyptus, which has glycerin for added moisture and is alkaline for greater comfort.”
How to use Salt Spray
For best results, point the spray to the back of one nostril while closing the other with your finger.
Keep your mouth shut, lightly squeeze the spray and inhale lightly.
The usual recommendation is to spray two shots at each nostril, but check the label of physiological saline spray you’ve chosen to be sure.
7. ‘I use a four-legged position’
Dr. Kamat said: “If the pain or pressure on my face is intense, I sometimes put my head towards the floor while supporting my hands and knees. This is called a four-legged pose (similar to the tabletop pose in yoga).
Dr. Kamat said: “The location of the sinus cavity is high along the nasal wall and is known to be difficult to drain naturally or passively due to gravity.” “In this location, the vent can better drain and has been shown to reduce the duration of sinus infections.”
8. “I follow tabs on my symptoms”
Jonathan Overdevest, MD, assistant professor of skin and craniofacial surgery at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York, let’s call time about the best way to treat his sinus infection.
“We all want to find ways to minimize the impact of our symptoms and introduce treatments that help us recover faster,” he said. The challenge lies in knowing which symptoms need higher levels of care (antibiotics, systemic steroids, expert evaluation) and which symptoms will improve on their own.”
Time becomes an important differentiating factor for knowing which symptoms may require incremental treatment.
“In general, any sinus infection accompanied by severe symptoms – persistently high fever, chills, vision changes, constant severe headaches or changes in appearance – will require a more urgent physical evaluation,” he said.
For less serious situations, monitor your symptoms to determine if they last longer than a week — or are bad, then initially improve, only returning worse over a period of seven to 10 days. If either of these cases is true, you’re more likely to be suffering from an acute sinus infection caused by beneficial bacteria when taking antibiotics.
“I personally always remind myself of this time frame in the face of sinusitis symptoms to avoid over-exposure to antibiotics,” Dr. Overdevest said. Although they are beneficial in certain cases, they will not affect the causes of viral illness, usually, those whose symptoms last less than 7 to 10 days.”