What is sinusitis?
Following my recent post about nasal sprays, I thought it a good time to talk about sinusitis and some simple home treatments.
Sinusitis is the inflammation of sinus tissue. The swelling blocks normal drainage, which can lead to a viral or bacterial infection.
Sinusitis can be caused by colds, allergies, the overuse of decongestant nasal sprays, or a physical blockage, such as a deviated septum or nasal polyps.
The most common symptoms other than a sinus headache are pressure behind the eyes, facial pain on either side of the nose, upper jaw and tooth pain (sinusitis is often mistaken for a dental problem), loss of smell, and a thick nasal discharge that may be streaked with blood. Yellow or green discharge may indicate an infection.
Yep, sinusitis is unpleasant.
Home remedies for sinusitis
When your nose is congested it’s important to keep air and mucus flowing to prevent infection.
- Stay hydrated. Drink a lot of fluids; aim for 6-8 glasses of water, tea, juice or sports drink every day.
- Use a neti pot or saline nasal spray. I use a neti pot for my allergies and at the first sign of a cold. If the mucus in your nose is too thick, try a simple saline nasal spray to help loosen up the gunk.
- Inhale steam. Pour boiling water into a basin. If you like, add a couple drops of an essential oil (tea tree, eucalyptus, or peppermint) or a sprig of fresh rosemary. Drape your head with a towel and breath in the warm steam. But take care: don’t put your face so close to the water that you burn the inside of your nose!
- Use a warm, moist compress. Dampen a washcloth or tea towel with warm water and lay it over your upper face for a few minutes. Or, use a microwaveable head wrap. I made my own microwaveable heat wrap with some flannel and rice. It’s inexpensive and you can cut the fabric to any size you want.
- Humidify your home. Winter air can be especially dry, indoors and outdoors. Keep your home, or at least your bedroom, more nose friendly with a cool-air humidifier.
- Sleep with your head elevated. Let gravity help! Use more pillows or a wedge pillow to support your upper back and head (wedge pillows are great for acid reflux and low back pain, too). Or put wood blocks under your bed to raise it by 4-6 inches.
A few inexpensive over-the-counter medications may help. For pain, ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) work best because they are anti-inflammatories. If your stomach doesn’t like NSAIDs, use acetaminophen (Tylenol) instead.
Related post: Save money on over-the-counter pain relievers
Steroid nasal sprays also reduce the inflammation in your nose and sinuses, and are available over the counter. Follow the directions and don’t use longer than necessary.
Avoid nasal decongestant sprays as these will only make sinusitis worse!
Related post: Save money on nasal sprays
At the doctor’s office
If you have recurrent bouts of sinusitis, the symptoms get worse even with home treatment, you have a fever, or the symptoms last longer than a couple of weeks, make an appointment with your health care provider.
Your doctor will look into your nose, mouth and ears, palpate your face and neck, and perhaps send you for an imaging study.
A fever and/or colored (green, yellow) mucus are signs of infection. Most sinus infections will be viral, however, and antibiotics will be useless.
Don’t insist on a prescription for antibiotics! More and more bacteria are resistant to antibiotics because of their overuse. If your doctor says you don’t need antibiotics, believe them.
On the other hand, if your doctor gives you a prescription for antibiotics, make sure you really need it. Some doctors still write too many prescriptions and will give you one even if it’s not necessary and they know an antibiotic won’t really help.
Especially if you’re given a prescription for azithromycin (Z-Pak). Doctors prescribe these and patients are happy even though azithromycin DOES NOTHING FOR A SINUS INFECTION!
Related post: The Z-Pak deception
I love to save money on health care by treating myself and my family with simple, inexpensive home remedies. Below are my favorite go-to books, which also let you know when you should seek medical care.