Normally, the sinuses produce a small amount of mucous to assist with keeping the nostrils moist and to help flush out viruses, bacteria and foreign bodies. When the sinuses become irritated, they secrete extra mucous, swell and can become blocked, inhibiting breathing. This may also cause headaches and facial pain. Sinus problems can be due to a number of sources and factors including allergies, congenital sinus malformations, deviated septum, infections, chemical exposure. Simple home remedies for sinus problems can help relieve some discomforts.
Overviews of Sinus Problems
Sinuses are located behind the nose, behind the eyes and all over the face. The sinuses are made up of eight separate air filled spaces in the bones of the head and are believed to assist with keeping foreign bodies out of the breathing areas, keeping the air that goes through the nose humidified and making the head lighter. The sinuses may also help with the pitch and quality of the sound we produce with our voices.
When the sinuses become irritated and they over-produce mucous in an attempt to "flush-out" the invader; this is known as "sinusitis" and can be very uncomfortable. Sinusitis is common in children and can happen to adults. Over 37 million Americans get sinusitis every year and it is more prevalent during allergy seasons like spring and fall. Children who are exposed to other children in daycare and school have a higher risk of sinusitis due to viruses and bacteria. Elderly people who live in nursing homes and assisted living centers also have an increased risk.
There are certain signs you need to be aware of so you can tell the difference between sinus problems caused by infection and sinus problems caused by malformations or injuries. Keep an eye out for the following signs: fatigue, headaches, facial pain, stuffy head, cough, jaw pain, clear/white drainage, ear pain/pressure. If you’ve been infected, then symptoms may come like fever over 102°, yellow/brown discharge, odor from mouth or nose, fever and discolored drainage within two weeks of a respiratory virus, body aches and sore throat.
Home Remedies for Sinus Problems
First, you will need to see what things cause your sinuses to become irritated. There are many triggers that can set off a reaction in the sinuses causing excess or thickened secretions. These include smoking, seasonal allergies, chemical inhalants and dry air in the home or workplace. Once you identify the causes, try to change your environment to a sinus friendly one.
1. Improve Lifestyles
Drinking plenty of fluids will help to keep secretions thin and moving through the sinus cavity. Extra fluids can also help the body to "flush-out" irritants. Keep your nose and sinuses moist with the air you breathe in. Moist air keeps the passages from becoming irritated and help to open them up for easier breathing. It is also helpful to use a saline nasal spray or rinse to flush particles and help to moisten the airways in and near the nose. Just make sure the air isn't too moist coupled with heat, this can trigger a mold or mite allergy. Heated indoor air during the colder months is very dry and irritating. Try keeping your house at a cool 68 degrees and bundle up with extra clothing. Warm air dries out quickly and can lead to irritation.
2. Cut Down on Irritants
Quit smoking or smoke outside and request that others smoke outside. Second hand smoke is unfiltered and very harsh on delicate breathing passages. Try to avoid using harsh chemical cleaners and use a natural version whenever possible. If you need to use a harsh chemical, ventilate the area by opening as many windows as possible. In dusty areas, use a face mask to keep particles out of the nose and sinuses. Wash pets with an allergen reducing pet shampoo to cut down on dander, which is an allergen to most people. Make sure your vacuum cleaner has a HEPA filtration system and cover mattresses and pillows with allergy reduction covers that can be washed.
3. Open Windows at the Right Time
Allergens in the outside air are highest between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. in the morning and then they drop during the late morning and afternoon hours. Pollen counts rise again as the sun sets and then drop overnight. During lower times, open your windows and let fresh air into your house.
4. Try Alternative Remedies
There are a number of natural and alternative home remedies for sinus problems that can help to relieve irritation and problems when they are not caused by bacteria.
- Steam and Extra Warm Water. Taking a hot shower, sitting in a bathroom with the window cracked and the hot water running will create steam or holding and extra warm washcloth over the face can help loosen secretions in the sinuses. You can use a humidifier in your home or boil a pan of water and hold your head over it. Placing a towel over your head while holding your head over the pan of water can help to hold steam in.
- Salt Water Rinses. Rinsing your nose and sinuses with plain water is not the right PH level and will cause a burning sensation. Using a warm salt water rinse is very comfortable and can help to clear the sinuses. Used regularly, this can also help to prevent allergy symptoms and possibly infections.
- Fenugreek. This popular remedy from India can help relieve sinus congestion naturally. Take fenugreek seeds and boil them into a tea. Drink the solution warm up as many times a day until you experience relief of symptoms.
- Drink Herbal Teas. Hot tea can help ease congestion with steam and increased fluids to the body. Using herbal tea will keep you from getting caffeine jitters and many herbs have mucous thinning properties. Look for teas that contain mullein, Echinacea, ginger, comfrey, thyme and marshmallow. Just be sure to check for any drug interactions with your regular medications.
- Eat Spices. Eating spices can help to open the sinuses and nose. The hotter the better like wasabi, red pepper, chili, cinnamon, paprika and curry. Many spices also have herbal healing properties to double their effectiveness.
- Smell and Eat Onions. Onions have properties that can clear the nose and sinuses. They are also believed to have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties that can help absorb germs. You can cut one open and smell it or eat them raw. You can also place a cut onion in a bowl in the room with someone who has an upper respiratory infection.
- Aromatherapy with Eucalyptus Oil. This oil can be very helpful for blocked breathing passages. You can put a few drops onto a tissue and breathe in the vapors, place a few drops in your humidifier or use it on your pillow case while you're sleeping.
- Try a "Virgin Bloody Mary". Boil tomato juice, a tablespoon of garlic (crushed or chopped), a tablespoon of hot sauce, a pinch of celery salt and a tablespoon of lemon juice. Use this drink up to two times every day.
For more home remedies for sinus problems, see: