7 Ways to Fight Sinusitis: Steam, Water, Spicy Teas and More
As the weather changes, the sniffles and sneezes you hear around you tend to increase. And this is a fact; as the weather changes, the body takes some time to adjust, during which period we experience a temporary lowering of our immunity. While the common cold and flu are seen the most around this season, another illness that affects a large population of people is sinusitis. Add air pollution to the mix and it becomes almost impossible to breathe.
What is Sinusitis?
To understand sinusitis, we first need to understand sinuses. Sinuses are cavities present in different parts of our skull - in the cheekbones, on either side of the nose, between the eyes and in the forehead. The sinuses are connected to each other and are usually filled with air. The sinuses are lined with a mucous membrane that keeps the sinuses clean by catching dirt or other particles in the air.
When the sinuses get blocked with fluid, the lining can swell and it can lead to the entry of germs which end up causing an infection which we call sinusitis. This can lead to a build-up of mucus, which can cause pain, discomfort and difficulty in breathing.
There are many causes for sinusitis which may include:
- Common cold
- A change in air pressure
- Hay fever or Allergic Rhinitis, a swelling of the lining of the nose
- Nasal Polyps, or small non-cancerous growths in the lining of the nose
- Structural deformities in the nose like a deviated septum or turbinate hypertrophy
In infants or toddlers, sinusitis can also be caused by the use of pacifiers or by drinking from the bottle while lying flat on the back.
Sinusitis is mostly identified by pain or tenderness in the areas where the sinuses are present, like the cheeks, around the eyes, sides of the nose. It can also appear as severe headaches. The pain tends to increase when bending down. General symptoms also include cough, fever, bad breath or fatigue. More specific symptoms are a blockage in the nose, snoring, loss of sense of smell, green discharge from the nose or feeling the mucus dripping down to the throat.
1. Nasal Irrigation
One of the most agreed upon remedies for sinusitis is nasal irrigation, also called a saline wash. This involves flushing out the passages of the nose with a saline solution which helps to thin the mucus and wash it out. This can be done either using a spray bottle or a Neti pot.
Make a solution using 1/2 a cup of sterile or distilled water, 1/2 tsp of salt and a pinch of baking soda. Pour this into a squeeze bottle. Tilt your head and spray a few drops into one nostril and let it flow out the other. Repeat on the other side.
If using a Neti pot, fill it with sterile or distilled water and lean over a tub or sink, tilting the head sideways. Insert the spout of the pot into the higher nostril and pour the water in. Let it fall out the other nostril. Breathe through the mouth during the process.
It is important to use sterile or distilled water to avoid the risk of further infection. Boiled and cooled tap water also works.
2. Steam Inhalation
Steam is a popular home remedy in many parts of the world to treat all kinds of cough and cold symptoms. Steam helps to open up blocked nasal passages and loosens up the trapped mucus. The heat also helps to relieve pressure in the sinuses, easing pain.
One way to do this is to sit in a hot shower and soak up the steam. A more targeted way to inhale steam would be to use a vaporizer or to sit over a tub of steaming water, covered with a towel to trap the steam. Be careful to avoid burns. Adding a few drops of peppermint, eucalyptus or rosemary essential oils can improve the effects of steam.
3. Allergy Proofing
Sinusitis infections have a correlation with allergies, which makes allergy proofing an effective method of reducing the chances of a sinus infection. Cleaning out the air filters, airing out furnishings, cleaning up dust mites, keeping pets away and maintaining a consistent cleaning and dusting routine helps to keep allergic rhinitis and sinusitis at bay.
If prone to frequent sinus infections, it may help to buy mattresses, pillows and other furnishings that have anti-allergy properties. Avoid heavy carpets and curtains that are likely to trap dust.
4. Warm and Cold Compresses
Warm and cold compresses have several health benefits and they also work on sinusitis. Alternating warm and cold compresses offers the best results. It loosens up the mucus and helps it drain, clearing the passages in the nose and easing the associated pain.
To do it correctly, lie down in a reclining position and place a warm washcloth cross the forehead, cheeks and nose. Leave it for three minutes and replace with a cold compress for about 30 seconds. Repeat the process two or three times, up to six times a day.
5. Proper Hydration
Proper hydration is important to help keep the mucus membranes moist within the sinuses. Sufficient amount of water in the body helps to tackle the dryness and helps in faster recovery. The best choices for a sinus infection are warm water, fresh fruit juices or herbal teas. Regular tea and coffee or other caffeinated drinks can result in dehydration. Keep a watch out on urine color - clear urine indicates you're taking in enough fluids.
Avoid cold drinks or frozen foods as they can worsen symptoms of sinusitis.
6. Chicken Soup
Chicken soup is famous for soothing our bodies and our souls and it also works well with sinusitis. Chicken soup is believed to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits which offer symptomatic relief in the case of cold, nasal congestion and other problems associated with sinusitis. Adding healing spices like garlic and turmeric can increase the effectiveness of the soup.
7. Turmeric Ginger Honey Tea
A one shot remedy for sinusitis is a spiced 'tea' that can prove much more effective than any OTC medication. All the ingredients - turmeric, ginger and honey - possess anti-inflammatory properties that help to fight infection and speed up the healing process.
Boil 2 cups of water and add a tablespoon of grated ginger and 1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Simmer for five minutes and turn off the heat. Strain and add a teaspoon of honey. Stir and sip through the day. You can also add some powdered cinnamon along with the turmeric if you wish.
Along with all these, it is recommended to take good rest and get sufficient sleep. Stress and lack of sleep are also factors that exacerbate any illness including sinusitis, so take some down time to recover completely. As the weather changes, it makes sense to take some simple steps to keep yourself safe, like washing hands often and staying away from people with colds or other infections.
Stick to a diet of whole foods and avoid oily and fatty foods. Most sinusitis infections get resolved within a few weeks, although allergy-triggered sinusitis can reappear. However, if the pain persists for more than a week, or you have a fever or consistent green discharge, it's advised to get medical attention.
(Pratibha Pal spent her childhood in idyllic places only fauji kids would have heard of. She grew up reading a variety of books that let her imagination wander and still hopes to come across the Magic Faraway Tree. When she's not rooting for eco-living or whipping up some DIY recipes to share with her readers, Pratibha is creating magic with social media. You can view her blog at www.pratsmusings.com or reach to her on Twitter at @myepica.)