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Our sinuses are air pockets that are connected to the nasal passages by small tubes or channels. These channels allow air to flow from the nose to the sinuses and allow drainage of mucus from each sinus into the nose. The main function of the sinuses is to produce mucus that moisturizes the inside of the nose that protects from pollutants, bacteria, dust, dirt, etc.
According to the CDC, there are an estimated 28.9 million adults diagnosed with sinusitis, which is simply inflammation of the lining membrane in any of the sinus cavities or around the nose. Tissue swelling can be caused by many things such as colds, allergies, and other tissue irritants. This inflammation overtime can lead to other issues such as sinus infections, nasal polyps, and even closure or partial closure of the sinus drainage system. For advanced and chronic issues, you likely will need to schedule an appointment with a local ENT and take steps to both discovering the source of the problem and how to resolve it. Luckily, there are many things you can try at home before scheduling that appointment! Typically your ENT will want to go through a process of elimination prior to doing any form of treatment first anyway, especially any type of surgery. Home sinus relief methods will either assist in this process of elimination or will provide the relief you are looking for.
Self Care Sinus Guide
If the root of your sinus issues is allergen based, you can start with an over the counter antihistamine such as Zyrtec or Claritin. Allergens are substances that trigger an allergic reaction due to our body interpreting it as an invading pathogen. When these allergens enter the body, our immune system releases histamines which bind to specific receptors on cells throughout the body. This is the body’s way of protecting it against what it finds potentially harmful. An antihistamine will reduce the effects of histamine produced by the body.
If you don’t find relief with an antihistamine, you could take steps to alter your environment and reduce the allergens your body deems as harmful. Simple things like proper bedding care (weekly washing), pulling up carpet in bedrooms, etc can have a drastic impact on the amount of allergens you are exposed to. If you are unsure what you are allergic to, consider allergy testing to see what environmental factors are an issue and address accordingly.
Too much or too little moisture in the air will create issues with unwanted bacteria that can lead to or further irritate a sinus issue. Determine how much moisture is in the air within your home, particularly where you sleep, and make adjustments as needed. There are devices that typically come with humidifiers and dehumidifiers that will give you a humidity reading along with what a healthy rang is.
Steam can thin out mucus and help it to drain from your nose. If you have blockage or are fighting off a sinus infection already, breathing in steam could provide some relief. Take a long hot shower or boil some water, cover your head with a towel and breathe in the steam.
Sinus irrigation can be done with a Neti Pot and have major benefits if you suffer from sinusitis and chronic infections. Irrigation will clear the nostrils and remove any excess mucus and allergens in the nasal passages.
Nasal Saline Solution
A nasal spray can break up mucus and help it to flow properly allowing you to breathe easier. Note that this is not to be confused with a decongestant or steroid nasal spray. While these are effective, if used for more than 3 days can actually worsen your sinus symptoms. This is called a “rebound effect”. A Saline nasal spray is essentially a salt-water solution and has a similar impact as a Neti Pot. They do not contain any medications so can be used as often as needed.
Rest & Hydration
1 in 3 adults do not get enough sleep! Sleep issues can negatively impact your overall health. While we sleep, our brain actually creates connections that help your body heal itself and restore its chemical balance. Lack of sleep can compromise your immune system which can make you more receptive to sinus infections and take longer to recover.
Hydration is also another factor that contributes to sinus health. When our bodies are dehydrated, mucus becomes thicker and makes it harder for the cilia to push it along where it needs to go. When mucus remains within our sinuses longer than it should, we are at much higher risk of developing infection. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids to keep mucus thin and flowing. Try to avoid fluids that dehydrate the body such as coffee and alcohol, especially when you have an infection.
We will not touch on this one too much, but what we consume plays a large factor in our overall health. Certain processed foods drastically increase inflammation and allergy issues throughout the body along with many other health issues. Eating a clean diet can play a large role in reducing sinus complications.
Chronic sinus infections and complications can be very frustrating and painful. If you are unable to clear up issues or if they continue to return and affect your day to day life, it is probably time to consider scheduling that appointment with your ENT. Camellia ENT would be happy to sit down and discuss your particular situation and find a path of treatment to improve both your sinus problems and your overall health. Contact us for your appointment today!