The 5 finest house treatments for sinus infections

Sinus infections are one of the top reasons for medical consultations in the US and also one of the most common diseases when prescribing antibiotics.

However, many sinus infections can improve on their own without antibiotics. If you have a sinus infection there are several home remedies that you can try to help relieve symptoms. Here’s what you need to know.

What is a sinus infection?

Sinusitis is the medical term for inflammation of the sinus cavities that are in your cheeks, behind your forehead, and on both sides of your nose. The inflammation traps mucus in your sinuses, preventing it from flowing naturally from your throat to your stomach.

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Yuqing Liu / Insider

Are Sinus Infections Contagious? No, but there can be an underlying virus

If this is caused by bacteria or viruses, it is called a sinus infection. However, sinusitis can also be caused by chronic allergies or nasal polyps.

The most common symptoms of a sinus infection are:

  • Pain and pressure around the forehead, eyes, nose and cheeks
  • Thick nasal discharge
  • Reduced sense of smell and taste

More serious symptoms can include:

  • A fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Eye swelling
  • Nausea and vomiting

If you experience these severe symptoms, you should see a doctor.

If your symptoms are not severe, the following home remedies may be all you need to help relieve the pain and pressure of a sinus infection.

1. Try a warm compress

Applying a warm, damp towel or washcloth to your nose, cheeks, and eyes can help reduce sinus pain by opening your nasal passages and loosening the mucus. You can try this for up to 20 minutes as needed.

While there aren’t any scientific studies to prove the effectiveness of this method, “if someone feels like a warm compress is giving them symptomatic relief without burning their skin, be sure to do it,” says Dr. Ralph Abi Hachem, Assistant Professor of Head and Neck Surgery and Communication Science at Duke University School of Medicine.

2. Invest in a humidifier

Humidifiers add moisture to the air, which can reduce inflammation and open the nasal passages. For a humidifier to be most effective, Abi Hachem says it should be placed as close to you in the same room as possible so that it can release moisture into your nasal cavity.

The best humidifiers

It’s also important to keep the humidifier clean to prevent bacteria and fungi from building up in the tank and getting into the air and potentially causing lung problems. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to clean your humidifier. The EPA recommends that you empty the tank and dry all surfaces of the humidifier every day.

3. Breathe in steam

Much like a humidifier, inhaling hot, moist steam can help open your nasal passages and relieve pain and pressure. You can do this in two ways:

Steam therapy

For steam therapy, you can simply take a hot shower and inhale the steam. Another method is to put a towel over your head and inhale the steam from a bowl of hot water for about 10 minutes up to four times a day.

However, a 2012 article in the British Journal of General Practice noted that this method has no proven benefit and can risk burn injuries, especially in children.

Steam evaporator

Another option is to use a steam evaporator that uses electricity to heat water and generate steam.

“If you have very thick mucus this can help make it thinner,” says Abi Hachem. “You should place it relatively close to you, not in one room when you are in another room.”

Steam vaporizers should not be used around children or pets as they could be scalded by steam or hot water if tipped over.

While steam vaporizers are not as likely to have mineral build-up as humidifiers, they should still be cleaned every day by emptying the tank and drying all surfaces.

4. Use a neti pot

You can also use a neti pot to rinse and clean your nasal passages. Known as a nasal wash, this helps loosen mucus and remove dust, pollen, and other debris.

A 2016 randomized controlled study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that nasal irrigation was more effective than steam inhalation at improving symptoms of sinusitis. Participants who used a daily nasal lavage showed improvement after six months, while participants who used steam inhalation showed no improvement.

To use a neti pot safely, do the following:

  1. Lean over a sink and tilt your head to one side so your forehead and chin are almost level. This will prevent the solution from flowing from your nose into your mouth.
  2. Insert the spout into your highest nostril. The solution drains through the lower nostril. As you do this, Abi Hachem suggests that you say the letter “K” to lift your taste buds and prevent the solution from dripping down your throat.
  3. Tilt your head in the opposite direction and repeat these steps.

Rinse the neti pot with distilled water after each use and let it air dry. It is important to use only distilled water or tap water that has been boiled for a minute and then cooled. Tap water contains bacteria that linger in your nasal passages and can cause rare, potentially fatal infections.

You can also buy a saline solution or make your own. Adding salt to the water prevents burns or irritation if the solution passes through your nasal membranes.

5. Drink plenty of water and get enough rest

“I recommend drinking lots of water because it thins the mucus,” says Abi Hachem. While there’s no indication of the most effective amount, he recommends drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day.

You can also try drinking hot liquids, such as tea or soup, to temporarily relieve your symptoms. However, you should avoid drinking alcohol as it dries out and can worsen your overload. If you are taking an antibiotic for your sinus infection, drinking alcohol can make side effects such as upset stomach and drowsiness worse.

It’s also important to get around seven to nine hours of sleep each night so your body can rest and recover. “You want to get enough sleep and follow a normal sleep cycle so that all of the hormones in your body are using your immune system to the full,” says Abi Hachem.

Since it can be difficult to get a good night’s sleep due to the pain and congestion, here are some things you can do to get better rest:

  • Use a neti pot to clean your nasal passages before bed.
  • Sleep with your head held high on an extra pillow to prevent mucus from building up in your sinuses.

It’s important to note that while these home remedies can help relieve your symptoms, they won’t help your sinusitis improve any faster. If your symptoms persist for more than 10 days, you should see a doctor.

Your doctor may also recommend prescription drugs such as antibiotics or decongestant sprays, as well as over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen).

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