What is a sinus infection?

A sinus infection (sinusitis) occurs when cavities around the nasal passages become inflamed. It is a fairly common condition that affects millions of people around the world. When the cavities located near your nasal passages get inflamed, you experience symptoms very similar to a common cold.[1,2] However, if you have a sinus infection, your symptoms tend to last longer than those of a common cold. While signs of a sinus infection last for roughly ten days, chronic sinusitis can continue for 12 weeks, or even longer. 

See: Ayurveda Herbs for Lungs & Sinusitis

Home remedies for sinus infection (sinusitus)

Usually, sinus infections tend to clear up on their own. Antibiotics seldom help in case of sinus infection since these are either caused by a virus or by an environmental trigger such as secondhand smoke.[3] However, many home remedies can help you recover from a sinus infection. Let's take a look. 

1. Nasal Irrigation with a Neti Pot

Nasal irrigation is one of the most efficient home remedies for relieving nasal irritation and congestion caused by sinus infections. Saline irrigation involves flushing your nasal passages with a simple saline solution that can be prepared at home. This can be done either with a neti pot, or with squeeze bottles, or bulb syringes.[4,5] 

A neti pot is the most preferred way of irrigation. This is an inexpensive device that looks like a pot or lamp. You can purchase a prepackaged saline mixture, or you can make your own by dissolving one teaspoon of pickling or sea salt in one pint of sterilized or filtered water. It is best to avoid using table salt since they tend to contain additives. You can also add a pinch of baking soda to this mixture. 

 To rinse your nasal passages:

 Stand over a sink so that the water does not fall on the floor.

Spray, pour, or squirt a healthy amount of the saline solution into one of your nostrils while tilting your head to allow it to slow out of the other nostril.

Repeat it with the other nostril.

 This method also ensures that any bacteria and irritants in the nasal passage get flushed out. 

 Nasal irrigation is known to be beneficial for alleviating the symptoms of sinus infections.[6] However, it is vital to thoroughly clean the neti pot after each use to prevent bacterial growth.[7] You should best avoid water straight from the tap as it may contain bacteria that can further irritate or infect your sinuses. If using tap water, make sure to boil it first. 

2. Proper Hydration

 Whenever a person is unwell, it becomes essential to keep the body well-hydrated. When you have a sinus infection, it becomes necessary to drink lots of clear fluids. This intake not only keeps you hydrated but also helps loosen and thin out the mucus to clear congestion.[8] 

 Here are some excellent choices of beverages to have when you have a sinus infection:

 Plain water

Vegetable broth

Herbal teas

Hot water with honey, lemon, or ginger

Chicken broth or soup - chicken soup is especially beneficial in sinus infections, and a study done in 2000 found that it helps decrease inflammation that accompanies colds and sinus congestion.[9]

Green tea

Non-sugar added juices

It is best if you avoid having tea or coffee, sugary drinks, and alcohol. These beverages dehydrate your body further, clogging up the already inflamed airways of your lungs with thick mucus, aggravating your symptoms.  

3. Have Spicy Food

 Spicy foods like horseradish, hot peppers, wasabi, curry, and mustard are believed to help clear the sinuses and excess mucus.[10] If your taste buds crave spicy food, you can also try a mix of horseradish or cayenne pepper with cider vinegar or lemon juice to open up the nasal passages.[11] If you cannot tolerate spice, you can opt for having antibacterial foods like onions, ginger, and garlic.[12] Adding these to your meals will help you fight off any bacteria causing the sinus infection. Adding raw honey will also give you an extra boost to fight off the infection. Honey is rich in antioxidants and has potent antifungal and antibacterial properties.[13,14]

4. Steam Inhalation

 Taking in a whiff of steam from a pot of hot water or sitting inside a bathroom with running hot water to take in the steam can benefit your sinuses. Inhaling steam helps in a sinus infection by relieving the congestion as it thins and loosens the mucus. You can also add camphor, menthol, or eucalyptus oils to the hot water to help soothe your sinuses and relax the body. Eucalyptus oil is known for its antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties that help the body fight against the infection. 

 While taking steam from a pot or bowl, make sure you place a towel over your head to trap the steam inside. Continue doing so until the steam starts to dissipate. Even though there is not much evidence showing that steam inhalation is an effective treatment for sinus infections, many people report experiencing relief from their symptoms.[15]

5. Use Essential Oils 

 Essential oils like eucalyptus can help clear the sinuses and loosen the mucus. A study discovered that the primary ingredient in eucalyptus oil, cineole, cut down the recovery time for people with sinus infections and helped them breathe easier.[16]  To help with sinus symptoms, eucalyptus oils should be used externally on the chest or temples. You can inhale it through a diffuser as well by adding the oil to boiling water.

6. Load up on Vitamin C

 You can consume vitamin C in many forms, such as supplements, juice, or get it from citrus fruits to boost your immunity. Many studies have shown that vitamin C help boosts the body's immune system and is especially helpful when you suffer from a cold or a sinus infection.[17,18]  Vitamin C has been found to help fight off a sinus infection faster, decrease inflammation of the sinuses, and cut down the duration of a cold or sinus infection symptoms.

See: Nasya Ayurvedic Treatment for Healing And Relief From Sinusitis

Summary

Sinus infection can take its sweet time to overcome. It is essential to get plenty of rest to allow your body to fight off the infection. While home remedies such as the ones discussed here are typically sufficient to help you tide over a sinus infection, if you notice that your symptoms are getting worse, call your doctor at once or head to the nearest hospital. If you have a sinus infection that lasts for eight weeks or longer or you frequently get sinus infections, it might be a sign that you have chronic sinusitis, which may need to be managed with prescription medications. 

See: Sinus Treatment In Ayurveda

References

1. Gwaltney Jr, J.M., Sydnor Jr, A. and Sande, M.A., 1981. Etiology and antimicrobial treatment of acute sinusitis. Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology, 90(3_suppl2), pp.68-71.

2. Hamilos, D.L., 2000. Chronic sinusitis. Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology, 106(2), pp.213-227.

3. Merenstein, D., Whittaker, C., Chadwell, T., Wegner, B. and D'Amico, F., 2005. Are antibiotics beneficial for patients with sinusitis complaints? A randomized, double-blind clinical trial. Journal of Family Practice, 54(2), pp.144-152.

4. Wang, Y.H., Yang, C.P., Ku, M.S., Sun, H.L., and Lue, K.H., 2009. Efficacy of nasal irrigation in the treatment of acute sinusitis in children. International journal of pediatric otorhinolaryngology, 73(12), pp.1696-1701.

5. Papsin, B. and McTavish, A., 2003. Saline nasal irrigation: Its role as an adjunct treatment. Canadian Family Physician, 49(2), pp.168-173.

6. Heatley, D.G., McConnell, K.E., Kille, T.L. and Leverson, G.E., 2001. Nasal irrigation for the alleviation of sinonasal symptoms. Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, 125(1), pp.44-48.

7. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 2020. Is Rinsing Your Sinuses With Neti Pots Safe?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 October 2020].

8. Kaliner, M., 1998. Medical management of sinusitis. The American journal of the medical sciences, 316(1), pp.21-28.

9. Moll, M., Qiao, D., Regan, E.A., Hunninghake, G.M., Make, B.J., Tal-Singer, R., McGeachie, M., Castaldi, P.J., Estepar, R.S.J., Washko, G. and Wells, J.M., 2020. Machine Learning and Prediction of All-Cause Mortality in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Chest.

10. Brook, I., 2001. Sinusitis—overcoming bacterial resistance. International journal of pediatric otorhinolaryngology, 58(1), pp.27-36. 

11. Druce, H.M., 1990. Adjuncts to medical management of sinusitis. Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, 103(5_suppl), pp.880-883.

12. Arzanlou, M., Bohlooli, S., Jannati, E. and Mirzanejad-Asl, H., 2011. Allicin from garlic neutralizes the hemolytic activity of intra-and extra-cellular pneumolysin O in vitro. Toxicon, 57(4), pp.540-545.

13. Mandal, M.D., and Mandal, S., 2011. Honey: its medicinal property & antibacterial activity. Asian Pacific journal of tropical biomedicine, 1(2), pp.154-160.

14. Al-Waili, N.S., Salom, K., Butler, G., and Al Ghamdi, A.A., 2011. Honey and microbial infections: a review supporting the use of honey for microbial control. Journal of medicinal food, 14(10), pp.1079-1096.

15. Little, P., Stuart, B., Mullee, M., Thomas, T., Johnson, S., Leydon, G., Rabago, D., Richards-Hall, S., Williamson, I., Yao, G. and Raftery, J., 2016. Effectiveness of steam inhalation & nasal irrigation for chronic or recurrent sinus symptoms in primary care: a pragmatic randomized controlled trial. CMAJ, 188(13), pp.940-949.

16. Kehrl, W., Sonnemann, U. and Dethlefsen, U., 2004. Therapy for acute nonpurulent rhinosinusitis with cineole: results of a double‐blind, randomized, placebo‐controlled trial. The Laryngoscope, 114(4), pp.738-742.

17. Pauling, L., 1971. Vitamin C and the common cold. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 105(5), p.448.

18. Beaty, L., 2007. Sinusitis. Journal of Complementary Medicine: CM, The, 6(5), p.52.

See: Sinus & Cluster headache treatment in Ayurveda

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