5 Ways to Treat a Sinus Infection

Is it a cold, the flu, allergies or sinusitis? Given the overlapping symptoms like congestion, fever and headache, it can be hard to tell. Plus, one often leads to the other. Here’s some tips on how to treat a sinus infection.

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What Exactly Is Sinusitis?

Congestion from colds or allergies provides a breeding ground for viruses and bacteria, which can lead to sinusitis. The dead giveaway that you're dealing with sinusitis, however, is a heavy feeling of pressure in your face. You can also blame sinusitis for a pounding headache that gets worse when you lean over, a toothache, and green or gray nasal drainage and postnasal drip. Many of our remedies mimic those we recommend for allergies and colds, since you're trying to attack many of the same issues, especially thick mucus and inflammation. Here's how to treat a sinus infection.

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How to Treat a Sinus Infection: Fast Relief

Start with nasal irrigation. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt to 1 cup warm water. To get it into your nose, use an ear bulb syringe (like the kind used to clean out a baby's nose), a neti pot, available in health food stores, or a waterpick. To use the waterpick, you'll need a Grossan nasal adapter, available in drug and health food stores. Run the waterpick on its lowest setting. Flush your nasal passages two to three times a day.

Practice postural drainage. Wet a washcloth under hot water, squeeze out the excess water, assume the proper position depending on where you're most congested, then apply the cloth for 10 to 15 minutes per sinus. To drain the frontal sinuses (behind the forehead), sit upright. To drain the maxillary sinuses (behind the cheekbones), lie on the opposite side (i.e., if your left sinus is clogged, lie on your right side). To drain the ethmoid sinuses (behind the bridge of the nose), lie on your back.

Clear clogged sinuses. Mix 1 teaspoon horseradish with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Eat 1/4 teaspoon at a time until you feel your sinuses start to drain. Eat it mixed with rice or mashed potatoes if necessary to protect your mouth and stomach from burning.

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How to Treat a Sinus Infection: Nasal Spray

Here's another way to treat a sinus infection. Studies find that using nasal irrigation before you turn to antibiotics and decongestants helps these medications penetrate the nasal cavities better. The salt water also decreases swelling, which improves drainage. Nasal irrigation may also help flush out bacteria. The heat of the horseradish helps thin mucus, encouraging drainage.

These all-natural cures should provide relief from the pressure and pain of stuffy nose.

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How to Treat a Sinus Infection: Natural Remedies

Ginger compress: Grate a large gingerroot into 1 pint boiling water and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain. Soak a washcloth in the tea, then apply to your face as part of your postural drainage.

Sinupret: This German product contains a handful of herbs with mucus-thinning, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties. Studies have found it protects people with chronic sinusitis from infection and aids recovery in those with acute sinusitis when taken with antibiotics and decongestants. Follow the package directions.

Pycnogenol/grape seed extract: This antioxidant helps reduce inflammation associated with sinus allergy and irritation. Take 50 milligrams three times a day.

Fenugreek and thyme: To thin mucus, take two fenugreek capsules with one thyme capsule two to three times a day.

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How to Treat a Sinus Infection: Prescription Medications

Antibiotics can also treat sinus infections. If you have acute sinusitis, your doctor may decide to prescribe an antibiotic when self-care measures fail. If you have chronic sinusitis, defined as sinus infections lasting 8 to 12 weeks, your doctor may prescribe nasal corticosteroids such as Flonase or corticosteroid tablets, and/or medications that thin the mucus, such as guaifenesin.

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How to Treat a Sinus Infection: Alternative Methods

Acupressure: Press hard on the outer edge of your nostrils at the base of your nose with your index fingers. Then put your thumbs on either side of your nose and firmly press on the cartilage (the part that moves back and forth), holding for 30 seconds, then releasing. Now press the areas next to your inner eyes with your left thumb and index finger as you use your fingers and the heel of your other hand to grab the muscles on both sides of your spine at the back of your neck, pressing on all four points for about a minute.

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Preventing a Sinus Infection

Treat your allergies: If you're prone to sinus infections, have your doctor check you for allergies, and reduce your exposure to allergens.

Eat sinus-friendly foods: Eat more spicy foods, which promote mucus drainage, and limit sugar and alcohol, which interferes with the immune response. Alcohol also swells nasal and sinus membranes. Eliminate foods that leave you congested. For many people, this includes ice cream or milk, possibly signifying an allergy to dairy.

Consume more antioxidants: Studies suggest that people who are prone to sinus infections have low blood levels of antioxidants. So eat more fruits and vegetables, and consider these supplements: 250 milligrams vitamin C, 100 to 200 IU vitamin E, 5,000 IU beta-carotene, 200 micrograms selenium, and 25 milligrams zinc.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada