Sinus infections, also known as sinusitis, are a widespread problem that can interfere with day-to-day life. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) defines sinusitis as inflammation of the sinuses that occurs with a viral, bacterial or fungal infection. Sinusitis can be caused by a common cold, allergies or a problem with nasal structure. For many people, the symptoms of congestion, coughing and headaches are often unbearable. Fortunately, however, there are simple steps you can take to help alleviate a sinus infection or even avoid one altogether.
To help prevent sinusitis, The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) offers a few general suggestions:
- Keep your nasal passages as moist as possible with sterile saline sprays or washes. Avoid dry indoor environments. You can use a humidifier, but be aware that very humid air can increase mold, dust mite and cockroach allergens, which will cause problems if you’re allergic to these organisms.
- Steer clear of irritants like cigarette smoke and strong chemical odors.
- Avoid long swims in chlorinated pools, since the water can irritate the lining of the nose and sinuses.
- Use decongestant nose drops or sprays before air travel.
Understanding what triggers sinusitis can help you avoid getting an infection in the future. If you experience chronic irritation and inflammation, the NIAID recommends talking to your healthcare provider about having an allergy test.
When a sinus infection develops, the goal is to get rid of it as quickly as possible. And while your doctor can prescribe helpful medications, sometimes it takes some additional relief to feel comfortable. At home, there are plenty of easy ways to fight the annoyances and pain of sinusitis. Try these tips from the Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.com):
- Drink lots of fluids like water and juice to help nasal drainage. Avoid caffeinated beverages, which can dehydrate, as well as alcohol, which can increase swelling of the sinus and nose lining.
- Apply warm, damp compresses to your nose, eyes and cheeks to alleviate facial pain.
- Keep your head elevated as you sleep to promote drainage.
- Try using a sinus rinse to help clear nasal passages.
Speak with your doctor about more ways to combat sinus infections. Although the symptoms can be unpleasant, having the tools to combat that stuffed-up feeling will go a long way. Get more information from the NIH and the NIAID at www.nih.gov and www.niaid.nih.gov, respectively.