Sinus infections are often the result of the common cold or flu gone awry, leading sufferers to seek the counsel of physicians. Although a full-blown sinus infection usually needs a prescription medication to clear it up, physicians will likely suggest several home remedies that do not require a doctor's signature to clear up or prevent minor sinus issues.
Sinus infections tend to occur when the weather changes, especially from the warmer, more humid summer months to the cooler, drier winter months when colds become prominent. Using a humidifier in the drier months adds moisture back into the air, helping to keep the sinuses in working order. Doctors suggest placing a humidifier in the room where the most time is spent---typically, the bedroom.
Sinusitis is caused by an overabundance of mucus in the sinuses. Mucus plays host to bacteria and other organisms, and when the small hairs in the sinuses (cilia) do not work as they should, bacteria gets out of control, inviting infection. Physicians often advocate season-long---or sometimes year-round---use of mucus thinners, such as Mucinex, to aid the sinuses in eliminating excess mucus. No long-term side effects have been associated with extended use of such products, so they should be safe to use every day.
A dry nose leads to the overproduction of mucus. To help keep the nasal cavities moist and in balance, a saline spray may be recommended. In order for the nasal cavities to be comfortable, added moisture must be saline-based; the salt content mirrors the body's natural fluids.
The human body is made up of 55 percent to 60 percent water; it makes sense, therefore, to drink plenty of fluids each day to maintain optimal health. Drinking fluids (eight to 10 8 oz. glasses of water per day) helps thin mucus, allowing for easier drainage. Extra fluids also help the body flush toxins out of the system.
Washing the nasal cavities (also called nasal lavage) is an ancient Aurvedic method of sinus cleansing. The Mayo Clinic suggests clearing the sinuses by rinsing out the nasal passages. A neti pot---a simple vessel that sends a saline solution through the nasal passages---is a simple aid for nasal washing. Most neti pots are sold with saline packets; the solution can also be made at home, inexpensively, by adding 1/8 tsp. non-iodized salt to 8 oz. warm distilled water and stirring well. While breathing through the mouth and bending over a sink, the neti pot's spout goes in one nostril; the water flows through the sinus cavities and then out the other nostril into the sink.
Steaming the nasal cavities is another method of adding much-needed moisture to the sinuses. Bending over a steaming bowl of water with a towel draped over the head (or standing in a hot, steaming shower) encourages mucus drainage, as well as easing facial pain. Two to four times per day is recommended for sinusitis sufferers.