How to Dry Out a Sinus That Is Congested With Mucus

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An x-ray showing the sinus cavities
An x-ray showing the sinus cavities (Image: Alex Khimich\commons.wikimedia.org)

Sinuses are small cavities behind your nose that help to clean, warm, and moisten the air you breathe. If bacteria or allergens get trapped around the sinus openings, the sinuses can swell and create pressure. This can cause headaches, sneezing, and a constantly stuffy nose. When you get a cold or if you suffer from allergies, you are more likely to develop inflamed sinuses or a sinus infection. Keeping the sinuses clean and moist is the best way to prevent chronic sinus problems, and there are things you can do at home to get some relief.

Things You'll Need

  • Decongestant pills
  • Washcloth
  • Water
  • Shower
  • Hot liquids
  • Pot
  • Towel
  • Mentholated salve
  • Eucalyptus drops
  • Neti pot
  • Salt
  • Humidifier
  • Horseradish
  • Wasabi
  • Garlic

Take decongestant pills for sinus pressure. This will help dry out the excess mucus. Some decongestants for sinusitis contain a painkiller as well to help the pressure headache. Do not take decongestants for more than a few days, and don't use them for chronic sinusitis. Long-term use can damage your heart or become habit-forming. Talk to your doctor if you have heart or blood pressure problems, or if you are using other medications, before taking any over-the-counter medicines.

Wash your face well and often when you feel sinus pressure developing. Clean your eyes and around your nose and mouth to remove bacteria, dust, and allergens. A warm or hot washcloth pressed over your nose and cheekbones for at least 5 minutes can also help relieve the pressure from mucus buildup.

Take a hot, steamy shower. Breathe the steam in deeply, which will help to loosen the mucus built up in your sinuses.

Drink a lot of hot liquids throughout the day. Breathe the steam as you start drinking to moisten the sinuses and loosen the buildup. Drinking extra liquids while you're ill will help the infection clear faster.

Try an old-fashioned steam treatment. Boil a pot of water and take it off the stove. Put a towel over your head and your face over the pot of hot water, as close as you can stand. You can add a mentholated salve or a few drops of eucalyptus oil to the water if you want. Breathe the steam in deeply for at least 5 minutes, and gently blow your nose when you are done. The steam may cause the sinuses to suddenly drain, or it can relieve a lot of the pressure from mucus build-up.

Use a neti pot to cleanse your sinuses with warm salt water. You can buy a neti pot at most pharmacies. Mix ½ tsp. salt into 1 cup of warm water. Lean your head over the sink, slightly tilted forward and to one side. Place the spout into your top nostril and slowly pour the water out. The water should come out your other nostril, often bringing built-up mucus with it. Gently blow your nose when you are done. Cleansing your sinuses regularly helps to prevent infection by rinsing bacteria, allergens, and dust from the sinus openings.

Use a humidifier in the room where you sleep. Sinuses become more irritated when they dry out during the night. A humidifier helps decrease irritation and night-time coughing and stuffiness.

Eat spicy foods. Garlic helps to thin out mucus and contains antioxidants to protect against colds. Horseradish and wasabi (a green Japanese-style horseradish available in Asian markets) contain natural decongestants, and their sinus-clearing effect can be felt almost immediately.

Tips & Warnings

  • If sinus pain and pressure persist for more than a few days after trying these home remedies, go to your doctor. You might have a more serious sinus infection that needs antibiotic treatment to clear up.

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