Sinus issues can occur all year, but they seem to be more prevalent during the winter months. Common sinus problems like a runny nose, headache, and congestion often coincide with this time of year. With dryer air and people spending more time indoors, coughs and sneezes spray germs into the air that can linger on surfaces, remaining infectious for hours.
During cold and flu season, many people are more prone to infections, particularly sinus infections. Often, several factors combine in the colder season, creating the perfect environment for sinusitis. Colds can progress to sinus infections, but that doesn’t mean all sinus problems are viral.
What is Sinusitis?
Sinusitis is an inflammation or swelling of the tissue that lines the sinuses. Every year, about 37 million people in the U.S suffer from sinusitis. Although it’s a widespread condition, it can be painful and frustrating nonetheless.
There are different forms of sinusitis:
Acute – typically lasts between one to four weeks.
Subacute – symptoms can last for up to three months.
Chronic - symptoms last for more than three months.
Recurrent - sinusitis occurs more than three times a year.
Your sinuses are small cavities between your eyes and behind your cheekbones, nose, and forehead. Narrow air-filled channels connect these small cavities. The sinuses make thin mucus to moisturize the inside of the nose and to protect the nose. With sinusitis, these narrow channels become blocked with fluid because the lining of the sinuses is inflamed. When this happens, it can give bacteria a chance to grow.
Symptoms of sinusitis include:
Nasal discharge (thick, greenish, yellowish)
Although sinusitis may show up during or after a viral condition usually, the condition is due to a bacterial infection or allergies. Anyone can get sinusitis, but certain health conditions and behaviors increase your likelihood of developing one, such as:
A recent cold
Allergies like hay fever
Deviated nasal septum
Nasal polyps (tissue growths that can block the sinuses).
Certain medical conditions like diabetes and cystic fibrosis.
5 Ways to Treat Sinusitis and Find Relief
Sinusitis treatments can help to address both acute and chronic sinusitis. Treatments look to ease common symptoms like nasal congestion and headaches so that you can find some relief and be on your way back to full health.
Nasal decongestants are sprayed directly into the nose to shrink the membranes and help you breathe more clearly through your nose. These types of sprays provide short-term relief to help relieve congestion for no more than three days of use. Another option is oral decongestants that shrink the nasal passageway to ease symptoms. Over-the-counter decongestants are available in sprays, liquids, and tablets.
2. Follow an Elimination Diet
You may not think of an elimination diet when looking to treat sinusitis, but it’s dual purpose. Because, in some people, food sensitivities may cause excess mucus production or even compromise your immune system, which can leave you more vulnerable to infection. An elimination diet could help you identify a food sensitivity and both treat and prevent sinusitis symptoms caused by sensitives.
3. Try Eucalyptus Oil
One study found that an extract of eucalyptus oil called cineole may be helpful for viral sinusitis. By day four of the study, sinusitis symptoms were significantly less in the treatment group. Essential oils, like eucalyptus oil, are a natural alternative to pharmaceutical medications and may offer some relief.
4. Inhale Steam
Although there isn’t a lot of concrete research into the effects of inhaling steam on sinusitis, it’s one of the most widely used home remedies to open up the nasal passageway. Some people find inhaling steam to be very soothing for nasal congestion and for treating the symptoms of the common cold.
5. Find a Way to Destress
A healthy mind is key to fighting off infection. Your mental state is an essential part of a robust immune system. According to a report by the American Psychological Association, stress weakens the immune system by decreasing the white blood cells that help you fight off infection. Find positive outlets for stress like yoga, exercise, mindfulness, or taking a walk in nature.
How to Avoid Sinusitis this Winter
In general, the best way to avoid sinusitis is to maintain a healthy lifestyle with a strong immune system. Try to manage allergies, practice good hand hygiene, use a humidifier, and limit your exposure to smoking and pollution. While you can take the necessary steps to avoid sinusitis, sometimes you’re hit by a cold unexpectedly, and sinus problems can creep in. If you do find yourself suffering from sinusitis this winter, find a treatment that works for you and always speak to your medical practitioner if you have any concerns.
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