Do you suffer from sinus drainage, post-nasal drip, or other sinus issues? If so, you’re not alone. Many people experience symptoms ranging from the annoyance and discomfort of sinus drainage to the throbbing pain of a blocked sinus. But what causes sinus problems, and how can you prevent them from getting out of hand?
Ongoing mucus or phlegm problems can make your life hell. Sinus drainage, post-nasal drip, and the throbbing pain of a blocked sinus are all relatively common issues that are ostensibly quite harmless, but frustrating nevertheless.
However discomforted and annoyed you may be, you can take some comfort in the fact that you are not the only one suffering through this ordeal.
According to the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, about 12.5 percent of Americans suffer from at least one bout of sinusitis each year.
Causes of Sinus Drainage
Sinuses are air-filled cavities located on either side of the nose. Due to certain allergies, colds, and viral or bacterial infections, the sinuses may become clogged or infected.
The Infectious Diseases Society of America states that 90 to 98 percent of sinusitis cases are caused by viruses.
When the sinus cavities become inflamed or irritated, they swell and secrete more mucus, making proper drainage difficult.
There are other conditions that may trigger unfavorable changes in mucus secretion, leading to sinus drainage. These include:
- Environmental pollution
- Dry air
- Weather changes
- Dietary irritants such as dairy, gluten, and artificial additives
Where Does All That Sinus Drainage Go?
In its normal course, sinus drainage seamlessly makes its way down the throat into the stomach without causing any noticeable sensations.
Sinus discomfort arises when the drainage is secreted in an excessive amount and is denser than usual. In such cases, the concentrated phlegm can end up irritating the throat while passing through it, triggering coughing episodes and a scratchy feel.
There’s also the fear that the excessive mucus may end up in the lungs, a fear that is not completely unfounded.
Your body has a built-in mechanism to prevent that from happening. A tiny flap located in your airway called the epiglottis automatically covers the entrance to your lungs when something other than air is in your throat.
While the epiglottis may hold the fort against normal amounts of drainage, it fails to perform as efficiently when you have excessive drainage. This lapse applies particularly when you lie flat on your back, allowing the post-nasal drip to seep around the epiglottis and into the lungs.
As a result of this breach, your lungs risk exposure to the bacteria in the mucus. Consequently, pneumonia and bronchitis are the likely outcomes.
Signs and Symptoms
Clogged sinuses can lead to various symptoms and related issues, such as:
- Headache that gets aggravated upon bending
- Pain and tenderness around the eyes, cheeks, and nose
- Ear pressure
- Difficulty breathing
- Reduced sense of smell and taste
In serious cases, a sinus infection may even lead to brain fever or meningitis.
Treatment for Sinus Drainage
How you treat post-nasal drip depends on what’s causing it. Antibiotics can clear up a bacterial infection. However, green or yellow mucus alone cannot implicate a bacterial infection.
The common cold is also associated with a similar-colored mucus, but because it is caused by viruses that don’t respond to antibiotics, your doctor will have to recommend a different course of treatment.
Antihistamines and decongestants can often help with post-nasal drip caused by sinusitis and viral infections. They can also be effective, along with steroid nasal sprays, for post-nasal drip caused by allergies.
When to See a Doctor
The discomforts associated with sinus drainage are by and large quite minor and manageable and usually do not indicate a serious medical issue.
You may need to get professional medical help, however, if preliminary home treatment and self-care are ineffective in curbing your sinus drainage such that the condition becomes increasingly uncomfortable and persists for longer than a week.
The doctor will conduct a more thorough analysis of your symptoms and prescribe the necessary treatment after reaching a diagnosis. Anything from an infection to some other underlying ailment can be held accountable.
Moreover, you are advised to consult your doctor in case of the following:
- If you run a fever
- If you experience intense sinus pain and pressure
- If it becomes difficult for you to breathe, which can indicate pneumonia
- If you happen to have a weakened immune system and notice any signs of a sinus infection
- If an infant younger than 3 months starts showing signs of congestion or labored breathing
Home Remedies for Sinus Drainage
For mild cases of blocked sinuses, you can use some simple and effective home remedies to open up your sinuses and relieve the discomfort.
Here are some simple ways to promote sinus drainage naturally.
1. Steam Inhalation Can Help Clear Blocked Sinuses
Whether you use plain water or infuse it with herbs or essential oils, steam inhalation is effective at promoting sinus drainage.
It works as a natural expectorant to clear the blockage. It also soothes the inflamed blood vessels in the sinuses by keeping them moist.
In a 2016 study, researchers analyzed the effectiveness of steam inhalation in treating chronic sinus symptoms. The study concluded that steam inhalation was not beneficial for the majority of sinus symptoms, but it reduced headache.
Although studies have not shown the beneficial effect of steam inhalation, people are using it often to promote sinus drainage.
- Fill a pan with water, heat it until it boils, and then turn the heat off. Add a few drops of peppermint or eucalyptus essential oil to the hot water. Put a towel over your head, lean over the pan, and inhale the steam for a few minutes. Repeat this remedy two to four times a day.
- Alternatively, close the bathroom door, run a hot shower, and breathe in the steam vapors for 5 to 10 minutes. Do this daily for a few days until the symptoms clear.
2. Try Nasal Irrigation for Sinus Relief
Nasal irrigation is very effective in aiding sinus drainage and relieving nasal congestion and irritation.
Also known as saline irrigation, this involves gently flushing out your nasal passages with a saline solution. This helps break up the congestion by thinning out the mucus. It also increases the moisture in your nostrils, which in turn helps reduce the inflammation of your blood vessels.
A 2008 study published in WMJ, the journal of the Wisconsin Medical Society, reports that hypertonic saline nasal irrigation is beneficial for relieving daily sinus symptoms.
- Mix 3 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda.
- Transfer the mixture to an airtight container.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of this mixture into 1 cup of lukewarm boiled water.
- Fill a bulb syringe with this solution.
- Lean your head over a basin and gently squirt the solution into one nostril, while keeping the other one closed with your finger.
- Allow the solution to drain from the other nostril by removing your finger.
- Repeat the process with the other nostril.
- Use this remedy once or twice daily.
3. Chicken Soup for the Soul and Your Sinuses!
Another tried-and-true remedy for sinus blockage is chicken soup. The steam combined with the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of the soup’s ingredients helps clear the sinuses.
A study by the American College of Chest Physicians suggests that chicken soup may contain a number of substances with beneficial medicinal activity. A mild anti-inflammatory effect could be one mechanism by which the soup could result in the mitigation of symptomatic upper respiratory tract infections.
Chicken soup also improves the immune system functioning. Plus, it is a light and nutritious food that you can always have when you are sick.
To ease your symptoms, slurp on a bowl of homemade chicken soup twice daily. To reap the maximum benefits, make it at home using organic chicken and vegetables, such as carrots, beetroots, and spinach. To boost its effects, add chopped garlic or red pepper flakes to the soup when preparing it.
If you find it difficult to muster up the time, energy, and will for cooking, you can make do with canned soup as well.
4. Use Cayenne Pepper to Relieve Nasal Congestion
Cayenne pepper is a natural decongestant, which means it helps loosen mucus and promote sinus drainage.
The natural chemical capsaicin in cayenne pepper helps relieve the swelling and inflammation that are narrowing your nasal passages.
A 2011 study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology reports that a nasal spray containing capsaicin may help clear up certain types of sinus inflammation.
- Add ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper powder to 1 cup of boiling water. Sip a cup of this tea a few times a day.
- You can also sprinkle cayenne pepper on your favorite meals.
5. Ginger Tonic Will Help Open Up Your Sinuses
Ginger is a well-known herb that can be used for the treatment of different types of sinus problems. It has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce inflammation in the sinus and promote drainage.
A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology reports that there are several compounds in ginger that may help relax the smooth muscle tissue in the airways.
- Try to drink 2 to 3 cups of ginger tea daily. To make the tea, add 1 inch of ginger (cut into small pieces) to a pot of boiling water. Simmer for 10 minutes, strain the liquid, allow it to cool, and then drink it. Optionally, you can add little raw honey and lemon juice to your ginger tea to improve its taste as well as effects on your health.
- Alternatively, mix equal amounts of ginger juice, pomegranate juice, and honey. Have 1 tablespoon of this mixture two or three times a day.
6. Up Your Fluid Intake
For sinus drainage, nothing works better than increasing your fluid intake. Drinking more fluids helps thin the mucus and drain your sinuses. They also lubricate your sinuses and keep the lining hydrated.
On the other hand, reduced fluid intake can cause dehydration and can ultimately lead to the thickening of the mucus. It can even increase the risk of infection.
However, it is better to drink hot water rather than cold water. Experts believe that drinking hot liquid aids in the management of fluids in upper respiratory tract infections.
- Drink at least 8 glasses of lukewarm water daily.
- Drinking hot liquids, such as herbal teas, may also help loosen and thin out the mucus.
To know whether your body is hydrated, check the color of your urine. If your urine is clear, you are sufficiently hydrated.
7. Increase the Humidity in Your Living Space
Increasing the humidity in your home or the room in which you sleep can aid in sinus drainage. The sinuses prefer a moist, warm environment. Moist air can soothe irritated tissues and swollen blood vessels in your nose and sinuses.
On the other hand, lack of moisture in the air can irritate the sinus cavity further, causing more congestion. So, run a humidifier and maintain a humidity level of 45–50 percent.
A 2009 study published in Respiratory Medicine reports cold temperature and low humidity to be associated with increased occurrence of respiratory tract infections.
Respiratory tract infections can cause sinus blockage.
Make sure to put a humidifier in your room where you sleep. However, bear in mind that keeping the machine clean is of the utmost importance, or else the growth of bacteria and mold will only serve to exacerbate your condition and contribute to further mucus formation.
8. Use Vicks VaporRub for Sinus Relief
Vicks VapoRub, a popular over-the-counter decongestant, can also aid in sinus drainage.
It has active ingredients including camphor, eucalyptus oil, and menthol that help clear the congestion and make breathing easy and comfortable.
Vicks VapoRub is highly effective especially when the sinus blockage is due to some kind of upper respiratory tract infection.
A 2010 study published in Pediatrics reports that Vicks VapoRub provides symptomatic relief from upper respiratory tract infection symptoms.
- Before going to bed, rub this topical cream gently on your chest, back, and throat as well as on your nose to make breathing easier and to help you sleep properly.
- Also, boil some water in a pot. Turn off the heat and put a small amount of Vicks VapoRub in it. Stand over the pot with a towel over your head and try to inhale the steam for 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat as needed.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is also regarded as an effective ingredient for the relief of sinus congestion. However, its efficacy hinges more on anecdotal support rather than hard scientific evidence.
Its high potassium content helps dissolve the condensed mucus secretions, thereby making it easier for you to expel them.
Also, the acetic acid in it prevents bacterial growth and speeds up the healing process.
- Mix 2 tablespoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon of raw honey into 1 cup of warm water. Drink this tonic twice daily.
- Also, pour ½ cup each of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and water into a pan. Bring the mixture to a boil and remove the pan from the heat. Put a towel over your head and inhale the steam for 3–5 minutes with your mouth and eyes closed. Do this a few times a day.
To aid sinus drainage and improve breathing, massaging the nostrils is a simple yet highly effective remedy.
The gentle massaging motion helps improve blood circulation in the sinus area, which helps thin out the mucus and facilitates its expulsion.
- Warm up some olive oil.
- Sit in a semireclining position and apply the oil on your nose.
- Using your left thumb and index finger, massage both sides of your nose and the bridge of the nose for 1 minute.
- Take a break of 1 minute and do it again.
- Repeat the cycle five to seven times.
- Do this several times daily.
When performing this massage, breathe through your mouth, not your nose.
- The most obvious way to clear mucus from the nasal passages is to blow your nose on a regular basis.
- Sleeping with your head elevated is a great way to relieve congested nasal passages and enjoy a good night’s sleep.
- Another effective way to keep mucus thin to promote sinus drainage is applying a warm compress.
- Boost your immunity by including more foods rich in vitamin C in your diet.
- Animal dander, dust, mold spores, and pollen are the most common airborne irritants that cause sinus inflammation and congestion, so keep your house clean as much as possible.
- Pollen, smog, and car exhaust are some common outdoor irritants that can worsen your symptoms. Hence, consider wearing a mask when going out to keep them out of your airways.
- If you are sensitive to dairy products, then eliminate them from your diet until you get better.
- Include raw garlic in your diet as much as possible.
- Eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids to fight inflammation.
- Get plenty of rest for a few days to help your body recover quickly.
- Avoid certain foods to reduce mucus, such as grains, sugar, and potatoes and other starchy root vegetables.
- Do not smoke, as it can worsen the condition.
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- Chow AW, Benninger MS, Brozek I. IDSA Clinical Practice Guideline for Acute Bacterial Rhinosinusitis in Children and Adults. Clinical Infectious Diseases. https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/54/8/e72/367144. Published April 15, 2012.
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- Townsend EA, Siviski ME, Zhang Y. Effects of Ginger and Its Constituents on Airway Smooth Muscle Relaxation and Calcium Regulation. American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3604064/. Published February 2013.
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