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5 Ways to Fight Sinus Infections

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Winter is prime time for sinus infections. You’re more apt to get colds and allergies, which make your nasal passages swell, trapping mucus and allowing bacteria to fester, says Jeffrey Terrell, M.D, a professor of otolaryngology at the University of Michigan.

How can you tell if your case of the sniffles has turned into a sinus infection? For starters, you’ll feel pressure around your forehead, nose, and eyes. You’ll also see green, yellow, or white mucus when you blow your nose, says Patrick Shinners, M.D., an ear, nose, and throat specialist at the Mayo Clinic. 

Since a virus or cold is usually the culprit of a sinus infection, antibiotics won’t work because they only kill bacteria. That means you could be left to wait out your symptoms for a month or more. But you can at least speed up the process by taking steps to reduce swelling and encourage mucus to drain, Dr. Shinners says. 

Here are five super-easy ways to expedite recovery and feel a little more comfortable while your immune system does its thing.

1. Hit the Showers

Inhaling steam in a hot shower will help open up your sinuses and loosen the crusty snot trapped inside, Dr. Shinners says. Take a rinse in the morning and evening to relieve pressure and breathe easier. 

2. Use a Humidifier

Breathing humid air will help prevent the buildup of thick, dried gunk in your nose that allows bacteria to thrive, says Dr. Terrell. He recommends setting up a humidifier in your home or office and leaving it on all day. We like Honeywell’s HCM-350 model, which boasts 99.9 percent germ-free mist. ($55.19, amazon.com)

3. Drink Up

Drinking six to eight glasses of water every day can thin your mucus, helping it drain better, Dr. Shinners says. 

4. Rinse Your Sinuses 

You can flush the gunk out your nasal cavity and reduce swelling with tools like neti pots or bulb syringes, Dr. Shinners says. Rinse two to three times per day, and make sure you use distilled or sterile water.

5. Rest Your Head

This may be the easiest remedy of all: Simply resting your head on your desk could help clear symptoms, recent Chinese research suggests. Twice a day for 20 minutes, study participants leaned forward in a chair, placing their heads on a flat surface. After 6 weeks, they had less congestion, sinus pressure, and postnasal drip than sinus infection sufferers who didn’t take the breaks. Tilting your head that way allows gravity to pull mucus out of your nasal passages, researchers say.

 

Additional reporting by Julie Stewart