Sinus Infection Treatment

#1: 1st Prevention Is Better Than The Cure

When I was young, I often heard that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. And while we can’t avoid all the problems that life throws our way, staying as disease free as possible just makes good sense.

So, the first line of defence should be to take care of your physical, mental, and emotional well being before you get sick. Emotionally, you need to learn to de-stress yourself. You must learn to manage your stress level as much as you possible can. In today’s modern world, it is impossible to totally avoid stress. After all, we are so busy, and have so much to accomplish. And yet we have so little time to do it all in. Most of us live inside a relentless pressure-cooker that has us literally running around, trying to accomplish everything at once.

We’re working longer hours then ever before. We have kids to look after, and elderly parents to care for. The news reports always seem to be bad, with little hope in sight.

Doctors and scientists now know that this kind of constant pressure has a negative impact on our bodies. Too much stress and pressure can compromise your immune system. Overly stressed bodies produce an over-abundance of the hormone Cortisol. Cortisol weakens the immune system by damaging it’s cells. This in turn can leave you vulnerable to all types of physical disorders, including sinusitis.

Living a stress-filled life can also affect the choices you make regarding the foods you eat and how you take care of your body. It shouldn’t be surprising that people who are stressed out often live an unhealthy life-style.

Entire volumes have been written on how we should de-stress our lives. You probably know most of the basic ones already. Here is a short list:

Eat healthy, non-processed foods and cut down on fats and sugar. Avoid caffeine, and don’t smoke, or drink alcohol to excess.
Follow a regular excercise routine.
Get plenty of rest
Identify stressors in your life that can be eliminated and avoid them if possible.
Carve out a portion of your day and use it to de-stress. Try meditation, prayer, warm baths, reading, music, or whatever you enjoy that will relax you.
The bottom line is if left unchecked, stress can lead to acute and chronic disorders, including sinusitis. Stress can also reek havoc on your emotional and mental health, and ultimately it will shorten your life.

Sinus Infection Treatment #2: See a doctor!

This may seem like common sense for most people. However, you’d be surprised at some of the excuses some people (like me) will use to avoid a doctor’s office.

The fact is that there are so many triggers that can lead to sinusitis. Your problem may be caused by allergies, environmental factors, the weather, common cold or flu, a deviated nasal septum, or nasal polyps. Stress may be a factor, as stated above. And you may be pre-disposed to sinus problems due to family history.

Only a trained professional can properly diagnose your symptoms and prescribe a sinus infection treatment. You really shouldn’t try to do this yourself, especially if you are prone to chronic or recurring attacks.

Don’t make the mistake I did by reaching for the OTC nasal spray before seeing a doctor. You’ve already read about my nasal spray addiction and what caused it. Severe sinus infections require professional treatments which we will discuss next. Any cold or flu symptom lasting more than a week should be treated by a doctor.

Sinus Infection Treatment #3: Antibiotics

These drugs are used to treat the infections that cause sinusitis. They work by killing or preventing the spread of bacterial in your nose or sinus.

After an extensive evaluation of your symptoms, your doctor decides which drugs are most effective to use based on your particular triggers (cold or flu, allergies, etc). Treatments may last between 2 to 6 weeks.

Antibiotics don’t always work. The drugs are only effective if the sinusitis is bacterial in nature. There is a type of sinusitis caused by fungus infection. Antibiotics are virtually useless against this type. And sometimes, bacterial sinusitis will develop a resistance to the drugs if they are taken too frequently.

In fact, many experts have come to believe that antibiotics are over-prescribed and over-used as a sinus infectin treatment. These researchers point out that only about 5% of all acute sinus problems are caused by bacteria. Only these 5% respond effectively to antibiotics. And yet, 4 out of 5 people suffering from acute sinus problems are given antibiotics! This is not the case in Europe where antibiotics are rarely used as a sinus treatment.

Harmful side effects to antibiotics include gastrointestinal upset, allergic reaction to the drug, and vaginal infection in women.

Sinus Infection Treatment #4: Antihistamines

Antihistamines are drugs used to treat allergy symptoms that may trigger a sinus infection. An allergic response is an overreaction of the human body to otherwise harmless substances (allergens). When our antibodies encounter and overreact to an allergen, histamine is released. Histamine is the cause of all the unpleasant symptoms we experience. Antihistamines block the release of histamines. These annoying symptoms include runny nose, sneezing, skin itch, hives, and the nasal blockage which may lead to sinusitis.

Certain antihistamines dry up mucus which makes them a useful treatment for runny noses. However, this drying action may have a negative impact if over-used. The dried mucus may slow down the movement of the Cilia (those tiny hairs inside your nose), which normally expel and drain the mucus from the sinus. This could create a backup of mucus, which can trigger an infection.

Older antihistamines (called first generation) have more side effects than the later, more modern types (called second generation). These side effects include a drowsy feeling, light-headedness, dry mouth, nervousness, constipation, rapid heart rate, and difficulty in urinating.

However, due to an influx of newer drugs in recent years (such as Cetirizine, Loratadine, & Fexofenadine), the sedating effect has been reduced. These drugs are not without their own side effects, however. Some patients may experience dry mouth and nose, as well as headache and some drosiness.

Sinus Infection Treatment #5: Decongestants

Decongestants are drugs that reduce the inflammation and swelling inside the nasal passages, thus making it easier for you to breath. They also provide temporary relief from sinus headache be decreasing the pressure inside the sinus and allowing backup mucus to drain out.

Decongestants can be purchased as a nasal form or as pills. If you’ve read my short personal history regarding nasal sprays and such, then you know you should be very careful when using the nasal form.

This form of decongestant can actually make your sinusitis symptoms worse by intensifying the inflammation. Today, manufacturers are required by the FDA to remove any reference of OTC nasal decongestants as being helpful as a sinus treatment.

In the U.S., the only OTC pill decongestant that you can use is Pseudoephedrine. Pills help reduce the amount of mucus and are useful in relieving that annoying post nasal drip that makes you cough.

As with all drugs, decongestants have their side effects. They include elevated blood pressure and heart rate, nervousness, drowsiness, and dizziness. These drugs can be dangerous to folks suffering from heart problems, diabetes, and prostate or thyroid diseases. Pregnant women and children under the age of 14 are at particular risk.

One final word about nasal decongestants/sprays: Because they are so easy to obtain, you might be tempted to purchase and use them without the recommendation from your physician. Please Don’t! Take it from someone who’s been there. You can buy yourself an awful lot of trouble if you do. If you haven’t done so already, read my pages of my personal struggle with nasal spray addiction if you’re tempted to self-medicate.

Sinus Infection Treatment #6: Steroids

Sometimes used for acute cases, but mostly for chronic, Corticosteriods may be prescribed for stubborn cases of sinusitis. Steroids are also useful when nasal polyps are the cause of sinus infection. They have been shown to effective for both allergy and non-allergy types of infection.

Although steroids are available in oral or nasal spray forms, the sprays have fewer side effects. Nasal spray side effects include burning in the nose, nose bleed (rare), and headache (also rare).

Side effects of the orals may include Glaucoma symptoms, and a vulnerability to infections. In fact, if you have an infectious disease, you should not take steroids until the illness is cured.

Some folks develop a tolerance to steroids. In that case, the drug loses its effectiveness and no longer works.

My doctor prescribed Flunisolide for me. I use it at the first hint of stuffiness or infection. Except for the burning sensation in my nose, I don’t have a problem with the drug. If you use it at the onset of symptoms, your nose will open and the mucus will drain.

Sinus Infection Treatment #7: Surgery

This is the sinus treatment that doctors suggest when all others fail. Here are some of the conditions that might prompt a decision to pursue surgery:

Nasal polyps (graph-looking swellings of the nasal tissue) which cause obstruction and infection.
The anatomy or structure of the nose may be damaged in such a way that it causes blockage.
Swelling of the nasal tissue so great that it actually shifts the nasal structure to a new position, causing blockage.
The nasal septum is deviated (or bent) into the airway, resulting in reduced airflow.
The cartilage which supports the tip of your nose collapses. This is called Nasal Valve Collapse. As you inhale, the airway collapses.
Tumors, which can be benign or cancerous. This is a rare condition.
A relatively recent development in sinus infection treatment is Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery. FESS, as it is known, involves a computer scan of the sinuses. A holographic image is produced, which provides the surgeon with a roadmap for him to follow. The surgeon then inserts a tiny camera and light through the nose, into the sinus. From this point he can remove any obstructions and diseased tissue.

FESS is very useful in removing nasal polyps, clearing obstructions, and also aids in drainage. It can also be helpful for children and HIV patients who suffer from chronic sinusitis.

Sinus Infection Treatment #8: Home Remedies

These home remedies work best for acute sinusitis, and are basically used as preventative measures:

Drink plenty of water. Water thins out excess mucus that is the cause of sinus infection.
Breathe in steam from boiling water. The steam will help open the sinus and drain any excess mucus. You might want to add some Vicks VapoRub to the water before you breathe in.
Drink hot liquids such as tea, or chicken soup. It’s probably the steam that helps keep the sinus open. In any case, it provides temporary relief.
One sinus infection treatment that has been around for centuries is Nasal Irrigation. It was invented by Indian Yoga practitioners thousands of years ago. It cleanses the sinus by removing excess mucus and other foreign matter, and eases inflammation of nasal tissues.

Basically you mix together a solution of salt water (saline) and baking soda. You then breathe in the concoction through one side of your nose. The liquid will flow out the other side of your nose and mouth.

The two most popular ways of delivering the solution to the nose is with a Neti Pot, and the Grossan Pulsatile Nasal Irrigator. Both devices are available online.

There are two types of saline solutions you can prepare:

Isotonic: Consists of the same percentage of salt as your body. It is best used for dry, encrusted sinus.
Hypertonic: Has a greater percentage of salt than your body carries. It is best used for more severe nasal tissue swelling and stuffiness.
Be aware that the hypertonic saline solution will sometimes result in a condition call Ciliostasis. With this condition the cilia (tiny hairs in the nose) may cease to move and expel excess mucus from the sinus. This leaves you vulnerable to congestion and infection. You should not proceed with a hypertonic saline solution without the advice of a doctor.

A twist in the nasal irrigation solution is “Sinus Rinse”, an OTC product invented by Dr. Ketan Mehta, and his wife Nina. Sinus Rinse, which is marketed from Dr. Mehta’s pharmaceutical company NeilMed, has a very high success rate. Sinus Rinse has relieved the sufferings of millions since it’s introduction in 2000.

The main difference between Sinus Rinse and traditional nasal irrigation is how the products are used. With a Neti Pot, the patient pours water into his nose after tilting his head to a 90 degree angle. The water is forced into sinuses by gravity.

With Sinus Rinse, the patient does not tilt the head. Instead, a solution of distilled water, and isotonic sodium is squirted up the side of the nose. Eventually the rinse drips out the other nostril. Then the patient repeats the treatment in the other nostril.

If you’d like to learn a little more about Dr. Mehta, and Sinus Rinse, read my blog entry, dated 11/22/08 here.

Honey As A Sinus Infection Treatment?

Sound crazy? Well, it certainly did to me when I first read about it in The Washington Post the other day ( It seems that honey is very effective in killing bacteria, especially drug-resistant types. These are the bacteria that make treating sinusitis such a bear.

In a study conducted by Canadian scientists at the University of Ottawa, it was discovered that honey killed planktonic and drug-resistant biofilm bacteria at a higher rate than antibiotics used for the same purpose. No one is quite sure why honey works on sinusitis as effectively as it does. And, as far as we know,bacterial have no resistance against honey. This is not so with antibiotics; Biofilms have built up a resistance which makes them difficult to treat.

Honey has been used as a treatment for various types of wounds and ailments for years. We all know about honey used for sore throats. But honey as a sinusitis treatment? You should know that as of this writing, all tests have been performed in Petri dishes, and not in humans.

Still, the monetary implications are nothing to sneeze at (sorry). Imagine such a powerful remedy affordable to all. Considering the high cost of antibiotics and the current financial concerns, a shot of honey up the nose could mean money in the pocket. Not a bad deal at all.


Science Centric 10/06/08 ( 9/23/08 (
Washington Post 9/24/08 (


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