10 Products to Help You Find Sinus Relief
What's the deal with stuffed-up sinuses?
You've definitely felt it before: headache, facial pressure, only being able to breath out of one side of your nose. Stuffy or runny noses are all around awful, and they happen when the tissues lining your nose become swollen, due to inflamed blood vessels, according to the US National Library of Medicine's MedlinePlus resource.
The most common causes for a runny nose or stuffed-up sinuses include a sinus infection, the flu, or a run-of-the-mill cold. If an infection is particularly severe, antibiotics may be necessary—but for the most part, you can clear up your sinuses with a little bit of TLC (and a few OTC options like decongestants). Here are 10 possible choices—all favorites among stuffy sinus sufferers and doctors alike—to help you get unstuffed.
Breathing in dry indoor air—particularly common in wintertime—can really stuff up the nose, thicken mucous, and irritate the sinuses. But a fine mist from a humidifier, like the Hupro Warm and Cool Mist Humidifier ($100; amazon.com), may help. "Being in an environment that's more moist makes the nose happier and less congested," explains Dr. Lane.
Saline nasal spray
In terms of sinus relief, a 3-ounce bottle of salt water may provide just as powerful a punch as a gallon-size humidifier. Saline mist sprays work like humidifiers because they can moisturize your nose when you are in a dry environment. However, they are definitely more portable, Dr. Lane says.
The neti pot—think a small teapot crossed with Aladdin's lamp—takes the saline spray a step further, Dr. Lane says. In addition to the moisture introduced by pouring water in one nostril and out the other, the ancient Ayurvedic apparatus also has the force to flush out irritants that may contribute to symptoms.
But you want to be as careful as possible with neti pots: The US Food and Drug Administration warns that only distilled, sterile, or heat-treated water should be used in neti pots to avoid any possible infections. It's also a good idea to thoroughly wash and dry the neti pot after every use.
Moist sinus compress
Some people claim to find sinus relief by placing a warm, steamy wrap over their face. But could the benefit simply be in their head?
"I think the compress just feels good," says Dr. Lane. He adds that a moist compress may still provide some helpful humidification for the nose and relieve sinus pressure. While not necessarily mainstream, you can find various versions on the Internet, including this sinus compress ($20; amazon.com), which targets moist heat therapy to the forehead and around the eyes, where sinus pain and pressure typically strike.
Herbal inhalation or aromatherapy
Inhaling herbs or aromatherapy products that have herbs like rosemary, eucalyptus, and peppermint may help relieve some symptoms of sinus congestion. However, the mechanism of these therapies is unclear, Dr. Lane says.
Breathing in mint, for example, provides a cooling sensation usually associated with air flowing through the nose quickly—as if it were wide open. "Even though you feel like you’re moving air," explains Dr. Lane, "there’s no evidence that you’ve actually increased the size of the nasal passage."
Over-the-counter decongestants are "good stuff," according to Dr. Lane. The medications work by shrinking blood vessels that cause the nose to be stuffy.
Due to their drying effect, however, Dr. Lane recommends drinking a lot of fluids or using a saline spray when taking decongestants. The drugs—such as Sudafed ($10; amazon.com), Mucinex ($20; amazon.com), and Tylenol Sinus ($6; amazon.com)—can be found in most supermarkets and drugstores.
Nasal irrigation system
Basically just a sophisticated version of the neti pot, a nasal irrigation system works through a combination of humidifying and rinsing actions—but with an added pulsating feature that aims to clear thick mucus out of nasal passages more thoroughly.
Medicated nasal spray
Over-the-counter medicated nasal sprays such as Afrin ($7; amazon.com) work very well as short-term decongestants, says Dr. Lane. But if the spray is used for more than three or four days straight, the body can start to require more of it, more often, in order to continue benefiting from its symptom-relieving effects.
Prescription steroid nasal sprays such as Flonase can reduce inflammation without the same rebound issues.
Steam therapy is a "very potent" decongestant, says Dr. Lane. "It's probably why a bowl of chicken soup works so well," since you're often huddled over a big bowl sniffing in the
RELATED: The Health Benefits of Steam
Irritants and common allergy-provoking substances in the environment, including dust, smoke, and mold, can also trigger sinus inflammation. An air purifier may add a secondary line of defense for the nose, which itself acts as a protective filter to airborne particles.
RELATED: The Best Air Purifiers for Allergies
This device can help with irritants that might induce inflammation, says Dr. Lane. Many home and appliance stores carry a range of air-purifying products, like the Germ Guardian True HEPA Air Purifier with a UV Light Sanitizer ($90, amazon.com).
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