A virus or cold is the most common cause of sinus congestion, but a bacterial infection can also occasionally cause it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a person with sinus congestion may experience:
This article looks at six simple, natural home remedies for sinus congestion, as well as when to see a doctor.
There are many home remedies that a person can try to help relieve sinus congestion. These include:
1. Staying hydrated
The mucous membranes can become inflamed during sinus congestion. However, staying hydrated can help the membrane function correctly.
Drinking plenty of water and other fluids may help relieve the symptoms of sinus congestion. A person may find that keeping a water bottle close to them throughout the day can encourage them to drink more.
2. Breathing in steam
Inhaling steam can help with sinus congestion.
Breathing in steam can help keep the mucous membranes moist.
This is particularly important during winter or in colder climates.
This may help relieve the symptoms of sinus congestion and encourage the sinuses to unblock.
Running very hot water from a shower and breathing in the vapor may help unblock the sinuses and relieve symptoms.
It is also possible to use a humidifier for the same purpose.
3. Raising the head during sleep
To help encourage sinus blockages to clear, a person may consider raising their head during sleep. A person can use extra pillows to prop their head up.
Conversely, keeping the head level may result in a greater buildup of congestion overnight.
4. Using eucalyptus oil
Eucalyptus oil relieves the symptoms of sinus congestion. It may also help kill germs in and around the nasal passage that contribute to a sinus infection.
A person can use eucalyptus oil by applying it to tissue paper and sleeping next to it, or by adding it to hot water and inhaling the steam. However, if a person applies the hot water and eucalyptus oil mixture directly to the skin, it may cause burns.
Menthol-based oils are also popular, but they work by making a person feel as though they can breathe more easily. They do not unblock the congested sinuses.
5. Applying warm, wet towels
A warm, wet towel held against the face may help relieve the swelling and inflammation of sinus congestion.
It may also help keep the mucous membranes moist by breathing in moist air, which can help it function properly.
People can also soak a towel in warm water, wring it out, and drape it over their face in a way that is still comfortable for them to breathe through their mouth.
6. Trying a neti pot
A neti pot can help to relieve the symptoms of sinus congestion.
Neti pots are small teapot-shaped devices that help a person pour a salt water solution into their nasal cavity.
This may help relieve the symptoms of sinus congestion by keeping the mucous membranes moist and functioning properly.
Neti pots may also help treat congestion by flushing out the sinuses and the buildup of any material causing a blockage. It is vital to follow instructions carefully.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) note that if a person has not properly cleaned the neti pot before using it, it might actually cause a sinus infection. People should clean neti pots using distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water that is free of harmful germs.
Nasal sprays that include a decongestant may be helpful in relieving congested sinuses.
However, Harvard Medical School point out that decongestants can also cause problems. For example, sometimes, congestion can become worse after a person stops using decongestants.
Taking painkillers may also help relieve pain due to sinus congestion.
If a person experiences side effects or the medication is not working, they should speak to a medical professional.
When to see a doctor
Though a person can usually resolve sinus congestion using home remedies, complications can arise. In these cases, seeing a medical professional is important.
The CDC recommend seeing a medical professional if a person has:
- a temperature above 100.4F (38C)
- symptoms that are worsening
- symptoms that have not gone away after 10 days
- frequent sinus issues
- symptoms that over-the-counter (OTC) medication does not resolve
Sinus congestion most commonly occurs as a result of a cold, virus, or bacterial infection. Symptoms include a sore throat, a runny nose, and coughing, among others.
There are a number of simple home remedies that a person can try to help relieve these symptoms. These include inhaling steam, using eucalyptus oil, and staying hydrated. A person can also use OTC medications such as nasal sprays.
They should consider seeing a doctor when their symptoms do not go away or become worse, and the doctor will be able to work out what is causing a person's infection and prescribe appropriate medication if necessary.