Top 3 Home Remedies To Treat Sinus Infection / Sinusitis

Sinus / Sinusitis Meaning - Sinus is a hollow space in the bones behind our nose. We have 4 pairs of sinuses. An infection in any one of these result in swollen and inflammed sinuses and is called a sinus infection or sinusitis.

What happens in sinusitis - Our sinus are lined with membranes that produce a very important thing called mucus, which traps the harmful germs and drains them out into the nasal passages. In a healthy body, the mucus produced inside the sinuses is not noticeable as it trickles down our throat easily. Its only when the sinuses become infected our body's mucus production goes into overdrive. The body's defence mechanism makes the walls of sinuses swell and starts producing thick mucus to trap the germs from going further inside. As a result of swollen tissues and excessive mucus our sinuses get congested. Soon, our head hurts, nose becomes stuffy and we feel facial pressure or pain.

Causes of Sinus Infection

Sinusitis is a common health condition with about 10% of the world's population suffering from a sinus infection or sinusitis every year. Two most common causes of sinusitis are -

  • Viral Sinusitis - Most prevalent. 90% of sinusitis cases are viral. It requires symptomatic relief and not antibiotics. It typically resolves in 7-10 days, however the congested sinuses may lead to a secondary bacterial infection. Mucus is an excellent culture medium for bacteria and if the mucus is not cleared quickly, bacteria can infect the sinus which is called a secondary infection.

  • Bacterial Sinusitis - It is less common and usually develops as a result of a severe viral sinus infection. When it happens it is called a secondary infection. A bacterial infection often lasts 10 -20 days or even longer and difficult to go on its own. Antibiotics are usually needed to clear up the infection.

Other very rare causes of sinusitis are fungi - allergic fungal sinusitis (AFS) and pollutants in the air.

Sinusitis Symptoms

Common symptoms of sinus infection are -

  1. Thick white, yellow or greenish discharge from the nose
  2. Facial pain or pressure
  3. Pain around the eyes, under the eyes, on forehead or around the nose
  4. Throbbing Headache which becomes worse when you bend down
  5. Pain in teeth (caused by the swelling of maxillary sinus)
  6. Nasal congestion
  7. A reduced sense of smell and taste
  8. Cough and Sore throat due to mucus trickling down the throat (post nasal drip)

Both viral and bacterial sinusitis share common symptoms so it might be difficult to find out which one you have. Usually it is a bacterial sinusitis if your mucus is thick, dark, and greenish-yellowish. There are tests you doctor can perform to determine whether or not you have a bacterial or viral sinus infection. If your symptoms show no sign of improvement after seven to ten days it is likely you have developed a bacterial sinus infection.

Sinusitis Types and ICD-10 codes

There are broadly 2 types of sinusitis depending on the length of illness -

  • Acute Sinusitis - This lasts up to 4 weeks and is the most common type.

  • Chronic Sinusitis - Symptoms persist or become worse after 12 weeks or they continually return after getting cured. It may need more invasive treatment, and possibly surgery.

Various types of sinusitis that are listed in ICD 10 are given below. ICD-10 is a coding system for diseases by WHO.

Chronic Sinusitis

Code intrepretation
J32.0 maxillary
J32.0 frontal
J32.2 ethmoidal
J32.2 sphenoidal
J32.4 pan
J32.8 other (>1, not pan)
J33.0 polyp of nasal cavity

Acute Sinusitis

Code intrepretation
J01.0x maxillary
J01.1x frontal
J01.2x ethmoidal
J01.3x sphenoidal
J01.4x pan
J01.8x other (>1, not pan)
J01.9x unspecified
x=0 unspecified
x=1 recurrent

Sinusitis / Sinus Infection Treatment - Drugs or Natural Remedies?

The usual mainstream medicinal prescription to treat sinus infection is decongestants / antihistamines to lower the amount of mucus in sinuses and pain relievers (aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc.) to relieve facial pain, as well as headache and fever. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe inhaled steroids to bring down the swelling in the sinus membranes.

If your doctor thinks it is a bacterial infection, or to reduce the chances of secondary infection, he will prescribe antibiotics. You typically have to take these antibiotics for 10-14 days. For chronic sinusitis, it might be longer. Once you start the antibiotics it is very important that you complete the full course even if you start to feel fully cured in between. This is to prevent the reoccurence.

These medications will kill the infection but fail most of the times to clean up the dried mucus and tenacious biofilms that becomes a breeding ground for further infections. This is one of the causes leading to frequent bouts of sinusitis (chronic sinusitis). Furthermore, the overuse of antibiotics and steroid sprays (for more than 1-2 months) leads to drug resistant sinusitis as well as new fungal infections of the sinus cavities.

Fortunately, there is an alternative way to treat the sinusitis at home naturally. There are some simple things you can do at home to reduce the symptoms, prevent the sinusitis from getting severe and to cleanse your sinuses completely. Can you rely on these natural home remedies completely to treat sinusitis ? Answer depends on the severity of your illness. We recommend you to first try these natural remedies / home remedies for sinusitis and if the condition does not improve, seek medical care to avoid any complications.

In my case of severe acute bacterial sinusitis, I had to resort to antibiotics (coupled with antihistamines) for a period of 15 days. It was unavoidable as I was having excruciating pain on the top corner of my eyelids which felt like my eyes are going to die! But in parallel to medications, I kept doing some of the below home remedies to clear up my sinuses completely and to prevent the reoccurence of disease.

No 1 Home Remedy for all types of Sinus Infection - Nasal Irrigation (JalNeti)

This one remedy is the most effective and most widely used by people all over the world to get cured from acute and chronic sinusitis. You can find, on internet, thousands of stories of forgotten sinus, allergy and headache problems with this phenomenal practice.

Jala neti is an ancient Indian yoga technique to cleanse the sinus passages with warm saline water. It solves the sinus infection and allergy problems without the use of drugs with immediate, immense and sustained results AND without side effects. People invariably notice an immediate relief, which drugs fail to achieve.

How to do? - A Neti Pot is filled with warm (How much warm? - just slightly warmer than how warm is your blood or urine when it gushes out), slightly salted water (1 teaspoon per 1/2 litre of water - it should be as salty as your tears) and the spout of the pot is inserted into one nostril. The head is tilted sideways to allow the water to flow out of the other nostril while breathing through the mouth. This procedure is then alternated with the other nostril. That’s it. The water drains out flushing the nasal passages and the linings thoroughly. After these the nostrils are dried out through balasana and bhastrika pranayam.

Points to remember -

  1. If you feel irritation or burning in your nostrils while doing jal neti, either the water is warmer than required or the salt is less than required. Adjust accordingly.

  2. Before changing sides, blow out gently through both nostrils to clear water and mucus from the nose. If you hold one nostril and blow, you run the risk of driving water up into the sinuses.

  3. It should be done regularly once or twice a day to clear up the sinuses and prevent further infections (I followed this even when I was on medications for my severely hurting acute sinusitis)

No 2 Home Remedy for Sinus Infection - Garlic

Garlic is the nature's antibiotic. It is used all around the world for its wonderful medicinal qualities. Garlic produces a chemical called allicin which has powerful antibacterial, antiviral , antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains decongestant and expectorant properties which unclog the sinus cavities and provide relief from the pressure and congestion. Garlic also improves body's immunity which in turn helps further in clearing up your infection. There are 2 ways you can use garlic for your sinusitis -

Garlic Tea
1. Chop Garlic - Take a clove of fresh garlic, peel off its cover and chop in small pieces to release allicin. To maximise the production of allicin, let the chopped garlic sit for 10-15 minutes.
2. Mix it in Boiled Water - Boil a cup of water and take off the burner. Add garlic pieces to this boiled water.
3. Add Lemon or Honey (Optional) - You can add lemon or honey for taste. They will decrease the garlic smell and make the tea taste fresh.

Dosage - 1 clove for one cup of tea. Take 2-3 cups per day on an average. Start with a lower dose initially and increase if your body feels comfortable. Please do not take more than this dose as it might cause serious harms. Spread the dosage throughout the day so that garlic is there in your body consistently. Eg. take 1 cup at breakfast, another at lunch and another at dinner.

Allicin is inactivated by cooking, but chopping and letting the garlic stand for at least 10 minutes before exposing to heat can make allicin more stable and resistant to heat.

Garlic Infused Nasal Rinse / JalNeti
This is Jalneti done with garlic infused saline water. It is not very widely used method but people who have done it find extra-ordinary relief from their stubborn sinusitis. Because of the powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of garlic, this method supercharge the effectiveness of the neti pot. I personally did not have the chance to try it myself as by the time I got to know about it, I was fully cured of my sinusitis. But when I read about it, I felt this should be more widely tried and documented. So here it goes -

  1. Chop Garlic - Take a clove of fresh garlic, peel off its cover and chop in small pieces to release allicin. To maximise the production of allicin, let the chopped garlic sit for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Strain with boiled drinking water - Place the garlic in a strainer. Make sure that NONE of the garlic pieces can fit through the holes in the strainer. You don’t want bits of garlic in your sinuses. Next boil 2-3 glasses of clean drinking water and pour it over the garlic (through the strainer) and into a container. This is called an infusion.
  3. Cool it till lukewarm - When the infusion becomes lukewarm, pour it into your neti pot.
  4. Do jalneti as usual - Add salt (1 teaspoon per 1/2 litre of water - it should be as salty as your tears) and do jalneti as you do with a normal saline water. The only difference now is that water is garlic infused.

No 3 Home Remedy for Sinus Infection - Probiotic in your Nose !

Researchers have found that chronic sinusitis sufferers lack one probiotic (beneficial bacteria) named Lactobacillus sakei. This probiotic has been found to be immensely helpful in curing sinusitis if put into the nostrils.

Lactobacillus sakei is found in some foods such as some brands of live fermented kimchi and people who have dabbed kimchi juice in their nostrils vouch for its effectiveness in curing sinusitis completely.

So here is what you need to do -

  1. Take half a teaspoon of kimchi juice into a small clean bowl.
  2. Dip finger in it and smear it along the insides of one nostril (about 1/2" into the nostril).
  3. Repeat step 2 for other nostril.
  4. Do this several times.