Heal Thy Self!
January 5, 2010 5:26 PM   Subscribe

How can I heal myself of a sinus infection?

I just got over the flu. 1st time having it since I was a kid. Right at the end of it, I felt something funny with my nose. After some google MDing, it's pretty apparent I have some kind of sinus infection. The thing is, I went to my Dr. out of pocket (health insurance from new job hasn't kicked in yet) to determine the flu. I just can't fork up the cash to determine/treat whatever is ailing my nose. This is my 1st ever sinus infection(or whatever it is.) My question is:
What can I do to either heal, get rid of or make more dealable whatever it is in my nose? I've done nasal spray, neti pot, sudafed and advil. What else can I do? I know YANMD. Thanks!
posted by Hydrofiend to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I see that you're in NY- you might call your doctor's office to see if they would prescribe something for the sinus infection. If not, it might be worth the trip anyway. Many of the large drugstores now give away standard antibiotic prescriptions for free. If you get your script filled at one of those, you'd only be paying for the visit.

Other than that, sounds like you're doing everything my doctor just suggested for my latest sinus infection: neti pot, sudafed, advil. Feel better soon!
posted by headspace at 5:31 PM on January 5, 2010

I take sudafed (the one that you have to get from the pharmacist, the pseudoephedrine, not that other crap they're trying to replace it with!) every 4 hours...otherwise, I don't do anything else. I get sinus infections almost every year, and I don't have insurance so I never see a doctor.
I guess the point is...just wait it out?
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 5:34 PM on January 5, 2010

Hot soup, hot water with lemon slices, steam -pour boiling water into a bowl, towel over the head and inhale for 5-10 minutes. Lots & lots of fluids, heating pad applied to the face. Rest as much as you can! This is all what I have been doing, I seem to have acquired one as of Sunday. Most sinus infections will go away on their own. Antibiotics are really not used to treat sinusitis as much any longer.
posted by kellyblah at 5:37 PM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

When I lived in Eastern Europe and was far from medical attention, I made some garlic nose drops when I had really bad sinus troubles. I know this sounds a little like herbal woo woo, and I do encourage you to find a way to see a doctor if possible, but this worked for me.

- macerate a few cloves of garlic
- add distilled water to cover & let sit
- strain out garlic
- "snort" a thimbleful of the water into each nostril

You will feel like your head is going to explode. It's a terrible awful painful feeling. However, it cleared up my sinus troubles in a few days.

Again, first step should be to See A Doctor if at all possible, but you might want to try this.
posted by jessamyn at 5:43 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Advil for the pain and swelling; Neti pot for nasal irrigation, and drink plenty of fluids.
posted by Pineapplicious at 5:53 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

The vast majority of acute sinus infections are viral. Like 80 or 90%. It used to be thought you could tell which you had (virus or bacteria) by the colour of the mucus but current research has shown that doesn't work. Antibiotics are only indicated if it's become a chronic infection or gone on for a significant amount of time (my Dr says ~7 days, webmd agrees), because antibiotics can't do anything to kill a virus. The mayo clinic page is good. So you don't need to rush to a Dr and shouldn't be trying to scrape up an antibiotic prescription just yet, chances are very high this will resolve on it's own.

In the meantime the only thing you can do is get plenty of rest, stay hydrated, eat well, treat the symptoms if necessary (advil/decongestants) and let your body deal with it itself. Additional herbal/homoeopathic/naturopathic woo isn't necessary or useful. Just be sure to follow the instructions for the decongestants really carefully, rebound congestion is hell. I've had several chronic sinus infections so I know how horrible the whole thing is. Take care of yourself!
posted by shelleycat at 5:59 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, I forgot to make it clear. That Mayo Clinic page lists symptoms where you do need to see a Dr. If you fit any of them then please go.
posted by shelleycat at 6:01 PM on January 5, 2010

The mayo clinic has an excellent video explaining how to do nasal irrigation. I'd do nasal irrigation 3 times a day, take sudafed, sleep, and drink a lot of fluid.

Doctors try to avoid overprescribing antibiotics, so most of them won't unless you've had the sinus problem for at least a week. I would spend that week on home remedies, and more than likely you won't have to go to the doctor at all.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:22 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oops, forgot to link to the mayo clinic nasal irrigation video.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:22 PM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Absolutely, positively: nasal irrigation.
posted by dfriedman at 7:46 PM on January 5, 2010

I just got over a sinus infection and used the Neti Pot 2x a day to clear out my nasal passages. When it works well it's quite a relief. During cold and flu season I try to do it at least once a day but of course I get lazy when I'm feeling better.
posted by any major dude at 7:51 PM on January 5, 2010

IANAD but I visited one last week for a sinus infection and here's what she told me:
1. Most sinus infections are viral so antibiotics probably won't help.
2. Most clear up on their own within 7-10 days; if it doesn't or if you have other serious symptoms you should definitely try to see a doc.
3. Nasal irrigation!
4. advil and sudafed. make sure it's the real pseudophedrine.

Good luck. I hope you feel better soon. It sounds like you are doing everything right.
posted by beandip at 7:57 PM on January 5, 2010

I used to have lots of sinus problems. Ever since I've found out about saline mist, I haven't had to buy any sinus medication. Regular saline misting cut the duration of my infections down to a couple of days (they always used to take over a week to clear.) Using it as a preventative every other day during cold and flu season has greatly reduced the number of those type of infections as well.

You can get some 0.9% saline from any drugstore for a few bucks. When you've emptied the mister, keep it and make your own refills with distilled water and sea salt from a reliably clean source. Saves a lot of money.

Note that too much saline (or using it too frequently) can cause burning. I apply a few sniffs, wait a minute, then follow it with several sniffs of distilled water from another mister bottle and a honk into a tissue. Rinsing it out prevents irritation.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 8:25 PM on January 5, 2010

Just thought I should add: After reading jessamyn's comment, it occurred to me that someone unfamiliar with saline (or someone who equates it with salt water irrigation) might be under the impression that saline mist could be painful. It is not at all painful for me, but of course your nose (and mileage) may vary.

I once had to do regular saline irrigation and had the same feeling as jessamyn described - "You will feel like your head is going to explode.." Saline misting isn't at all like that. Painless unless overdone.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 8:38 PM on January 5, 2010

I think the "head explodey" thing is more about the garlic than a mild saline solution.

I've done sinus rinses for a long time. About four years ago I discovered the Neil Med Sinus Rinse Kit. The bottles work great, and they have little pre-made packs of salt-baking soda that you mix with warm water in the bottle.

It's a little weird at first, although if you're already using a neti pot, you're probably going to deal with it just fine.

You might consider using boiled or distilled water for your rinses, just to keep the mix a little cleaner. And try using them warm, that makes it easier to take.

Snorting/spraying the water really works it in and around all the sinus areas, and helps keep them clean and sparkly.
posted by Gorgik at 9:06 PM on January 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

I've done nasal spray, neti pot, sudafed and advil. What else can I do? I know YANMD. Thanks!

Do all that stuff, plus Mucinex. With (this is key) A LOT of water. Thins out the gunk so that it can drain.

I have chronic sinus infection issues. If I'm careful to be diligent with the above regimen, I can turn a sinus infection back around and avoid the worst of it with no need for antibiotics or prednisone 75% of the time.

Head explodey is due to the garlic.
posted by desuetude at 9:35 PM on January 5, 2010

Yoga. Especially the breathing exercises.
posted by snowjoe at 10:15 PM on January 5, 2010

You'll ride it out just fine, assuming you don't also have underlying respiratory illness. If it lasts more than a week, or you ever have a difficult time breathing you could be developing bronchitis or worse. Then you know, go to a dr. Otherwise, I get sinus infections all the time from allergies, so a few tips for you:

Avoid milk products, which thickens your mucus
Enjoy lots of mint tea, menthol cough drops, they will both help to dilate your nasal passages and get stuff running
Take long steamy showers, sit in a steamy bathroom, or put your face over a cup of hot water/soup and throw a blanket over your head.
Eat lots of spicy food, which will also encourage you to drink lots of water, which is good as it'll thin your mucus.
Get real pseudoephedrine, the stuff you have to show your ID to get.
Mucinex is good, but it can dry your lungs out if you're not careful (esp. bad for asthmatics) so drink lots of water.

Bonus fun! In a few days, when all that gunk gets moving (if it's not dried up by drugs), it has two options: out your nose, or down your throat. If it's going down your throat, expect to have a raw and sore throat courtesy of post-nasal drip (that back of the throat tickle that makes you want to cough). Cough drops will help.
posted by fontophilic at 10:49 PM on January 5, 2010

Oh, and sitting in a shower or hot bath is lovely and all, but the towel-over-the-head-over-pot-of-steaming-water is a whole 'nother league. Breathe gently. Take a few minutes to work up to inhaling fully, 'cause you'll be all sensitive. Is marvelous.
posted by desuetude at 11:02 PM on January 5, 2010

Antibiotics are really not used to treat sinusitis as much any longer.

This is very much not true and is potentially dangerously wrong. Christ, people--it's bad enough that you're dispensing medical advice without a degree, but if you really don't know what you're talking about, maybe don't answer the question, eh?

Left untreated, acute sinusitis can permanently damage your sense of smell, cause bone inflammation, and can spill over into infections of your ears, throat or even central nervous system. If your symptoms are mild and haven't been present for more than ten days, then yes, the doctor will probably send you on your way with your neti pot. However, we're obviously not doctors, so if you're experiencing facial pain or a fever, get yourself to the clinic for an evaluation; worst-case, they'll give you a generic amoxicillin or azithromycin, which should be cheap even without insurance. Meanwhile, there's very little evidence to suggest that nasal sprays or zinc treatments or anything else of that ilk reduce duration, but they aren't harmful and might alleviate symptoms. You probably also want to refrain from overusing the decongestants or antihistamines: it's only recommended that you use them for 72 hours, because after that, the snapback effect from stopping can be nasty.
posted by Mayor West at 4:46 AM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! The nasty drainage has begun and my throat hurts but I'm feeling(hoping?) I'm at the end of it all. Thank you for your suggestions. If it persists, even at the level it's at now, after this weekend, I will bite the bullet and go to my Dr.
posted by Hydrofiend at 3:03 PM on January 6, 2010

Gorgik: "I think the "head explodey" thing is more about the garlic than a mild saline solution."

Oh, I remember the pain. But now that I think about it, that pain was probably due to the fact that my mom used plain old chlorinated tap water instead of distilled. Nothing to do with the salt.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 3:37 PM on January 6, 2010

I do sinus rinses occasionally and they're basically not painful but the garlic drops, while I've found them effective, are also fairly excruciating.
posted by jessamyn at 3:46 PM on January 6, 2010

I have to second the comment by Mayor West.

I get three or four sinus infections every year and my doc prescribes antibiotics every time. In '08 he x-rayed my skull (freaky!) and told me that I have "abnormally large" sinus cavities.

I just searched ask.mefi today because I have another sinus infection and it's driving me crazy. This one came with an ear ache for added fun. I guess I'll go with the towel and steaming water trick.

I'd planned on a 5 mile run tonight, and wanted to post a question to see if anyone thought that was balderdash with a sinus infection. But now I think I'll just probably go to bed.
posted by GatorDavid at 5:31 PM on June 10, 2010

Response by poster: Almost a year later but wanted to write my experience for future readers. GO TO A DOCTOR! I went and got antibiotics which cleared it up, mostly. But it was stubborn and had to do a saline mist which knocked it out completely. I was doing all the right things: steam, neti pot, sudafed...etc. But it was the combo of antibiotics and saline mist that killed it. The other stuff helped but only to made it bearable.
posted by Hydrofiend at 6:18 AM on November 15, 2010

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