My sinuses are broken.
August 13, 2010 6:50 AM   Subscribe

Sinus congestion is making me very unhappy. What works for you?

I've had a "cold" for about a week. I've had ear congestion since June to some degree. I'm thinking it's more than the "cold" that the doctor claimed it to be on Monday.
My sinuses feel awful. My ear is crackling and congested. I've been relying on the neti pot with a slightly heavier saline to try to dry it out, and a half dose of sudafed twice a day (sudafed makes me insanely jittery and paranoid). I gave myself a couple doses of nasal spray yesterday because I couldn't take the not being able to breath. I am taking Zyrtec because the doc mentioned (as he was running out of the room) that it was ragweed season. This morning I also decided to see how Mucinex would impact.
I've been washing out mostly prolific amounts of clear stuff with the neti pot, but today... man. I thought Jimmy Hoffa was going to be there. The color and texture have changed to yellow and thicker and more abundant. (Maybe a result of the nasal spray use?)
When I stand, it seems to help...the nasal passages release a little bit. When I use the neti pot, it helps for a while. Sometimes it's so blocked nothing goes through though.
I had a major crying fit last night (another thread for another time) and it seems to be much worse today, if that's possible.
I'm frankly miserable. I can't afford to keep going to the doctor.
Any thoughts as to what might help?
posted by littleflowers to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You now have a sinus infection and you really should get some antibiotics. I tried OTC and nothing helped, waited too long and I ended up with a severe sinus infection with fever, etc. So, back to the doctor with you and hopefully he will also give you a decongestant along with the antibiotics.
posted by govtdrone at 7:00 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does your face hurt when you bend over at the waist? Does it hurt to press on your sinus area? If so, you may have a sinus infection.

And is there any way you can change doctors or see someone else in the practice? Sounds like yours doesn't have time for you - he mentioned ragweed season as he was running out the door and you've had congestion since June? IF you have a sinus infection, you'll need antibiotics. And if you've had congestion since June, I'd think about asking the doctor's opinion (a different doctor, mind you) about possible allergies.

One last thing: I've always noticed a marked increase in congestion and general snot production after I've had a good cry.
posted by cooker girl at 7:02 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am not your doctor, or even a doctor, but I do have really screwed-up sinuses. Don't take what I'm about to say as gospel, but certainly consider it.

Yellow, thick mucus usually means you have a secondary bacterial infection in your sinuses (If it turns bright green, that means it's gotten really bad). You had a cold, sinus congestion, which meant that the inside of your head was moist and full of mucus, a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Sometimes these go away a little while after the cold (virus) goes away, but in your case it seems like you might need antibiotics. If you can't afford the doctor, perhaps you could see a nurse practitioner or someone at one of those CVS clinics, who can prescribe antibiotics. They do this after testing a sample of mucus for bacteria, so you can know you're not taking antibiotics for no reason and helping create drug-resistant germs.

The above scenario used to happen to me literally every time I got a cold. I saw a ear/nose/throat specialist, and what he would do if the sinus infection was really bad was prescribe prednisone, a synthetic steroid, along with the antibiotic and a high prescription dose of pseudoephedrine (active ingredient in sudafed). This would always clear it up. Eventually, I got surgery, so now this rarely happens.
posted by vogon_poet at 7:03 AM on August 13, 2010

Sounds like the classic symptoms of a sinus infection. Go back to the doctor ASAP so he can get you started on antibiotics.
posted by schmod at 7:05 AM on August 13, 2010

Response by poster: I should mention I did suggest to the doctor that it felt like a sinus infection. He asked about fever, and I don't have one. He nixed that idea. My face hurts (I's killing you, right???) and I don't have to press on it.

I know I need to go back, and probably to a specialist. My questions is more as to what I can do until that time. No way to leave work today, so don't want to suffer more than necessary.

Thanks for the kind help.
posted by littleflowers at 7:06 AM on August 13, 2010

You might work on clearing your upper sinuses too. I can get amazing relief by standing in a hot shower for ten minutes and then pressing and tapping (seriously!):

-the area of my forehead right between my eyes and right above the bridge of my nose

-the areas under my eye sockets just next to my nose

It's important for me to also do drawing action or whatever you'd call it-- however you normally try to affect the pressure inside your head to clear junk out of it. So tap and rub those parts of your face (as hard as you can stand) while making disgusting noises.

I've also done this with several menthol cough drops in my mouth (still in the shower), but I can't remember if this worked better or was just an idea that I was excited about and made no difference. Worth a shot. Try and do some vigorous exercise beforehand if you can.

I've seen some pretty evil stuff come out of my head doing that. The best part is that you can just spit it out into the shower drain.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:09 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lots of great ideas here already, and I'd definitely at least call the doctor's office and mention you were seen but that now you have the additional symptom of discolored mucus. Several things that have helped me are: drops of eucalyptus oil on the shower wall during a warm shower, drinking Tazo Black Iced Tea from Starbucks (has some kind of citrus that seems to open my sinuses), hot tea with lemon, and, once it was suggested to me by a Doctor: blowing up balloons to supposedly keep the eustachian tubes of the ears clear. Crying definitely doesn't help congestion.

Hope you feel better soon.
posted by Leah at 7:20 AM on August 13, 2010

Lots of hot steamy showers, blowing your nose in the shower.

Lots of steam + eucalyptus inhalations.

And, yes, back to the GP as soon as possible - it definitely sounds like a sinus infection (and I know what they're like, I had two sinus infections this year), so you will need antibiotics.
posted by Year of meteors at 7:26 AM on August 13, 2010

I recently survived a bout of what you're going through (so I really, really feel your pain) and used similar treatments. I was also fever-free and had to beg my doctor for a prescription.

I got put on Zithromax and Flonase and felt better within 36 hours. I've never used Flonase before, but it seems to be keeping the allergy symptoms away, 2 weeks after treatment.
posted by dzaz at 7:32 AM on August 13, 2010

Mucinex is only good if you are drinking a load of water. While you're at it, if you don't like straight sudafed, try Mucinex-D for the double whammy of expectorant plus pseudephedrine.

Hot shower. My Eustachian tubes get all gummed up when I"m like that, so a hot compress on the ear sometimes helps, but also having someone firmly massage my neck and behind my ears feels so, so good at that point.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:32 AM on August 13, 2010

Put a warm washcloth over your sinus area and tilt your head back. It'll soften the mucus and help it to flow away. Massaging your face can help, too. Eating spicy foods can get everything moving and help push clear mucus through the infected stuff. Drink plenty of liquids to keep breaking it up.

As strange as it may seem, work on not blowing your nose. It just makes it worse.

And, when you have time, go to a different doctor - sinus infection isn't normally directly contraindicated by fever, so it seems odd that would have been the determining factor.
posted by batmonkey at 7:36 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've had these problems for years, living, as I do, in one of the world capitals for sinus problems (lots of pollen, lots of humidity).

Do get some antibiotics. Sinus infections can last FOREVER unless something kills the bacteria, which can lurk even when your symptoms are better. Take more than one course of antibiotics if you think the infection may not be totally eradicated. I'm not sure that fever is always present in the case of a sinus infection, especially a low-grade one. Lean on your doctor for something that will kill the bacteria in your sinuses. Describing your symptoms might work to convince him and, since you were just there for the problems you have, call and ask his nurse whether he might call in a prescription for you now. My doctor does this and it doesn't cost extra.

Eat something really hot, like Mexican food. If you can stand to eat a jalapeno pepper or something similar, do so.

Use a plastic syringe to squirt saline solution up your nose. I advise doing this over a bathroom sink or in a shower. You can buy these syringes online and elsewhere; I use the Nasaline irrigation system. I think this is superior to the neti pot, but maybe you know how to use the neti better than I do.

For the pain, use a big zipper plastic bag with coarsely crushed ice. Lie down and fit the bag over your whole face. Ice is colder than gel packs, but they work, too. This shrinks the swelling in your sinuses. Follow with steaming in a hot shower to eliminate as much mucus as you can. Repeat as necessary.

If you have access to a steam room, use it. Maybe you can join a fitness center or visit one for the purpose of steaming yourself thoroughly. Alternately, put a big pot of water on the stove and breathe the steam--careful not to get too close. Use a towel over your head to capture the steam.

Hope you feel better!
posted by Jenna Brown at 7:40 AM on August 13, 2010

Do you live near the coast? I have gummed up sinuses too, most of the time, and I think the best thing to clear them out is to go swimming in salt water for a little while.
posted by Aizkolari at 7:48 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

The only thing that worked for my month long sinus infection was the OTC stuff that you have to sign for at the drug store like Sudafed (which you say makes you jittery).

You may want to try a sinus rinse. I received a free starter kit from NeliMed .
When I had a little sinus pressure with my last cold, this helped. You can buy a kit at Walgreens or something. They seem kind of ridiculous and weird - but they're easy and it doesn't hurt or anything. Just follow the directions. And it's very safe.

Another thing that helped a little bit (but not as much as the above) was Afrin spray and my roommates Vicks humidifier.
posted by KogeLiz at 7:56 AM on August 13, 2010

Also, antibiotics didn't help me probably because the infection wasn't caused by bacteria but a virus instead (which my doctor said was the majority of sinus infections)
posted by KogeLiz at 7:57 AM on August 13, 2010

I just went through a very similar 3-month sinus hell. My GP doc originally started me on antibiotics, but they really didn't do much for the congested, crackling ears. What you have is eustacian tube disfunction.

My GP sent me to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doc and he was able to fix me... in about 10 minutes.

What he did was laid me on my side, put a few drops of local anesthetic in my bad ear, and then made a TINY incision in my eardrum. It was like he lanced a boil or something -- lots of nasty pus and mucus poured out from behind the eardrum, but it was instant relief. He then put in a tiny vacuum and sucked out more. This procedure involved absolutely NO pain. For the next few days I was instructed to plug my nose and lightly blow out the rest of the bad stuff, and within a week the incision healed.

When I returned to my follow-up a few weeks later, I was feeling about 80% back to normal but still a little muffling in my ear. He then gave me a 10-day course of Prednisone, and within HOURS I was 100% and have been since.

Go to an ENT and get that eardrum lanced! You'll feel better immediately because that suction that's pulling on your eardrum will be released.
posted by PSB at 7:59 AM on August 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

I had a similar thing to PSB. Rounds and rounds of abx, to no avail. Got so bad that I laid in bed for three days until my aunt dragged me to a clinic where an otolaryngology resident was working.

He irrigated my bad ear, and nothing happened. I wanted to cry. Then, he used a different type of instrument, and suddenly (this is so gross, sorry) a ball of earwax bigger than a marble literally popped out of my ear. (He said I'd likely had a tiny foreign body in my ear, or maybe a scrap of a virus, and this was what my body did in response.) I tilted my head, and tons of gross shit flowed out of my ear. I sat up, and I had to blow my nose like never before in my life. I sat there and emptied half a box of tissues. And then, after 6 weeks of misery, I was fine.

I walked out the door a new woman.
posted by Leta at 9:04 AM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Leta: the thing is, the eardrum separates the outer and inner ear. If you had an earwax issue, it would have nothing to do with your sinuses / eustacian tube. Just sayin'.
posted by PSB at 9:08 AM on August 13, 2010

Response by poster: Jenna Brown: STEAM ROOM! How could I ever forget this! I'm going after work.
Aizkolari: Yes, about 30 minutes from the ocean, and wanted to go tomorrow anyway. I can see how that would help. Say a prayer there are no jellyfish.

PSB and Leta : That sounds like heaven to me. HEAVEN. Truly. (And don't worry about the gross factor. I have an eleven year old son. Nothing is too gross or off limits.)

I am drinking TONS of water...going to the bathroom at least every 90 minutes.

You've definitely convinced me to go back to the doctor and demand aggressive treatment. Thank you all!
posted by littleflowers at 9:15 AM on August 13, 2010

Response by poster: I'm also planning on sushi for dinner with extra wasabi. I'd like to put wasabi directly into my sinuses at this point, honestly.
posted by littleflowers at 9:18 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Have you had your mucus cultured? It's cheap.

I had what I thought was my annual minor sinus infection. I limped around for a month before the rest of my body went haywire.

What I had was a great big scary systemic and contagious staph infection when it got into my blood via some shaving cuts under my nose.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 5:19 PM on August 13, 2010

go to a different doctor. I went through two rounds of abx with one dr (clinic), then, still really sick, went to my regular doc who said, "gee, those were not the appropriate abx for this type of infection." gave me huge course of augmentin (YMMV) and I am finally almost better (with 4 days left of my pills).
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:00 PM on August 13, 2010

Response by poster: Went back to the doc today and have zithromax. That generally does it, but I may still follow up wth the ENT. Your help was invaluable!
posted by littleflowers at 2:32 PM on August 14, 2010

I'm coming in way late, but this post has helped me stop the 6-10 sinus infections I used to get every year. (Until I went out of town for 5 days then came home with the worst infection ever, because I forgot to do what was suggested.)
posted by getawaysticks at 5:22 AM on August 17, 2010's product WORKS. FAST. I sometimes get sore throats from the immediate drainage.

It's scary, and hurts for a few seconds the first coupla times you inhale the capsaicin-laced spray, but only for a few seconds, and only the first few times. After that, it's "WOW... HRMM... OK" (like getting whalloped with a hard pillow - completely attention-grabbing, but not painful).
posted by IAmBroom at 10:30 AM on August 18, 2010

« Older Incurring charges on lost or stolen phones   |   Has anyone tried immunotherapy for chronic... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.