I would like to be minus a sinus condition
March 18, 2013 7:17 AM   Subscribe

Sinus sufferers of MeFi, what in your experience is the most effective over-the-counter sinus medication? I do not have some extreme sinus condition, but I am very tired of feeling stuffy all the time and blowing my nose ten to fifteen times a day. The meds must be available in Canada.
posted by orange swan to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Check your diet for low grade allergens? Seriously, that was my problem.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:24 AM on March 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

Yeah, rule out allergies first.

After that - a neti pot. Or, even better, a sinus rinse thing - I found it was easier to use.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:29 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Must it be available over the counter? I tried five or six different medications for my chronically stuffy nose (like yours, not life-ending pain or anything—I just didn't usually have a very useful sense of smell, and sometimes I got headaches.)

Pseudoephedrine/Sudafed tablets are typically effective for me, but here in the US you have to buy them from behind the pharmacy counter, which is annoying. I use a nasal antihistamine spray called Astelin, which is prescription only, but it works like magic. I carry it in my bag, and probably use it twice a week when my nose is bad, once a month when it's not. The worst part is trying to find a public bathroom where you can shove a sprayer thing up your nose without feeling like a weirdo.
posted by aaronbeekay at 7:29 AM on March 18, 2013

Oh, and I didn't think my sinus issues were allergy-related, so I was surprised when my doctor gave me the Astelin. I even went to an allergist and was tested for my allergies, which revealed nothing except a mild dust mite allergy. But the Astelin still does wonders.
posted by aaronbeekay at 7:31 AM on March 18, 2013

For immediate temporary relief I use a mint massage oil or cream dabbed at my ears and under my chin (under my nose if it's not chapped there). In a pinch, mint lip gloss/balm helps.
posted by tilde at 7:43 AM on March 18, 2013

If it's not allergy related, I've had a lot of success this winter with generic guaifenesin pills from Shoppers. I forget what it's called at Shoppers specifically, but it's their mucous relief product. I like it because it mobilizes the gunk, allows me to blow my nose and get on with my day. It also doesn't knock me on my ass like some of the other cold medicine formulations.

Guaifenesin is the drug sold in the US as Mucinex, which you'll often see recommended online, though it isn't sold in Canada. The generics work just as well, in my experience.
posted by bonehead at 7:43 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Dye free Benadryl helps with minor issues and the occasional low grade migraine; Claritin D sometimes impacts my actual allergy symptoms and sinus pressure and pain; and then saline sprays sometimes clear out the weird stuff that lingers.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 7:54 AM on March 18, 2013

I have use a neti pot every morning to flush out the crud. For the sinus pressure/pain I find Excedrin Sinus Headache to be be MARVELOUS, but I am not sure if that formula is available in Canada.
posted by Young Kullervo at 8:12 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sudafed and then a nasal rinse (Neti pot) when it kicks in.
posted by HMSSM at 8:22 AM on March 18, 2013

Don't use a neti pot. See my answer here.

Here's what fixed a lifetime of nasal suffering for me:

1. Dumping dairy and most cereals from my diet. Seriously.

2. Correcting a vitamin D deficiency (I'm in Canada too, and I can tell you that vitamin D deficiency is a serious problem in this country). People argue that colds and sinus problems are a bigger problem in the winter because we're indoors all the time. That may be true, but I'm willing to bet it's the steep decline in vitamin D levels that being in indoors all the time causes which is mostly responsible. I've done monitoring over a year, and my levels drop precipitously by mid-October, even if I am nicely sufficient at the start of September. That drop also coincides with an increase in colds and congestion. Supplementation sufficient to correct bring levels to summer levels (that part is key) was what helped the most.

Decongestants (been there!) give meagre, very unsatisfying and very temporary relief. Do you feel better in the summer? It's not just the sunlight :)
posted by rhombus at 8:27 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

I use a neti pot every morning and take cetirizine every day. Prior to starting this regimen (5+ years ago now) I would get 6-8 sinus infections per year. Now I get maybe 2 a year. Austin is well known for having one continuous allergy season.

Allergy medications seem to be very individual -- Claritin (loratidine) does nothing for me, cetirizine does nothing for my mom.

I'm uncomfortable if I don't do the neti pot in the morning.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:39 AM on March 18, 2013

NeilMed Sinus Rinse, as EmpressCallipygos mentioned above. As someone with lifelong sinus congestion problems, this thing has changed my life. It's also cut down the duration of colds -- that horrible final lingering postnasal drip, constant coughing phase -- from weeks to days. Unlike with nasal sprays, there is no rebound. It is possible to overuse it, however, so I only use it during the worst of pollen season, and when I'm actively experiencing sinus discomfort.

Diet is also a big factor for me -- I've never been tested for food allergies, but some foods produce such an immediate and strong reaction that it's pretty obvious that they don't agree with me. Dairy -- not so much cheese and yogurt, for some reason, but definitely things like ice cream and milk/cream, and orange/grapefruit juice. While the sinus rinse helps me immensely when I'm having sinus trouble, the changes in my diet have been even more effective overall, in significantly reducing the need for sinus relief in the first place.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 8:47 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is it inflammation of the sinus walls that are restricting airflow? Because I suffered with that for years. I went to ENTs who ordered cat scans and stuck cameras through my nose. In the end, I discovered simply using Afrin or a similar OTC spray fixed it, but it was very temporary and there was the risk of worse rebound congestion.

I saw a general practitioner who prescribed me Azelastine Hydrochloride spray and Fluticasone Propionate spray. Magically, everything was 100% better. Now I wonder why I went so long without these sprays and why specialists couldn't see the obvious. I don't have any problems anymore, unless I skip the sprays for too long. For perspective, I used to go through a tissue box per week and constantly wake up in the middle of the night unable to breath through my nose. Tell a GP about it and get some nasal sprays.

I'd be wary of self-diagnosing as your sinuses unless you're sure. Could be rhinitis.
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:50 AM on March 18, 2013

Get yourself a sinus rinse! Do not use tap water for this, use distilled water.

Respectfully, I don't think rhombus's answer is really relating to using a sinus rinse, the article linked is about blowing your nose. For whatever it's worth, I've had terrible sinus issues for years, and my ENT advises against constant nose-blowing for the very reasons in the NYT article, but suggests a sinus rinse and saline spray, which looses the mucus without the pressure.

If you are constantly congested, consider seeing a doctor to rule out allergies. Relief might be as simple as a steroid nosespray.
posted by inertia at 8:51 AM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh, and for what it's worth, as a P.S. to my post above, I tried a whole bunch of OTC oral allergy meds and they didn't help. I used a neti bottle and found it could lessen the severity of my allergies and, well, it just felt nice to clear things out. But it definitely did not fix the problem. Those nasal sprays were the only thing that really worked.
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:57 AM on March 18, 2013

Nthing the neti pot with distilled water. I use a baking soda/plain non-iodized salt water rinse, with a teeny bit of baby shampoo when things are really not moving (supposedly helps with biofilms).

Also, drinking more water and using a humidifier helps too.

Real pseudophed (the 24-hour time release generic claritin-D works well for me, but paperwork is involved), not for the Claritin, but for the pseudophed. Allegra (which is now available generic) works well.

If none of that works, you can get a prescription for a nasal nebulizer, which you can use with plain saline or some combination of steroid spray/antibiotic.
posted by answergrape at 9:00 AM on March 18, 2013

I enthusiastically nth investigating dietary issues. I spent years trying almost everything mentioned in this thread, not until I tried eliminating grains and dairy did my sinuses clear up. If I break down and have a slice of pizza, my sinuses are filled within minutes. Sad but true.
posted by HotToddy at 9:10 AM on March 18, 2013

I was tested for allergies years ago, and besides some environmental allergies such as dust and mould and cigarette smoke (who isn't allergic to those!) I also tested as allergic to dairy, chocolate and melons. I cut the first two out of my diet for three weeks (I hate melons anyway and never ate them) and never noticed any difference. So I don't think it's dairy or chocolate.
posted by orange swan at 9:17 AM on March 18, 2013

Another thought - I can get stuffy if the air is especially dry in winter; if my sinuses start drying out, my mucosa will start cranking up slime production to compensate. To fight that, I run a vaporizer in my room at night when i need it, and during the day (in my sterile, insulated, dry-air office) I have some saline gel nasal spray. Both of these things are available over the counter.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:23 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

NeilMed, NeilMed, NeilMed. Beloved of every ENT in the greater Boston area, including those who teach at the Harvard and Tufts med schools. NeilMed. Boil your water, though.

Humidifier and intra nasal moisturizer.

Find the OTC antihistamine that works best for you. Zyrtec is mine; my husband's is Benadryl; my brother's is Allegra.

Avoid histaminic foods and drinks when you're already in a histamine reaction. Red wine is one that I love but have to skip when my sinuses are crabby.

Maybe go back to an allergist when you can, either for shots or for a prescription nasal spray.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:02 AM on March 18, 2013

orange swan, I was tested for allergies too and I wasn't extremely allergic to anything. I showed moderate to light allergies for dustmites and ragweed. And yet the nasal antihistamine spray fixed my congestion completely. It definitely seems to be a volume issue -- I lived in an area that got a LOT of those seasonal allergies you referred to (weather.com actually has a daily allergen index to see how much is in the air where you live). I wouldn't assume that just because you had an allergy test done, you know if sprays for allergies will help you or not.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:37 AM on March 18, 2013

Don't take any topical nasal medicated congestion relief - ie nasal spray. They open up the airways for five hours or so but irritate them in the process causing you to need the spray even more. And when I say need the spray I mean NEED it. It's a goddamn addiction. You cannot breathe through your nose without them.

I became hooked on Vick's spray during a cold I weaned myself off after about a year with the help of decongestant pills. When I told my GP that I'd done this she said it was tougher than coming off heroin because you are physically addicted. She may have been exaggerating.

Look into all other areas - allergies, diet, giving up smoking etc. These helped me but what finally fixed things was surgery. A broken nose while I was a teen had led to a deviated septum which in itself caused turbulence further up in the nose where all the congestion happened.
posted by Brian Lux at 11:08 AM on March 18, 2013

Sinus sufferers of MeFi, what in your experience is the most effective over-the-counter sinus medication?

Sudafed, the kind you can make meth out of. I have no idea if you can get it in Canada, but if what you want is an actual OTC medication, that stuff is the bomb.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:40 PM on March 18, 2013

Seconding rhombus- I have tried the Neti pot and had very bad experiences (infections). I have never been tested for allergies, but I've probably developed them lately (I'm 46). I do not omit anything from my diet, and am pretty sure my sinus problems stem from the prodigious amounts of pollen emitted by the Scotch Pines behind my house. Best relief for me? Swim in the ocean. Close second? Saline nasal spray. Also good? Leaving the heat off when I sleep, opening a window. Sub-optimal? Medicated nasal sprays, whether OTC or prescription- headaches, drowsiness etc. I will be investigating a Vitamin D supplement.....
posted by ergomatic at 7:41 PM on March 18, 2013

Sinusbuster. It's essentially diluted capsaicin oil that you squirt up each nostril, and the first few seconds of the first few uses hurt exactly as much as you are imagining... and then the pain goes away (although it continues to be a WTF!!! moment, like eating too much wasabi).

It will clear your sinuses so fast you may get a raw throat from the drainage. Seriously: works in seconds.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:23 AM on March 19, 2013

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