How can I clear my sinus problem?
April 27, 2007 5:36 AM   Subscribe

Help me breathe! The older I get, the more sinus trouble I have. Almost every morning I wake up with a semi-headache because one of my nasal passages is entirely blocked. This isn't a seasonal thing, nor does it seem to be allergy-related. During the day it clears up, but at night, I must depend upon nasal spray (the kind you're not supposed to use too consistently). Should I take the plunge and go see a doctor? Or is there some miracle drug I can get over the counter?
posted by jackypaper to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You've probably already thought of this, but the first thing I'd think of is dust mites in my pillow/mattress. Have you tried other sleeping conditions?
posted by DU at 5:52 AM on April 27, 2007

If you're using Neo-Synephrine, you should know that regular usage of it causes rebound congestion. Some more modern decongestants (e.g. oxymetazoline) are much less prone to that and work for longer periods of time.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:55 AM on April 27, 2007

I must depend upon nasal spray (the kind you're not supposed to use too consistently)

Are you talking about afrin? The reason you're not supposed to use it for extended periods is because doing so can result in the sorts of symptoms you seem to have.

It's time to visit a physician.
posted by grouse at 5:57 AM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Have you considered a neti pot? Though it's more of a maintenance thing, not really a cure.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:00 AM on April 27, 2007

Sometimes I wake up with one side of my nose blocked up... the thing that's always helped is flipping over and laying on the other side. Maybe you don't turn (enough) in your sleep? Or maybe putting your head at a different angle would help?
posted by anaelith at 6:17 AM on April 27, 2007

This may be a long shot, but what about your diet?

I ask because of my experience - when I switched from semi-crazy vegetarian to full-blown-insane vegan, my sinus problems largely subsided. I later dropped all caffeine from my diet, and my sinus problems pretty much disappeared.

If you're suffering and have tried everything else, why not give it a shot? It's probably the smallest reason for going vegan (or at least cutting out dairy products) or eliminating caffeine, but hopefully it can help you.
posted by gaiamark at 6:19 AM on April 27, 2007

If you're suffering and have tried everything else...

The OP hasn't tried everything else, so a radical diet change at this point really would be "full-blown-insane." He hasn't even visited a medical professional yet about this. If the problem has been caused by overuse of nasal sprays, he may need treatment, and not of the "stop eating eggs and milk" variety.
posted by grouse at 6:32 AM on April 27, 2007

I second a neti pot (I have one!). Just remember to do it about an hour before you go to bed (not right before) otherwise you'll get it running down your throat. yuck.

My uncle has started taking dosages of noni juice (available at whole foods/earthfare/natural food stores) instead of allergy pills and it has worked tremendously for him. I still take a lot of allergy pills, and am thinking of changing to this remedy.
posted by ijoyner at 6:40 AM on April 27, 2007

I've tried the rest (including neti pot, Claritin, etc.), and Flonase is the best. YMMV.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 6:41 AM on April 27, 2007

For about 15 years I had cronic sinus problems. I did all (doctors, sprays, claritin, neti pot) but it was only went to an accupuncturist that things got better. After 6 months (about 10 visits) and changing my diet (cutting out milk, eating more vegetables) I have been problem free for over a year. The only remedy that I have kept up with is infrequent use of the neti pot.
posted by batboy at 6:58 AM on April 27, 2007

I've had a lifetime of sinus trouble, and I use a "high volume nasal irrigator" which is essential a Westernized neti pot.
posted by adamwolf at 7:04 AM on April 27, 2007

I'll second the neti pot suggestion and loudly echo batboy's comment about cutting out milk. Dairy is notorious for creating sinus problems and phlegm. After suffering asthma and allergies for years, a trip to a naturopath led me to food allergy testing. The whey in dairy was a major culprit for me...I cut it almost entirely out of my diet and, stunner of stunners, my asthma and allergies almost entirely went away. I'm now off all meds, including nasal inhalers. If you can find a naturopath near you, I recommend a visit.
posted by tamjl at 7:31 AM on April 27, 2007

Of course you should see a doctor! My father had daily sinus congestions and runny noses that didn't respond to medicine, neti pots, or anything. Finally, he went to a doctor, who sent him to an ENT and an allergist - they found that he had developed allergies to pretty much everything (the runny nose), and that he had developed nasal polyps that had to be surgically removed. Afterwards, he could finally breathe clearly.

In other words, if you're taking afrin or other nasal sprays for more than 3 days, of course you should go to a doctor.
posted by muddgirl at 8:01 AM on April 27, 2007

Hi Jackypaper,

I, too, suffer from near constant congestion. I made the unfortunate mistake of self-treating with psuedoephedrine/allergy tablets (Reactine Sinus), and while this helped, it also had the same effect as the over the counter inhalers do, in that over long periods of time, it actually perpetuated the problem. Not to mention, your body adjusts to these things and causes you to require a higher and higher dosage as time goes on. I gradually reduced and quit the medicine almost completely, and now the problem seems much better. But anyway, yes, go see a doctor, and be aware that he or she may suggest either sinus surgery for a deviated septum (extremely painful but effective for those suffering long term congestion, apparently) or the use of a steroidal inhaler, which won't give you the same issues with perpetuation of the problem. You may also want to see an allergist about getting shots on a regular basis. While painful and annoying, this remedy has worked for my family members, all of whom share this problem with me.
posted by Lieber Frau at 8:08 AM on April 27, 2007

have had horrible sinus problems for 2 years and have been on antibiotics for infections, other meds, etc... But I have been using a neti pot in the morning and before bed almost every day for a few months and even with allergy season I have been pretty good. Somedays I need a bit of a nasal spray midday, but I am breathing clearer then I have in a long time.
posted by jeffe at 8:12 AM on April 27, 2007

Another cause of recurrent nasal congestion, oddly enough, is GERD. You might want to try an over-the-counter acid reflux medication for a couple of weeks to see how it goes, particularly if you also have a problem with chronic indigestion, heartburn, or similar symptoms.
posted by solid-one-love at 8:20 AM on April 27, 2007

Nth the neti pot and cut out all dairy advice.....makes a huge difference, is cheap and perfectly safe.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:14 AM on April 27, 2007

I have sinus trouble pretty frequently.

The anti-inflammatory effects of Omega-3 fatty acids have helped me quite a bit with my sinus trouble.
posted by jason's_planet at 9:34 AM on April 27, 2007

Are you sure you don't suffer from sleep apnoea? If you're overweight, snore and wake up with headaches, then sleep apnoea is possible.
posted by humblepigeon at 9:52 AM on April 27, 2007

Have you tried Breathe-Right strips?
I had similar issues. Breathe-Right strips made them go away (and I actually started -bouncing- out of bad rather then the painful oozing out bed that I was accustomed to!)
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:58 AM on April 27, 2007

Get referred to an ENT Specialist - they'll be able to clear it up immediately.

If you do have polyps or sinusitis, the procedures are easiest with early diagnosis - it may even be possible to clear them up non-surgically with oral or nasal steroids.

Like dental problems, nasal issues are usually simple (ie. in office or perscription) fixes if caught early, and expensive, complex, hospital-type fixes if left too long. You don't get any points for "toughing it out."

Having experienced both extremes personally, I recommend aggressively pursuing a professional medical diagnosis in the interests of early detection.
posted by Crosius at 10:43 AM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

I had a blocked nose for about 2 years day and night. It was a dust allergy and it only got better when I started using dust mite proof bed linen such as here
posted by criticalbill at 3:00 PM on April 27, 2007

Many of the posters above have concentrated on treating the symptoms but you really do need to look at what is causing the symptoms in the first place. I can say with a great deal of authority having tried every form of treatment possible that none of this will help you unless you find out the "Why".

See a doctor first about your medication because your continual use of nasal spray is a concern. As people have pointed out, it's probably causing many of your symptoms now. It really should be a "last resort" medication only.

Then, get a referral to the Ear-Nose-Throat specialist. They will do an inspection for polyps etc and run tests. They may prescribe some scary antibiotics or steroid sprays to help you in the interim.

In the mean time, take a good look at your environment. Do you have carpet in your home, in your bedroom? Do you have a lot of soft furnishings - curtains, pillows, wall-hangings, pictures, toys etc. Even if they are regularly cleaned, they will still harbour dust-mites and collect dust and pollen.

Do what I did and take everything out of your bedroom bar the bed. Change curtains to wooden blinds and get a specialist duster for them. Get rid of the rugs, extra pillows and flounces. If you have carpet, get it steam-cleaned on a very regular basis (consider floor boards - they really can help). Air your mattress outside in the sun and use pillows that can either be washed or have a mite-proof cover. Change your bedlinen frequently and use a low-allergen washing powder.

All of this is a pain in the arse but it will help and you just don't realise how much sleep you've been missing until you have your first really good night in ages.
posted by ninazer0 at 6:08 PM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

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