Home Remedies for Sinus Infections

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If you suffer from sinus infections, you are far from alone. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation, sinusitis affects about one in eight adults in the United States, resulting in more than 30 million annual diagnoses. A startling one in five antibiotics prescribed for adults is intended to treat sinus infections.

The pain and pressure that accompany a sinus infection can be extremely uncomfortable. Though you might not usually give your sinuses much thought, when these air-filled pockets in your face begin to fill with fluid, they may quickly become all you can focus on.

The more intense the suffering, the more you may feel like you would do just about anything to get relief. Many people turn to home remedies to alleviate symptoms and help a sinus infection resolve.

The question is, of course, do these remedies really work—and are they safe? Here is a look at common home treatments for sinus infections, and whether or not experts say they are worth a try.

Causes of Sinus Infections

Most sinus infections are caused by viruses, while others are the result of an overgrowth of bacteria. Less commonly, some sinusitis cases are caused by a fungal infection. When a virus or bacteria sets up shop in your sinuses, it creates inflammation and a build-up of excess fluid—hence the feeling of pressure most people experience.

Seasonal allergies, repeated colds, asthma, nasal polyps or tumors, and structural problems within your sinuses can put you at risk of developing sinusitis. Healthcare professionals differentiate between acute and chronic sinusitis, depending on how long a person has experienced symptoms.

“Sinusitis is classified by duration as acute when symptoms last for less than four weeks, or chronic when symptoms last more than 12 weeks,” explains otolaryngologist Ryan Vaughn, MD.

Home Remedies for Sinus Infections

Regardless of how long you have been suffering, you may benefit from at-home treatments. If you are looking for a simple way to get relief, ear, nose, and throat specialists often recommend the following home remedies.

Drink Plenty of Fluids

Getting plenty of fluids is a good idea almost any time—but especially when dealing with a sinus infection. Try keeping tabs on your fluid intake with an app or a hydration-tracking water bottle. And don’t forget that many foods, such as soups, popsicles, and smoothies can add to your overall hydration.

“Drinking lots of water and other fluids lubricates the sinuses and keeps the skin hydrated,” says otolaryngology specialist Rudolf Probst, MD. “By staying hydrated, the mucus inside our nose stays thin and moist, allowing the cilia to push out bacteria and viruses—thus preventing sinus infection. It also relieves pain and symptoms of sinus congestion.”

Alternate Warm and Cold Compresses

Rotating warm and cold compresses on your sinuses is another remedy worth exploring, says Dr. Probst.

“When you put a hot compress on your sinuses, it helps warm the nasal passage and loosens secretions,” he says. “Alternating warm and cold compresses relieve sinus pain and sinus pressure.”

Start by laying a warm compress—such as a washcloth soaked in warm water, then wrung out—on your face for 30 seconds to 3 minutes. Follow by applying a cold compress for 30 seconds. Repeat three or four times. You can try this process several times a day.

Use a Humidifier

When the discomfort of sinus pressure is getting you down, it may be time to haul out the humidifier. Keep a warm mist humidifier on a sturdy, flat surface close to your bed at night. By morning you may experience some relief.

“Using a humidifier helps thin mucus and drain your sinuses,” says Dr. Probst.

Irrigate Your Sinuses

Though a neti pot—a small pot used to flush the nasal passages—has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, it has only gained popularity in the West in the last couple of decades. This natural treatment involves pouring a warm, sterile saltwater solution into one nostril with your head tilted to one side, allowing the water to flow out the opposite nostril.

Many people find this process clears mucus and debris, bringing significant relief from sinusitis symptoms. An older study in the journal American Family Physician found that nasal irrigation was an effective adjunctive therapy for treating symptoms of chronic rhinosinusitis.

Try a Steam Session

Always wished your house had a sauna? A sinus infection is a good reason to create a mini DIY version. Directly inhaling steam has similar effects to running a humidifier—and may provide more immediate relief.

“Steam helps relieve congestion by loosening mucus,” Dr. Probst explains. “Add menthol, camphor, or eucalyptus oils to steaming water. Put a towel over your head so that it falls along the sides of the bowl, trapping the steam inside. Stay until the steam dissipates.”

Sip a Bowl of Chicken Soup

The old advice to treat colds and respiratory illnesses with a bowl of chicken soup is not just folklore. In fact, an older study from 2000 found that chicken soup altered the activity of white blood cells, creating an anti-inflammatory effect in the upper respiratory tract.

“Chicken soup reduces inflammation associated with sinus congestion and colds,” says Dr. Probst.

You can increase the anti-inflammatory effect of soup by including plenty of nutritious vegetables like carrots, celery, or sweet potatoes.

When to See a Doctor

With a little luck, your sinus infection will respond well to at-home remedies. But some cases may be more intractable than others. Rather than white-knuckle through the unpleasantness of sinusitis pain and pressure, Dr. Vaughn recommends a visit to a healthcare provider if you experience any of the following:

  • You have suffered from sinusitis more than once.
  • Your symptoms continue for up to 10 days or longer.
  • Your symptoms don’t improve after treatment or seeing your doctor.

“As an ENT, I see people suffer needlessly when we have good treatment options available,” he says. “There are long-term solutions available to millions of people who write off their symptoms as an allergy or a cold. The best thing a person can do is see an ENT specialist and end the suffering.”

A Word From Verywell

Though natural remedies can be useful for relieving symptoms of a sinus infection, they are not always the answer. If you do not see improvement from your at-home treatments, be sure to schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider. Letting a sinus infection go can create additional issues and make it harder to recover in the long run. Plus, there are simple, effective solutions available that can relieve your symptoms in a matter of days.

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3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery. AAO-HSNF Updated Clinical Practice Guideline: Adult Sinusitis.

  2. American Family Physician. Saline nasal irrigation for upper respiratory conditions.

  3. Rennard BO, Ertl RF, Gossman GL, Robbins RA, Rennard SI. Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro. Chest. 2000 Oct;118(4):1150-7. doi:10.1378/chest.118.4.1150