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Sinus Pain and Congestion: How to Prevent and Treat It

February 18, 2016

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Even when sinus problems don’t develop into a full-blown sinus infection, the pain and pressure can still be debilitating—not to mention an annoyance. Between the headaches, facial pressure and postnasal drip, sinus congestion is best avoided altogether. Luckily, you can take steps to care for your sinuses and prevent sinus pain and congestion this cold and flu season.

5 Tips for Preventing Sinus Pain and Congestion

The key to preventing sinus problems and keeping your sinuses healthy throughout the dry winter months is moisture and heat application. This helps to thin mucus and resist buildup that can cause sinus discomfort. Follow these five prevention tips:

1. Use a warm washcloth

Wet a washcloth with warm water and apply it to your face, eyes and nose at periodic intervals throughout the day. This can help relieve sinus pressure by keeping the air inside your sinuses warm and softening any existing mucus.

2. Stay hydrated

Keeping your body hydrated also keeps your sinuses hydrated. Drink lots of fluids—especially water—throughout the day and avoid consuming too much alcohol or caffeine.

3. Sleep with a humidifier

Since dry air can be irritating to your sinuses, keep a cool-mist humidifier in your bedroom and run it while you sleep. Just make sure you clean it daily and watch for bacteria or mold growth.

4. Keep your nasal passages moist

You can try using a saline spray or a saltwater nasal wash on the inside of your nose to keep your nasal passages from drying out. Alternatively, you can also apply a moisturizing gel on the inside of your nostrils.

5. Take a hot shower

Breathing in steam is another way to break up dried mucus or soothe irritated nasal passages. Keep the bathroom door closed while you shower to make your own steam room.

What to Do If Your Symptoms Don’t Go Away

Unfortunately, despite your best efforts of prevention, sometimes sinus pain and congestion just won’t go away. If the above tactics don’t seem to be working, you can also try over-the-counter decongestants or a nasal decongestant spray to reduce the swelling in your nasal passages and give you some relief from the pressure, but these treatments are not recommended for long-term use and will likely only treat your symptoms—not the cause.

If your symptoms persist for 10 days or longer, it may be time to make an appointment with your doctor. He or she can help you determine if you need antibiotics or a follow-up appointment with an allergist, depending on what’s causing your discomfort.

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