While you can’t see your sinuses, you can definitely notice them when you have a cold and feel congested. Nasal congestion is pretty common, but most people just wait for it to go away instead of trying to solve the problem.
Your sinuses are hollow spaces behind the bones of the face that are filled with air. They’re lined with mucous membranes like the ones present in your mouth or nose. In fact, they are connected to your nasal cavity too (1).
When pathogens enter the sinuses, they fill up with fluid and swell up, causing sinus pressure and head congestion. This pressure is felt around and behind your nose, behind your eyes, in your forehead, jaw, and even in your teeth (2).
Common Causes Of Congestion
Nasal congestion is characterized by inflammation of the lining of the sinuses. It’s also accompanied by excess mucous production. This mucous pushes out allergens, fungus, dirt, or other irritants.
Congestion is pretty easy to recognize because it’s typically accompanied by a stuffy or runny nose,
sinus pain, and swollen nasal tissue. You’ll probably also experience swollen nasal tissue and changes in your voice.
Other causes of congestion include (3):
- Hay fever
- Common cold
- Noncancerous growths, called nasal polyps, or benign tumors in the nasal passages
- Chemical and environmental irritants
- Chronic sinusitis
- Chronic rhinitis
- Deviated septum
- Dry air
- Structural differences that narrow those ducts
- Immune system deficiencies or medications that suppress the immune system
In children, causes include:
- Illnesses from other kids at daycare or school
- Bottle drinking while lying on the back
The Problem With Decongestion Sprays
When you visit your doctor, you will most likely be suggested a nasal decongestant. They are available either as a nasal spray or as a pill. In some cases, you may even have to undergo surgery (4).
Other conventional options include:
- Oral antihistamines to treat allergies, such as loratadine (Claritin) and cetirizine (Zyrtec)
- Nasal sprays that contain antihistamine, such as azelastine (Astelin, Astepro)
- Nasal steroids, such as mometasone (Asmanex Twisthaler) or fluticasone (Flovent Diskus, Flovent HFA)
- Over-the-counter or prescription strength decongestants, such as Sudafed
Decongestant might provide short-term relief, but they’re known to cause rebound congestion. This occurs when the mucous membranes in the sinuses respond less to the medication. Even though your body isn’t responding as well as it used to, it becomes dependent on the medication. When you stop using the nose spray, the congestion shortly returns (5). That’s why congestion should be treated naturally before asking for medical help.
If things get serious, and you notice the following symptoms, call your doctor:
- Congestion lasting longer than 10 days
- Congestion accompanied by a high fever that has lasted more than three days
- Green nasal discharge along with sinus pain and fever
- Weakened immune system, asthma, or emphysema
- Recent head injury and are now having bloody nasal discharge or a constant flow of clear discharge
14 Natural Remedies For Nasal Congestion
Fix your stuffy nose with these easy home remedies for congestion remedies. You probably have everything you need at home!
1. Use A Humidifier
Breathing in humid air moisturizes your sinuses and your airway while also breaking up mucus. Not only does it have a soothing effect, but the heat also reduces swelling in your blood vessels (6). If you don’t have an air humidifier nearby, hop into a nice hot shower or use a bowl.
Here’s how to do it:
- Turn on the hot water in your bathroom sink.
- Once the temperature is right, place a towel over your head and put your head over the sink.
- Allow the steam to build, and take in deep breaths.
- Be careful not to burn your face on the hot water or steam.
- Add essential oils to amplify the experience.
2. Eucalyptus Steamer
To unclog your nasal passages, combine a few drops of eucalyptus, sage, and juniper essential oil and add to your steaming bowl. You can also use these oil to make a shower bombs or add them to a nice Epsom salt bath.
3. Peppermint, Rosemary, and Eucalyptus
1-2 drops of each oil per quart of water will open up your airway and help you take it a proper breath. Add the oils into an essential oil diffuser or drink peppermint tea to clear right up! They all have a cooling effect to ease inflammation in your sinuses and respiratory tract. They’re also anti-microbial, which helps your body fight the infection that may be causing your symptoms.
4. Pine Needles
Collect fresh pine needles, bunch them up, and hang them from your showerhead to infuse shower steam with the healing herb. You can also add a bunch of clean needles to your teapot and steep for 10-15 minutes. Flavour with a touch of lemon and honey and drink hot.
5. Eucalyptus, Sage, Ginkgo, Rosemary and Peppermint
Gingko is a classic ingredient in cold and flu herbal remedies, but you shouldn’t take it as a supplement. Infuse steam with the above essential oils of dried herbs to detoxify and drain your sinuses.
6. Elderflower, Peppermint, Juniper, Goldenseal and Echinacea
These North American herbs can be found in any health food store or herbal shop and are often found in cold and flu tea mixes.Goldenseal root is also a natural antibiotic. You can also use them in equal parts when using the dried herbs.
7. Lavender, Rosemary, and Oregano
You’ve probably had rosemary tea before, but what about all three? These herbs fight infection and open up your nasal passages, so add a spoonful of each herb into your teapot, steep for 10-15 minutes, strain, and drink up!
8. Ginger and Orange Peel
Ginger breaks up congestion and stimulates circulation, while orange peel reduces phlegm and functions as an antiseptic. Together, they make a powerful common cold treatment. To make a tea, add an inch of fresh ginger root and teaspoon of grated orange peel to a cup of water and steep for 5-10 minutes.
To make a steaming bowl, simmer 2 chopped oranges and a full sliced ginger root for 20 minutes and place a towel over our head as you hover above the pot.
9. Stay Hydrated
Hydration really is important! Increasing the amount of water you drink everyday thins the mucus is your nasal passaged and stay hydrated. This will help flush fluids out of your nose, release pressure, and empty out your sinuses.
10. Use A Saline Spray
Salt water is great to irrigate your nostrils, soothe dry sinuses, and flush away any irritants. The salt in the solution also kills bacteria and reduces inflammation. It’ll also provide ear pressure relief.
To make you own saline nasal spray:
- Combine teaspoons of sea salt and ½ cup of hot water in a small saucepan.
- Boil it until the salt dissolves, and let it cool.
- Pour the solution in a squirt bottle and spray into your nostrils.
11. Try The Neti Pot
The Neti Pot is a nasal flush device that thins mucus, flushes out the nasal passages, and can even prevent a sinus infection. It may look a little strange, and feel a little uncomfortable, this is a safe and effective way to improve sinus health.
Here’s how to use a neti pot:
- Fill the neti pot with a cooled saline solution made of distilled water
- Stand with your head over a sink.
- Place the spout of the neti pot in one nostril.
- Tilt the neti pot until water enters your nasal passage.
- Once the water flows into your nostril, it will come out through your other nostril and empty into the sink.
- Do this for about one minute, and then switch sides.
- Wash and dry your pot.
12. Hot Towel
A warm hot towel placed over your cheeks and nose will relieve most of the discomfort and pressure caused by congestion. It’s also a great way to relieve sinus headaches.
Here’s how to make a warm compress:
- Soak a towel in warm water.
- Squeeze the water out of the towel, then fold it and place it over your nose and forehead.
- Soak the towel in warm water once it goes cool.
13. Elevate Your Head
Your nasal passages drain into the back of your throat. So when you have excess mucus in your system, lie down on a few pillows to prop yourself up and drain them out. The extra pillow will help you stop snoring and make it easier for you to breathe too!
14. Hot Tea
Hot tea releases plenty of steam, which acts like a small humidifier. To thin mucous even more, drink peppermint green tea and add a little honey and lemon. These ingredients all have mucolytic properties, so keep the tissues nearby to clear away what comes out!
To keep congestion at bay, stay away from common irritants like chlorine and smoke. If you have to spend time at the pool or near smokers, make sure to fill your lung with clean air once in awhile.