Your sinuses are hollow channels in your face. More specifically, they are behind your forehead, between your eyes, behind your cheekbones and alongside your nose. The role of the sinuses is to produce mucus which keeps your nose wet. The mucus also helps keep harmful particles from getting into your body through the nose.
Each of the 8 sinus cavities in your face has its own drainage tube. This drainage tube can get backed up from excess mucus. When this happens, your head it going to feel like it’s got a brick inside of it. Since your sinuses are responsible for your tone of voice, you are also going to sound pretty ridiculous when you talk. There are a lot of reasons why your sinuses might get blocked:
- Bacteria have invaded the sinus cavities and started to grow, causing inflammation and blocking off the drainage tube
- A virus has caused the nasal cavities to swell
- Allergies or food sensitivities have caused the blood vessels in your nose to swell, restricting the sinus cavity
- Pollutants have caused inflammation in the nasal cavity
- Nasal polyps (small non-cancerous growths) have formed inside the nasal cavity; these can occur from scarring due to chronic inflammation
- Changes in pressure, such as from flying or diving, can cause your tissues to swell and block sinuses
Decongestants are NOT the best solution for sinusitis. Most of the ones you’d buy in the store contain ingredients like pseudoephedrine and work by causing your blood vessels to shrink in size. When your blood vessels shrink, then there is more room for your sinuses to drain. But it is also a recipe for disaster if you have heart disease or high blood pressure! Even if you don’t have these conditions, you can still end up with some symptoms like anxiety, trouble sleeping, nausea, and dizziness.
Then there is the issue of “rebound congestion” caused by decongestants. The problem is that the decongestants work so well at providing immediate relief. As Dr. David Vernick told the NY Times, “(Nasal decongestant) work so well that you tend to keep using it. You’re used to breathing well with the spray, and when you stop it, you get congested. So you use it a little more frequently and the congestion doesn’t clear up for long.”
This wouldn’t be a problem except that prolonged use of decongestants can cause the nasal passages to swell when you stop using them. The swelling occurs even when the original cause of the congestion (like a bacterial infection or allergic reaction) has passed. With long-term use or overuse of decongestants, the vessels in the nasal passage can become choked off and severely damaged.
So, what are you supposed to do for sinus congestion?
When I get congested, I usually just eat a whole bunch of spicy peppers, or drown my food in hot sauce. But, not everyone loves hot sauce as much as I do (I’m a finalist in a chili pepper eating contest!). Instead, you might want to get your dosage of chili in this tomato tea for sinusitis recipe, which also has many other ingredients to help reduce congestion.Print
Paranasal Sinuses by Michal Komorniczak. Creative Commons 3.0. Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Sip of inspiration by Jeebs Photography Attribution-NonCommercial License