Little Life Hacks: 5 tips to un-torture your sinuses

At my house, everyone has had a cold in the last month.

Based on the experience of every person in my immediate and extended family, I suspect that I have some kind of genetic predisposition to something we’ll call “tortured sinuses.” If I’m going to have something go wrong with my body, chances are it’s going to be a sinus infection. (Interestingly, for my husband, it’s an ear infection).

I want to say (again), I’m not a doctor or medical professional and I can’t diagnose or treat any illness. But I have found a few surprisingly effective home remedies that at least make me think I feel better sooner.  (With home remedies, I try really hard to stick to things that might help and won’t hurt, but you should know yourself and your body before you try these things. If you’re not sure, please check with your doctor.)

  1. Hydrogen Peroxide in your earBased on my 10 second google search, it turns out that hydrogen peroxide is recommended for softening ear wax blockages in your ear. I have that found that if I have a deep sinus infection that if I pour a teeny bit of hydrogen peroxide in each of my ears (and leave it for 30 seconds to 1 minute per side) that it does help release the pressure and shorten the duration of the infection. I also find that if this is going to work for you, you’ll be able to tell pretty quickly. If you put the peroxide in your ear and immediately feel like a volcano of bubbles is erupting out of your ear, then it’s working.

    I definitely put this treatment in the category of “might help, won’t hurt.” The only caveat from Web MD and the Mayo Clinic is that doing this TOO much can irritate the skin in your ears and start causing more problems than it solves.

  2. Sinus RinseI find that nasal irrigation is also really helpful for my sinuses and allergies. I prefer the squirt bottle sinus rinse to the more well-known Neti-Pot because I find it easier to use. To keep this squarely in the “might help won’t hurt” category it’s very important that you boil your water and use microwave disinfection on the bottle between uses (whether you’re using the sinus rinse or the neti pot). There is a possibility of certain brain eating amoeba (that are apparently safe in your drinking water but not your nasal passages) causing death. So…boil that water and breath clear.

    I also find that with the sinus rinse, like the hydrogen peroxide treatment, using this too much becomes more irritating to my sinuses than it is helpful.

    One more time for you in the back: don’t skip boiling the water.

  3. HumidifierI didn’t know that humidifiers would help with colds and sinus issues until I had a baby and my daughter’s pediatrician recommended it when she caught her first cold.

    I got a cheap humidifier at the drug store and used that thing for a year. It was REALLY helpful for coughs and allergies. Like, a lot. Get one.

  4. Ginger teaJust like Captain Picard’s aunt suggested on Star Trek: Next Generation, ginger tea is remarkably effective for just about any kind of sick you might feel. A couple of tips: don’t buy a bag of ginger tea on the tea aisle. Get actual ginger root from the fruit and veggie section of your grocery store (it’s usually in the place where you get green onions, brussels sprouts and fresh herbs).

    Simple Ginger Tea:
    Grate 1-2 teaspoons of fresh ginger root and steep in just boiled water for 10 minutes (I use a tea infuser and strain the water out when I’m ready, but you can also use any kind of strainer to get the ginger out of the water). Add honey and lemon juice until it tastes good. I also find that adding a pinch of salt and a dash of cinnamon also adds something very special to the tea.

  5. Local honeyI think the research on the benefits of local honey to help with allergies is slim, but the placebo effect is pretty effective. So, if you believe the local honey helps, it will. Buying local honey is also good for your local ecosystem, economy, and the bees, so even if local honey doesn’t help your sinuses, it helps the planet, so you’re doing good for someone. (And again, to keep this in the “might help, won’t hurt” realm, you probably want honey that’s been processed. Even though raw sounds good, botulism is bad.)

    You can mix the honey in tea (like the ginger tea above, or whatever tea you enjoy). You can drizzle it over oatmeal or bread. You can take a spoonful like any other medicine. Enjoy your honey however you like.

As a bonus (because I often forget this and need a reminder myself), don’t forget that when you’re sick, doctors visits and over-the-counter medications can be remarkably effective. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been trying to wait out an infection only for it to get worse and have extended the length of my suffering for weeks because I forgot about medicine.

Anti-inflammatory medicines, nasal decongestants, and other cold medicines really do work, and while it’s good to not overuse medicine, there’s also no need to avoid it when you actually need it.

Final bonus, never forget the value of a good night’s sleep. There is also no prize for being the most sleep deprived person in your workplace, family or community. You will feel better sooner, do better work, and generally enjoy your life more when you’re well rested. So, do that, too.

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