The itchiness, sneezing and runny nose associated with seasonal allergies can be tough to deal with; but when the stuffiness gets bad enough, discomfort from sinus pressure can be a lot more than just an inconvenience.
“Your sinuses are meant to be open cavities,” board certified allergist Dr. Tania Elliott tells Yahoo Life. “But what happens is, if there's not proper drainage in your nasal passages, then fluid starts to build up in your sinuses.”
Sinus pressure can cause serious facial pain and if left untreated can even lead to a sinus infection. So what’s a poor allergy-sufferer to do?
Dr. Elliot shares some of her top sinus relief tips to help you breathe easy this spring allergy season.
#1: Thin out that mucus
Getting rid of congestion can be hard to do if the mucus clogging up your sinuses is too thick. So one of the first things you’ll want to do is thin out the mucus so it’s easier to expel.
“When you're exposed to something and you're having allergies, that mucus gets … thicker and thicker,” Elliott explains. “So you want to thin it out so that it doesn't just get stuck and cause congestion and you're actually able to blow your nose.”
Placing a warm compress over your forehead and nose can help alleviate some of that sinus pressure by reducing swelling.
Adding moisture to the air by inhaling the steam from a hot shower is another way to get the mucus flowing. Elliott says an easy home remedy she recommends to patients is to boil a pot of water, put a towel over your head and breathe in the steam. You can also add an essential oil like eucalyptus, fresh ginger or “something really spicy” to the water before inhaling.
“Or if you want to ditch the pot of hot water and you just want to eat a spicy food, believe it or not, it'll thin out the mucus and make your nose run,” she adds.
#2: Flush out the irritants
Allergies are an abnormal immune system response to something normal that occurs in the environment — like pollen, grass or mold — resulting in all those symptoms you know and hate, like increased mucus production. In order to keep your nasal and sinus problems from continuing and getting worse, Dr. Elliot suggests removing any allergens that might have gotten stuck in your nasal passages.
“Think about it — when you get dirt or something stuck on your hands, you go and you rinse off your hands. Well, you need to do the same thing to the inside of your nose,” Elliott says.
She recommends a nasal saline rinse – either via a nasal saline spray, or using a neti pot filled with saline solution and distilled sterile water — to flush irritants out of your nose.
“You don't have to do a neti pot every day, but if your symptoms are really bad I would recommend doing it morning and night,” Elliott says. “Alternatively, just take a simple nasal saline spray and put that in your nasal passages throughout the course of the day.”
#3: Prevention and knowledge are key
As allergy season ramps up, you’ll want to take precautions to avoid allergy triggers and prevent sinus symptoms from getting out of hand. Elliott says something as simple as wearing a hat, sunglasses and even that COVID-19 mask can go a long way by providing a barrier between you and outdoor allergens. Precautions like taking your shoes off at the door can keep you from tracking pollen into your home, too.
If all that stuffiness is still getting you down, take heart, seasonal allergy-sufferers; Elliott says to remember it won’t last forever.
“The good news about seasonal allergies is just that they're seasonal,” she says.
“And remember, there are medicines that you can take every day to keep your allergies under control.”
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