Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Understanding Sinus Congestion

        Health | Headache

Prevention and Treatment of Sinus Congestion
 Ron Chapple studios/Hemera/ThinkStock
Ron Chapple studios/Hemera/ThinkStock

In the ancient ayurvedic tradition of the Indian subcontinent, deeply meditative states are achieved through careful attention to breathing patterns. Clear, easy breathing is therefore highly valued. Colds and allergies that block breathing passages are unwelcome, so the yogis developed something they called "jala neti," a Sanskrit term for "nasal irrigation," which is a pretty straightforward explanation of the process [source: NeilMed].

The concept is simple, but ingenious. Add a bit of salt to some warm water, and transfer it to a small teapot-shaped vessel equipped with a spout that fits the average nostril. Bend over a sink with your head tipped to one side. Press the spout up against whichever nostril is topmost and then start pouring. You'll feel weird as the water fills your nasal cavity and then even weirder when it starts pouring out of your bottom nostril. When all the water has gone through, blow your nose to clear out any excess.

Nasal irrigation with a neti pot is often recommended by doctors and is considered a safe and effective way to flush your nose and nasal region, as long as you're starting with sterile water and a sterile pot [source: Li]. The salt content is key to making the water flow more comfortably without giving you that unpleasant water-up-your-nose sensation you get when you turn upside down in a swimming pool.

About that whole "sterile water and pot" idea: It's extremely important that you use distilled or boiled water. If you're going to use tap water, make sure it goes through a filter with a pore size that's no bigger than a micron before using it, then, to be safe, boil the water and let it cool before irrigating.

Sinus problems can sometimes be alleviated by drinking plenty of water to thin out the mucus, allowing it to drain more easily. Wrapping a warm towel around your head can help reduce swollen tissues, and inhaling steam — whether it's from a shower, a bowl of warm water, or a humidifier — can moisten your nasal passages.

Decongestants like SUDAFED® and SUDAFED PE® products can also be effective in relieving sinus-related symptoms when they come from unpleasantness like allergies and colds. SUDAFED® products contain pseudoephedrine and SUDAFED PE® products contain phenylephrine. Both ingredients are meant to reduce the size of swollen blood vessels, which in turn allows tissue in and around the nasal cavities to return to normal size, so fluids (like mucus, for instance) can flow more freely. If you're also experiencing pain, allergies a cough, or other symptoms, many decongestants come packaged with ingredients that treat those symptoms as well.

Sinus Congestion Tips

Here is some information to help you with sinus congestion.

Presented by Sudafed


More to Explore