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Breathing in steam, either from a hot bowl of water or a hot shower, helps relieve the symptoms of sinusitis. Putting warm washcloths or other warm, moist heat on the face can relieve pain. Get plenty of rest and liquids, which will help thin out the mucus in your nose and sinuses.

If allergens such as pollen or mold worsen your sinusitis, you can learn how to avoid them. Read about avoiding specific allergens on the National Jewish website.

In addition, washing out your nose and sinuses helps remove mucus, bacteria, and allergens from the nasal passages. You may want to take pain relievers to relieve sinus pain; also, the Treatment section contains information on decongestants and antihistamines, many of which can be purchased without a prescription.

This section contains more information about:

  • Nasal wash
  • Nasal wash techniques
  • Cleaning nasal wash equipment
  • Pain relievers
  • Nasal wash

    A saltwater nasal wash helps remove mucus, bacteria, and other foreign materials from the nose and sinuses. This can temporarily reduce symptoms of nasal congestion and postnasal drip. Doing a nasal wash before using a steroid nasal spray may make the steroid more effective. After doing a nasal wash, wait until the draining stops, then use your nasal spray as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Nasal saline wash of the nose can be one of the most helpful treatments for both acute and chronic sinus problems.

    A nasal wash:

    • Cleans mucus from the nose so medication is more effective.
    • Cleans allergens and irritants from the nose, reducing their impact.
    • Removes bacteria and viruses from the nose, reducing the frequency of infection.
    • Decreases swelling in the nose and increases air flow.
    • The first step in carrying out a nasal wash is to wash your hands. Next, prepare the nasal wash solution.
    • To make the saltwater solution for the nasal wash:

      • Mix one-half teaspoon uniodized salt in an 8-ounce glass of warm water. Uniodized salt is used because iodized salt may be irritating when used over a long period of time.
      • Add a pinch of baking soda. A pinch is a small amount you can pick up between two fingers.
      • If you are congested, use the entire 8 ounces of saltwater during the nasal wash; otherwise, 4 ounces should be enough. Briefly, the wash involves squirting saltwater into one side of your nose and letting it run out the other; see the next page for techniques to use. After the wash, discard any unused saltwater. Prepare a new saltwater solution before the next nasal wash, using a clean glass.
      • Techniques for nasal wash

        Start by preparing salt water. Lean far over the sink with your head down. For younger children, have your child lean as far over the sink as possible. A small child may have trouble cooperating with a nasal wash and may need to be held and assisted. Ask your healthcare provider about ways to hold a small child when doing a nasal wash. One technique is to wrap your small child in a blanket or towel with arms down while holding him or her on your lap.

        Ask your healthcare provider which of these techniques may be best for you:

        • Bulb syringe technique - Use a large all-rubber ear syringe. An ear bulb syringe can be purchased at most pharmacies. Fill the syringe completely with the saltwater. Insert the syringe tip just inside your nostril and pinch your nostril around the tip of the bulb syringe to keep the solution from running out your nose. Gently squeeze the bulb to swish the solution around in your nose; then blow your nose lightly. Repeat the procedure with the other nostril.
        • NeilMed Sinus Rinse Kit Technique - The Sinus Rinse Kit comes with a sinus rinse bottle and mixture packets. When using the Sinus Rinse Kit you can use the prepared mixture packets that come with the kit or you can make your own nasal wash solution as described. Fill the sinus rinse bottle with saltwater. Place the tip of the bottle just inside a nostril. After the bottle is squeezed, saltwater comes out the opposite nostril and may come out the mouth. Blow your nose lightly. The procedure is then repeated with the other nostril.
        • Water Pik® technique - Use a Water Pik® with a Sinus or Grossan Original Sinus Irrigator Tip®. Pour the saltwater into the water reservoir and set the Water Pik® at the lowest possible pressure. Insert the tip just inside your nostril and allow the fluid to run out of your mouth or other nostril. Blow your nose lightly. Repeat the procedure with the other nostril.
        • Hand technique - Pour some saltwater into your palm. Sniff the liquid up your nose, one nostril at a time. Blow your nose lightly. This technique may not be as effective but may be used in some situations.
        • For babies, use an eyedropper or syringe (without the needle) to do a nasal wash. Place 10 - 20 drops of the saltwater in your baby's nostril. Use a bulb syringe to suction the mucus from the nose. Repeat the procedure with the other nostril.

          Cleaning nasal wash equipment

          You must thoroughly clean the equipment used for a nasal wash to prevent the growth of bacteria. It is important for each family member to have his/her own bulb syringe or nasal adaptor.

          Cleaning the sinus rinse bottle that comes in a kit

          • After each use, rinse the bottle, cap, and tubing. Shake off any excess water and allow the pieces to dry on a clean towel. If you feel the system is contaminated, clean the bottle, cap, and tubing with rubbing alcohol (70 percent isopropyl) or white, distilled vinegar (diluted to 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water). After the use of either solution, rinse the pieces well with water and shake off the excess water. Again, allow the pieces to dry on a clean towel.
          • The bottle is not dishwasher safe unless otherwise noted in the instructions.
          • Cleaning a bulb syringe, dropper, syringe, or nasal spray bottle

            • After each use (which may be several times a day), fill the bulb syringe with hot water, swish the hot water around, and empty the bulb syringe completely. Always suspend the bulb syringe tip-down in a clean glass to allow the bulb syringe to drain completely. Do not allow the bulb tip to sit in a puddle of water.
            • In addition to rinsing the bulb after each use, clean the bulb daily with rubbing alcohol (70 percent isopropyl). Draw the rubbing alcohol into the bulb syringe. Swish the liquid around and empty the bulb syringe. Again, suspend the bulb syringe tip-down in a clean glass to allow it to drain completely.
            • Pain relievers

              A medication to relieve pain and lessen fever may help in sinusitis, especially for acute episodes. Your healthcare provider may recommend a medication such as Tylenol® (acetaminophen), aspirin, or ibuprofen, or prescribe a stronger medicine. Because some people with asthma are sensitive to aspirin or ibuprofen, check with your clinician before taking this medicine.

              Last reviewed on 10/14/09

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