People who suffer from chronic sinus infections know the warning signs when one might be coming on. Doctors at Baylor College of Medicine say that is a good time to try preventative measures, such as nasal irrigation, to lessen the symptoms or prevent the infection from worsening.
Nasal irrigation is the cleansing of the nasal cavity with sterile salt water to flush out excess mucus or debris from the sinuses and nose, such as with the use of a neti pot.
"People are more susceptible to a sinus infection if they suffer from allergies or have recently had a cold or the flu," said Dr. Mas Takashima, assistant professor of otolaryngology and director of the Sinus Center at BCM. "This leaves the nasal passages swollen and inflamed and they are more likely to get a bacterial or viral infection."
Flushing the nose with salt water helps by maintaining moisture so the sinuses can function properly and also by flushing out any thick mucus debris which may block the sinuses. Also, the salt's ability to draw out moisture from swollen, inflamed tissues can cause the mucosa (lining of the nasal passages and sinuses) to shrink down, allowing for easier breathing. Salt also has natural antibacterial properties as well to combat infections.
It is recommended that water used with a neti pot be distilled, filtered or even boiled and cooled.
"Many times people think vitamin C will help prevent an infection, but there just isn't any proof that this strategy works," said Takashima. "Nasal irrigation has shown to be beneficial, and it can be done at home."
Other home remedies that have not been shown to be effective in preventing sinus infections include Echinacea, lysine, or garlic. While many people say these remedies help them, Takashima said simply washing your hands regularly is most likely to make more of a difference.
"We carry germs on our hands, so if you are already suffering from a cold or allergies, keeping your hands clean will reduce the risk of spreading bacteria to your already sensitive nasal passages," he said.
Before starting a home remedy regimen, Takashima suggests seeing a sinus specialist to go over other treatment options.