Sinusitis is an infection or inflammation of the sinuses, which are the open spaces in the bones of the skull and face. Often causing pain in the area and related headaches.
The bones of the skull contain four sets of sinuses, but the ones most commonly affected are above the eyes and to either side of the nose. Symptoms experienced may include:
Pain and tenderness in the affected part
Redness and swelling of the area
Headache (the term “pressure headache” may be used)
Post-nasal drip (particularly in the presence of a chronic low-grade infection), with an unproductive cough
Mucous may have a musty or foul smell and is commonly yellow-green in colour
Fever or chill may be present
The sinuses or nasal passages are usually hollow and contain light mucous, which is produced by the body to trap dirt and foreign matter in the air we breathe. The contaminated mucous is pushed out through tiny openings that serve as drains. These openings, known as ostia, are very small and are mostly at the bottom of the cavities where mucous can drain out easily. However there are a few cavities with the openings at the top, which makes draining mucous more difficult.
Anything that causes the mucous membranes lining the sinuses to swell may lead to infection by obstructing the body’s method of draining foreign matter out of the body.
Irritation of the sinuses also causes an increased production of mucous, resulting in a feeling of internal pressure, and the area becoming tender and sore to touch.
The most common cause of sinusitis is upper respiratory infection such as the common cold, however other causative factors include: hay fever, food allergy, and tooth infection.
The herbs Horseradish, Garlic and Fenugreek help to dry up mucous and relieve pressure of sinusitis, regardless of the cause
Vitamin C and the herb Echinacea are supportive to the immune system and may help to treat or prevent sinus infection
Improved drainage and quick control of any infection present are the aims of therapy. Your healthcare professional may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication, and to help dry up mucous a short-term course of salt-based nasal drops or spray.
Steam inhalation or the use of a humidifier is often recommended, which effectively constricts the blood vessels of the nose, allowing the spaces in the sinuses to open up, and promoting drainage.
Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, particularly those rich in vitamin C and bioflavonoids such as citrus, capsicum and pineapple. At the same time avoid mucous-producing foods such as dairy products.
Sleep in a well-ventilated room that is clean and free of potential allergens such as pet hair, dust mites and feathers. Special low-allergy bedding and cleaning products may need to be used.
See your healthcare professional if the condition is associated with severe pain or smelly mucous – you may have an underlying infection.