3 Ways to Treat Chronic Sinus Infections

It's as exhausting as it is painful: congestion, persistent mucus, and a dull, throbbing ache behind the eyes. An infection of the sinuses (cavities with narrow drainage ports) can last for months. Infections typically take hold when inflammation from a cold or an allergy blocks the airways and allows bacteria to flourish. Doctors often prescribe antibiotics, says otolaryngologist Marilene Wang, MD, but overusing these drugs can breed resistant bugs that are even harder to shake. Here, Wang and other UCLA experts offer some tips to help you breathe easier.

Traditional Medicine
A Specialist's Take
Marilene Wang, MD
Sinusitis is hard to diagnose; symptoms can be confused with allergies, a virus, or a migraine. It's also hard to tell why you're getting it. Though a cold or hay fever could be the culprit, structural problems could also be a cause. "If sinuses cannot drain, this leads to pressure, pain, and more infection."

Prevention Rx
If your sinus problems haven't improved with nose sprays, allergy treatments, or antibiotics, get evaluated by an otolaryngologist, a specialist who can use a fiber-optic scope or a sinus CT scan to see whether you have a structural issue like a deviated septum or other airway obstruction that might require surgery.

Allergy Therapies
An Allergist's Take
Gary Gibbon, MD
Allergies are a common cause of sinusitis. Though many sufferers opt for intranasal antihistamine sprays or steroids to control symptoms, "immunotherapy--injections of small amounts of allergens over time so that the body builds a tolerance -- is the most effective treatment we have."

Prevention Rx
Studies show that rinsing out allergens such as pollen from the nasal passages with saline solution -- with a spray, bulb syringe, or neti pot -- can prevent infections. "After blowing your nose, tilt your head over a sink and gently squeeze or pour liquid into one nostril. Leaning over, let the water flow out the other nostril." And get tested for allergies -- you may have new sensitivities to mold, dust, or animal dander.

Chinese Medicine
A Practitioner's Take
Malcolm Taw, MD
"Acupressure or acupuncture can help." See a practitioner (nccaaom.org) or try self-acupressure: Press tender points (at the bridge of the nose along the inner eyebrow; just outside the borders of the nostrils; and along the cheekbone) for at least 15 seconds a day.

Prevention Rx
Cold temperatures can be pathogenic, causing the nose to produce excess fluids, Taw says. "Opt for room-temperature drinks and warm foods like soup. Pungent foods like ginger can warm the body and open the sinuses." Exercise such as walking can help fight stress and infection by restoring balance to the body.

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