Can a Sinus Infection Go Away Without Antibiotics?
Sinus infections (also known as sinusitis) are an incredibly common urgent care condition. Most cases of sinusitis are viral, and will clear up without antibiotics. That said, it’s important to know when to contact a doctor. Sinusitis will typically follow the common cold, but may also be caused by allergens and environmental irritants, such as pollution. 70% of the time, acute sinusitis will clear up on its own within two weeks of infection. If it hasn’t cleared in two weeks, the infection may be chronic, at which point it’s a good idea to see a doctor and determine the proper course of treatment.
Because sinusitis is normally viral, antibiotics should not be the first method for treatment. In fact, only 2-10% of sinus infections are bacterial. Inappropriate use of antibiotics will simply foster the development of drug-resistant superbugs, increase antibiotic resistance, and cost more money- all while potentially doing nothing to clear your sinus infection.
Apart from getting enough sleep, what are some home remedies that can facilitate the healing process? There are various treatments that can boost your immune system, soothe symptoms and speed up healing.
How to Get Rid of a Sinus Infection Naturally
There are a number of sinus infection home remedies that can you relieve symptoms, such as:
- Apple cider vinegar – Apple cider vinegar has been produced for more than 2,000 years, and was even prescribed by Hippocrates for the common cold! This age old remedy is still used to treat a variety of ailments, including sinusitis. Acetic acid, a healing compound in apple cider vinegar, works to kill bad bacteria, while also fostering the growth of good bacteria, making it work much like a natural antibiotic. Apple cider vinegar is also thought to break up mucus and clear the sinuses. It boosts immunity with polyphenol production and cleanses the lymphatic system (the part of your body responsible for getting rid of toxins and other unwanted materials). Try mixing a couple tablespoons in water a 2-3 times per day. You can add honey for taste.
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C, apart from being essential to immune health, guards cells from free radical damage. Free radicals are found in air pollution and cigarette smoke, two sources of toxicity which can lead to irritant-induced sinusitis.
- Grapefruit seed extract (GSE) – Grapefruit seed extract is a highly concentrated extract made from the seeds and pulp of grapefruit. Because of its antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties, it’s applicable to all forms of sinusitis. GSE is packed with vitamin C, helping to relieve congestion and fight infection. To use, add a few drops to freshly boiled hot water and inhale the steam, or add it to your netipot with water to irrigate your sinuses. As grapefruit seed extract is highly concentrated, it’s important to only add a few drops to avoid burning and irritating your sinuses further.
- Fermented Cod Liver oil– It is an excellent source of Vitamins, A and D plus omega 3 fatty acids, making it an excellent immune booster. Vitamin D, in general, is essential to immune health, and should be supplemented with during winter months, or whenever you don’t have time to get vitamin D from the sun.
- Echinacea tea – Herbalists recommend Echinacea to fight against bacterial and viral infections, but it also lowers pain and inflammation, making it an excellent treatment for both the cause and symptoms of sinusitis.
- Saline spray – Saline spray helps to keep nasal passages moist and get rid of excess mucus and other inflammatory particles that may be trapped in the sinuses.
- Raw garlic – Garlic is one of nature’s most powerful and versatile remedies, used for centuries to help treat a variety of ailments. When using as a remedy, it’s important to keep garlic raw to preserve its powerful component, allicin. Allicin has antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties that are released when you chop or crush a clove of garlic. These properties make it a versatile natural treatment for all forms of sinusitis.
- Probiotics – It has been said that good health starts in the gut. Taking probiotics, not just during, but before and after infection, helps build good gut bacteria. This strengthens the body’s immune response to invasive bacteria that may cause bacterial sinusitis. Probiotics are also thought to strengthen the immune system against allergies, if your sinus infection is allergy-induced.
Essential Oils for Sinus Infection
There are many essential oils that have antiseptic, antifungal, antibacterial and anti inflammatory properties, including:
- Eucalyptus oil
- Tea tree oil
- Oregano oil
- Peppermint oil
- Thyme oil
- Rosemary oil
Combining a few drops from different oils may be the best route to obtain maximum benefit from their different properties. Components of eucalyptus oil help to clear the air as well as break up mucus, while oregano oil is a potent antibacterial and antifungal oil. Eucalyptus is commonly found in cough drops and other medicines, but using it as an essential oil will yield a pure and more concentrated dose. There are a few ways to reap the benefits of these oils when you have a sinus infection.
- Steaming – add a few drops to a pot of boiled water and hold your face over the steam.
- Sinus irrigation – add a few drops to your neti pot solution for sinus irrigation.
- Homemade vapor rub or massage oil – combining a few drops of essential oil with a base oil such as coconut oil or olive oil will yield a mixture that you can massage onto your throat to soothe and break up congestion.
- Oral consumption – put one drop of food grade essential oil on the roof of your mouth. Careful not to consume much more than this, as essential oils are highly concentrated.
Alleviating Sinusitis Symptoms Naturally
In addition to using essential oils, there are other ways to use natural remedies for sinus infection:
- Nasal saline irrigation (Neti Pot) – Putting a saline solution, or warm water with grapefruit seed extract, helps to flush the sinuses of the allergens and irritants that may be causing your sinus pain and inflammation. Nasal irrigation comes recommended in alternative and conventional medicine as an effective treatment to ease sinusitis symptoms and help clear infection. To irrigate the nasal cavity, tilt your head to the side and pour the solution through the nasal canal. While the sensation is not enjoyable if you aren’t used to it, the results may be well worth the small discomfort!
- Spicy foods– Spicy food or flavors, such as those of chilies, cayenne pepper or horseradish, open the nasal passages to allow for the drainage and discharge of thick mucus from the sinuses. While not a cure, spicy food facilitates healing by helping to eliminate the mucus that prolongs infection.
- Hot soups and teas – hot liquids will help hydrate as well as loosen and thin the mucus in your nasal cavities. It can also promote nasal drainage, similar to spicy foods.
- Steaming – Breathing in hot steam for about 15 minutes- especially with added essential oils like oregano, eucalyptus or tea tree oil- helps break up mucus and alleviate congestion in the sinuses. It may be helpful to do so shortly before going to bed. This allows for better breathing during sleep, and may soothe the throat to prevent coughing from post nasal drip.
- Humidifying – Keeping a humidifier in your room will also help you sleep, and allows the nasal passages to remain moist. Moisture is imperative to allow for easier passage of mucus through the sinus passages.
- Hot or cool compress – While heat brings pain relief and can loosen congestion, many find a cool compress to relieve burning and inflammation, particularly behind the eyes. Try an herbal eye pillow, which can be made hot or cold.
Things Which May Worsen a Sinus Infection
Let’s take a look at what you can remove or eliminate from your diet and environment to both encourage healing and discourage chronic sinusitis or recurrent infections in the future.
- Dirty air – Pollutants can be a huge contributor to recurring sinus infections. Unfortunately, eliminating pollution entirely is impossible, especially if you live in a densely populated city or heavily polluted area. Air purifiers can cost anywhere from $19 to $900, depending on size and quality. It’s worth doing some homework to find out which is best for your home and budget if you live in a polluted area and/or suffer from recurring or chronic sinus infections. Some types of indoor plants are another option to purify your home, while elevating your mood, too!
- Smoking – In addition to suppressing the immune system, tobacco products, irritate the lining of your sinuses and cause poor mucus drainage.
- Dairy products – While there are differing opinions in the medical community regarding whether or not dairy increases or thickens mucus, many agree that it lines the throat and mucus membranes, making your throat and nasal passages even more prone to congestion during a bout of sinusitis.
- Sugar – While sugars in fruits, vegetables and grains are good for you, simple sugars in things like soda, candy, packaged foods and baked goods are harmful to your immune system when consumed in excess. Too much sugar can suppress the body’s immune response by weakening or decreasing white blood cells, which help fight infection.
- Salt – Too much salt in the diet can be dehydrating. When fighting infection, particularly in the sinuses, it’s important to stay hydrated to flush away toxins and keep nasal passages moist.
- Reduce air travel – Air travel can increase pressure in the sinuses and create blockage in the Eustachian tubes. This can worsen symptoms and sinusitis irritation. If you suffer from chronic or recurring sinusitis and you’re unable to reduce your air travel, try taking a decongestant before flying.
- Alcohol – consumption of alcohol can cause nasal passages and sinus membranes to swell, worsening existing sinus infections or making you more vulnerable for one to take hold.
- Diving – swimmers and divers often experience congestion from water forced into the sinus passages which can lead to infection in those with compromised immune systems.
Monitoring your symptoms is key to making sure you see treatment when and if it is needed. If you think you may have a sinus infection, consult your doctor or visit an urgent care center.