When you’re congested, the simple act of breathing can be a challenge. Whatever the cause — a sinus infection, allergies, a cold, or the flu — dealing with congestion can leave you feeling tired and dreary.
Since sinus infections, colds, and allergies don’t just leave you congested and often come with a host of other symptoms, you might contemplate taking one — or several — drugs to end the misery. Yet doubling or tripling up on medication types is dangerous, and you may not find the relief you seek with over-the-counter meds or through a prescription.
Although over-the-counter options, such as decongestants, are often used to treat the stuffiness and headache caused by congestion, there’s significant risk of becoming dependent on these drugs, and they can leave you worse off in other ways, too.
If you use decongestants for more than three to five days, you may cause rebound swelling in your nasal passages, which can lead to a vicious cycle: Rebound swelling causes you to take more of the drug, but increased dosage causes it to lose its effectiveness, which then leads to even more use.
But some home remedies for mild sinus congestion can offer a simpler approach that’s both low-cost and lower-risk than medication. Whether you’re dried out or dehydrated, or want to shorten the duration of a cold or decrease the severity of symptoms, a natural home remedy could be a helpful option.
This is the simplest and safest way to relieve a blocked nose. You can buy saline spray off the shelf (such as this Arm & Hammer Simply Saline Nasal Relief), but it can be made easily at home too. Just dissolve 2 teaspoonfuls of pure sea salt (salt without any additives) in half a cup of water, boil it, cool it and pour it in a squirt bottle. Alternatively, you can use a dropper or the tip of your little finger to put a drop of saline into each nostril.
The general perception is that the salt solution dilutes the mucus to remove congestion. It definitely moisturizes the nasal cavity and lightens the thickened mucus, but its main action is shrinking the swollen tissues by drawing out water. We see the same thing happening when you keep swollen feet in a bowl of salt water.
Inhaling steam quickly relieves a stuffy nose, especially when the sinuses are infected and congested. Steam opens them up and facilitates fast drainage. The simplest way to inhale steam is by holding your head over a steaming pot of water and taking in deep breaths.
Steam inhalation cannot be done by infants; even young children find it difficult. Instead, take them to the bathroom and have them sit there with the hot shower running. The steamy atmosphere generally does the trick.
Sinus congestion can be relieved by applying warm compresses to the forehead, nose, and upper cheek. Wring out a thick towel in hot water and place it over these areas, ensuring that there’s close skin contact. The warmth will trigger sinus flow and reduce congestion.
Adding salt to the hot water has been found to have an added effect. For a salt solution to be effective, it should have fairly high concentration. It is actually the hypertonicity of the saline that clears the congestion.
This age-old cold remedy may not exactly cure cold, but it definitely relieves the uncomfortable symptoms of a cold, especially a blocked nose. Chicken (organic) is highly nutritious and easily digestible, and the added nutrition may help increase body’s natural defense against disease-causing microbes. But the quick relief from nasal congestion can be attributed to all the potent herbs and spices that have gone into the soup.
Onions, ginger, and pepper are staples in chicken soup. They contain many bioactive compounds that can reduce sinus inflammation. As we mentioned earlier, pepper enhances the action of other anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agents in them.
Another warm drink that can help relieve nasal congestion is peppermint tea. If you have fresh or dried peppermint leaves, use them to make a freshly brewed tea.
Add a teaspoonful of raw honey and a squeeze of lemon to the peppermint tea to make it extra soothing. Honey-lemon combination is well known for its mucolytic property.
Drinking plenty of fluids and staying well hydrated thins mucus in the nasal passages, making it easier for congested sinuses to drain and relieve the pressure from a stuffy nose. Warm liquids help quickly open up congested sinuses, so sip on steamy cups of tea as well as plain water. Ginger and mint teas also contain herbal benefits that further reduce nasal congestion.