Drain Your Sinuses

Smoky rooms, pet dander, pollen, perfume, cold and flu, even food allergies can cause stuffy sinuses. Here are some quick and easy self care tips to safely unstuff your head at the first sign of congestion.

Sinus congestion is a sign that our bodies are trying to protect us from an invasion. It results from release of histamines, one of the body's defense mechanisms against penetration by germs or allergens.

Taking anti-histamines can dry up that extra mucous, but it isn't always necessary or healthy to do so. Here are some steps that you can take at the first sign of congestion to help your immune system protect itself naturally.

PROTECT YOUR ENVIRONMENT

The first step is to remove yourself from an atmosphere that might be triggering an attack of sinusitis--smoky rooms, people wearing cologne or perfume, animal hair or dander. Stay away from folks who are sneezing and coughing, and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly, especially during the winter cold and flu season.

Don't let yourself get chilled; the body uses a tremendous amount of energy to re-warm itself, energy that could be better put to use by the immune system.

DRINK HERBAL TEA

Herbal teas, especially ginger, echinnacea, lemon and mint not only taste wonderful but give the body's immune system a natural boost. Add honey to taste if you'd like it sweetened.

USE STEAM

Steam helps to relieve congestion, so if you're suffering from a mild allergic reaction, it might clear up just with a hot shower. If that's not feasible or doesn't quite do the trick, the old-fashioned remedy of a facial steam bath might work. This can be done with a personal sauna from the home appliance department, or you can make your own.

Bring a large kettle of water to a boil and remove it from the heat--this is important! Do NOT leave it on the stove, boiling, while you proceed. Drape a large bath towel over your head, lean over the kettle, and inhale through your nose. Continue for about five minutes. If your face begins to feel too warm for comfort or your breathing becomes labored, lift the towel for a second or two to catch your breath.

The steam baths available at spas help to open skin pores and to relieve nasal congestion, so you might want to use your stuffy sinuses as an excuse to pamper yourself with an appointment at a sauna or steam bath facility.

ESSENTIAL OILS

You can increase the effectiveness of steam, either in the shower or in a facial sauna, by adding essential oils. Eucalyptus is known for its clearing powers, as is peppermint. Just a teaspoon in the hot water will help, or you can put a few drops on a sponge and leave it in your tub while you shower.

According to Dr. Andrew Weil, one of the leaders in the integrative health movement, a handful of dry sage and/or eucalyptus leaves (or a few drops of the essential oils of either) steeped in the hot water not only soothes congested sinuses, it can help to prevent bacterial growth.

Other essential oils recommended by aromatherapy professionals for relieving sinusitis are rosemary, thyme, peppermint, geranium, tea tree (sometimes spelled ti tree) basil, juniper, oregano, and pine.

Use a single oil, or a combination of 3-5, in the inhalation steam or put a drop on a tissue to sniff as you need to. You might also burn candles permeated with these oils at your desk or in your home.



MASSAGE YOUR PRESSURE POINTS

Shiatsu or accupressure practitioners claim that pressure to certain points on the face and head can help to clear sinus congestion, again by triggering the natural healing tendencies of the human body.

Begin by gently massing your forehead and cheeks with small circles, working from the center, above your nose, outward and upward. Then, with the pads of your thumbs, find the v-shaped notch about 1" away from your nose, on the underside of your eyebrow ridge. Apply firm pressure here, holding it for ten seconds. Release. Repeat three times.

Move outward 1/2" to an inch (this will vary according to the individual shape of your face) and find another slight indentation. Apply and release pressure here three times.

With the pads of your middle fingers, feel for bony indentations at the bottom, outer edges of your nose. Apply and release pressure here also.

With the fourth and middle fingers, apply upward and outward pressure at the top of your nose, between your eyebrows.

With these same fingers, apply pressure along the underside of the cheekbone. There will probably be some sensitive places here; do not use so much pressure that you experience pain.

Gently massage, with small circles, along your jawbone from your ear to your chin. Relax your face by yawing, then repeat.

Gently massage or apply pressure to the top of your head, especially right around the crown. You can recognize the pressure points by noting the especially tender spots; that's an indication that some attention is needed.

With a massage oil made of 5 drops of essential oils per teaspoon of vegetable oil, massage around your neck, behind and in front of your ears, and over your cheekbones, forehead and nose.

Better yet, call in a friend with a gentle touch to do these accupressure and massage treatments so you can rest and relax, giving yourself one more healthy boost.

AVOID PROBLEM FOODS

Avoid any foods you have known allergies to, especially if you are fighting off cold symptoms. Dairy products are notorious for stimulating mucous, so they should be off your menu if you're suffering from sinusitis.

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