Tips on Dealing with
Sinusitis is an inflammation of the mucous membranes that line the sinuses.
This inflammation is usually the result of a viral infection, an allergy (pollen,
dust, pet dander, molds, and food), or an environmental irritant such as air
pollution, perfume, cigarette smoke, etc. This inflamed tissue can be easily
infected with bacteria. Sinus infections are not uncommon among people with
immune problems. Unfortunately, the treatment can be almost impossible for someone
with environmental illness to comply with. At least three weeks of antibiotics,
nasal sprays, and decongestants/expectorants must be used.
I have had severe EI for nine years. A lot of my sensitivities were made worse
because of an undiagnosed, low-grade, sinus infection. Five years ago the infection
became very bad and quite obvious. Unfortunately, the infection did not respond
to treatment and I had to have surgery. The surgeon, who theoretically was one
of the best, removed most of the structures in my nose, leaving my sinuses wide
open for anything and everything to get in. This just caused more infections
and more damage to the mucosa. This led to more surgery to remove the resultant
diseased tissue (usually seen in a CT scan as thickened mucosa. Bacteria thrive
in it). There were a few antibiotics I could survive on so I was on these for
a couple years. Having viral infections every couple weeks, which was the kiss
of death for my sinuses, insured I was never going to be free of a sinus infection.
A couple years ago I began finding ways to help prevent and treat these without
having to resort to antibiotics. The following suggestions are based on my personal
If you have any questions or comments you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- First you should consult an allergist and be tested to plants in your area,
molds, dust mites, cockroaches, animals and foods. Skin testing is accurate.
Remember, however, that what you are tested for is usually far from the number
of plants and molds present in your environment, so if it appears from the
test that you have no allergies, this may not be true at all. This testing
will determine if IgE antibodies are involved which are responsible for histamine
release. Histamine causes swelling and inflammation in tissue. If this tissue
is the sinus, and it probably is if you suffer sinus-related problems, then
exposure to these things can cause sinusitis and set you up for infection.
Consider allergy injections and try to get your allergies under control. Someone
with EI can react to all sorts of things that have nothing to do with standard
allergies, but if it doesn't cause histamine release or act as a particulate
or chemical irritant on the mucosa, then it probably won't cause sinus problems,
at least not directly.
- Most important for me was preventing upper respiratory viral infections.
After years of getting these viruses at the rate of at least two each month,
I have not become ill from any for two years. Please refer to my article,
Preventing Viral Infections, if you are interested.
- Nasal irrigation. Elizabeth Dover has posted an excellent article on this. Gently irrigate if possible.
I cannot do this because I react to physiological saline. Yes it is "natural"
but since when does that stop an EI from reacting? It gives me migraines and
sometimes it can trigger my neuritis, especially if I've had a mold exposure,
which sensitizes you to everything. (Not too long ago John Stossel from the
TV program 20/20 did a segment on EI showing it to be just a psychological
disorder afflicting well-educated caucasian women who were sue-happy. One
of the researchers interviewed "proved" that EI didn't exist in a double-blind
study using saline as a placebo. Unfortunately, no one knew enough to tell
him that many EI's can react as strongly to saline as any chemical).
- Use the personal steam inhaler by KAZ (a drug store or pharmacy should have
it). To the water I add a few drops of a mixture of eucalyptus oil (20 drops),
peppermint oil (12 drops), pine needle oil (8 drops) and camphor oil (8 drops)
in a base of 2 teaspoons castor oil. This has been incredibly effective. You
can use it for 5-15 minutes throughout the day as you feel the need to. This
actually cured my daughter's long-standing sinus infection. (She was juggling
antibiotics for weeks and finally went allergic to the entire family of cephalosporin
antibiotics that were beginning to help her). Breathing the steam with the
fumes from these oils open the sinus passages and are sterilizing. (I do not
react to them even though most things I inhale trigger problems for me.) Probably
just a mixture of eucalyptus and peppermint would be adequate and these are
easily found at the health food store. Avoid using menthol. This is contained
in many inhalant rubs i.e., Vicks, Tiger Balm, etc. Menthol is toxic and a
known irritant. Menthol actually swells the nasal passages a little but its
cooling effect makes one think it is opening them.
- Colloidal silver nasal spray by Innovative Natural Products (800-893-7467)
can be helpful.
- Garlic supplements. Each day take a total of six capsules of Kyolic garlic
or Garlicin (I think this may be more tolerable for an EI because it doesn't
dissolve in the stomach. I tend to find bypassing the stomach helpful even
though I have no stomach problems). My girlfriend told me about how this stopped
her from getting sinus infections. I found it to be quite helpful.
- Inhaling garlic fumes. An old herbal book that looked at the folklore of
herbs throughout the ages listed two methods for using garlic in treating
sinus infections. One way is to chop it up and put it in the steamer and inhale
the fumes. The second way is to place one or two cloves between your cheek
and gum. Leave it in for a few hours to a few days (don't sleep with it).
Replace these cloves with fresh ones every few hours or when you think they
are losing their potency. Make sure you bite down slightly on the clove from
time to time in order to release their active ingredients. This is also good
for throat and lung problems. I've tried this for only as long as a few hours
and as long as you don't mind the smell of garlic, it seems to be very effective.
- Everyone with sinus problems must use a HEPA air purifier. I like the Austin
Healthmate but I only use the HEPA filter, not the carbon plus HEPA filter,
because I react to carbon. All I care about is removing particulate irritants
(i.e. pollen, mold) and a HEPA filter does this. I don't need to worry about
inhaling chemicals in my house because I have taken great pains to eliminate
them (this is what the carbon removes). I also use an air filter for the car.
I have not met anyone with sinuses as reactive to pollens and chemicals as
mine (this is because the surgery I had was so terribly radical) so I need
to resort to things that many people might find funny or extreme. I often
use a nose clip if I am outside around the house, in the car or doing something
in the house that may hurt me (i.e. cleaning). This way my hands are free
to work and the air can bypass my sinuses about 99%. To go into buildings
I wet a washcloth, put it to my nose and mouth, pinch off my nose and breath
through my mouth, through the wet cloth. This allows me to safely stay for
hours in a place where just one breath through my nose would result in an
infection. I cannot use a mask because I react to what the mask is made of.
- Along with the sinusitis there is often pain. I have found that the herb
feverfew is highly effective in eliminating this sinus-induced pain. If left
untreated, this pain eventually leads to a migraine. Since using the feverfew
I have vastly reduced the number of migraines I get Usually I take 3 each
day of the Nature's Way brand but if I have a pain that is particularly tenacious,
taking feverfew every hour keeps the pain dulled and prevents it from becoming
a migraine. (This usually resolves in a day, however, if it goes on and on
I usually end up finding mold somewhere that is at the root of the problem).
I usually do quite poorly on herbs but to my surprise I have absolutely no
problems with feverfew. Also, it seems that I'm not as allergic to things
since I've been taking this herb. I react poorly to OTC and prescription pain-killers
and could not use enough of them to help adequately.
- I realize this seems drastic but get rid of all carpets if possible. All
they are good for is collecting the very things that make sinuses worse. At
the very least get rid of it in your bedroom.
- If you have a dust mite allergy, and this is the most common allergy, make
sure your bed and pillows are covered with a barrier cloth. Wash your sheets
weekly and blankets every two weeks in hot water. If you use a comforter,
they have barrier cloths for these as well. A good product comes from Allergy
Control Products (800-422-DUST). After several washings of their barrier covers,
I have no problems with them (even though my EI is severe) but my mother,
who also has severe EI still reacts to them and can't use them. We vacuum
often to remove allergens from the floor. We never did find a portable vacuum
cleaner that didn't smell too much even though we bought two especially made
for EI people. We finally got central vac and it is perfect for us. One of
the lovely perks of this disease is the money one can throw away just looking
for something to use.
- If you are allergic to mold, which most people are, get rid of it in your
house. The sad truth is that if it's a mold you are allergic to and it's big
enough to see, it's big enough to hurt your sinuses. Chemical exposure is
relatively easy to control but mold presents an ongoing challenge. Clean out
your ventilation system because mold thrives here. Have a professional clean
your air ducts (which builders frequently confuse with waste receptacles during
construction) and clean the condensation coils and pan of the air conditioner.
Have your car's air conditioner cleaned or don't use it at all. Install some
sort of central air cleaner. In my opinion, you still need a portable HEPA
filter for use in your room at night and to back up your central system during
Most of my mold problems come from food in the refrigerator. We have an
extra refrigerator which we keep outside that we put all our perishables
in, particularly vegetables. Make sure you examine and trim away all bad
parts before storing them. I find that if a portion of the food has mold
on it, it is best to through not only the whole thing away but all foods
stored in the bag with it. Do not keep garbage in your house for more than
24 hours. Transfer it to the trash outside (keep this far from the house)
within this time. Be careful of gardening as there is a lot of mold in the
soil. If you must dig in the dirt or water the plants you need to consider
some sort of mask.
Mold can also be in walls, old furniture, drains, house plants, laundry
rooms, basements, bathrooms, humidifiers, swamp coolers, grout, toilets,
and bathroom fans. Throw it out, seal it up, or kill it. A mold-free home/car
is important for someone with EI for reasons other than their sinuses. Mold
exposure, even one breath each day, has the ability to increase your sensitivity
to everything else. It usually takes me a good two or three days in a totally
mold-free environment before I begin to lose some of this extreme sensitivity
after removing the mold.
- People with recurrent infections can have an immune disorder called specific
antibody deficiency. Basically, it means that if your body is invaded by a
bacteria or a virus, it would just as soon shake hands with it as to kill
it. I saw many immunologists/allergists (even one at the Mayo Clinic) and
not one thought to test me for this. No EI doctor tested me either. Finally
I found an immunologist at UCI who did and, sure enough, I had it. The treatment
for this condition is gamma globulin infusions and it is covered by insurance,
including Medicare. Virtually everyone I have met with this problem have recurrent
sinus infections. If you haven't been checked for this and you get a lot of
infections, make your doctor test you for this and don't take "no" for an
answer. I get 20 grams every three weeks and it helps with sinus inflammation
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Cyndi Norwitz / email@example.com
/ Last Modified: 10/7/98