Cold and flu season is here! As if getting through a cold isn’t fun enough, afterwards many folks experience the dreaded second layer: the add-on sinus infection! Read on to find out how to recognize when your common cold is turning into a sinus infection, and how to prevent it from happening!
How to recognize your cold is turning into a sinus infection: Most of us are pretty familiar with recognizing when we have a cold. We feel low-energy, have a headache, a mild fever, want to sleep more, or have a raspy throat. Then we start to feel better, the sore throat goes away, energy is back, and Whammo! Our head feels 10x bigger, nose is plugged, we blow clear snot, have a morning cough that brings up some gunk, have trouble hearing gramma on the phone, and have post-nasal drip and stinky breath.
Congratulations. Your cold is trying to turn into a sinus infection.
If you have all the symptoms above AND you have lots of yellow, green, or white mucus that you’re coughing/hacking up or blowing out, you probably already have an infection and this post is not for you. You can still do these tips, but you should see a doctor.
For the rest of you, here are some things to help prevent the dreaded sinus infection. Because the sinuses are a poorly-accessible area, you have to be diligent about this regimen to prevent infection. These suggestions can help thin mucus, move congestion, and clear the sinuses, all of which decrease liklihood of infection.
- Hydrate. Like a professional athlete. 10 – 15 glasses of water a day. Drink homemade broths, chicken soup, bone broth, blend vegetables into smoothies, mix ½ and ½ vegetable juice and water (not V8, choose green drinks), or use vitamin C packets or non-caffeinated electrolyte packets.
- Skip the coffee for a week. And chocolate, sugar, black tea, and straight fruit juice. These are dehydrating, and are your enemy when preventing infection.
- Immune support/antimicrobials. Get Vitamin C packets, a multivitamin, and Echinacea/Goldenseal pills, 3x the daily dose. Continue until congestion resolves.
- Use guaifenesin. This is an over-the-counter mucolytic (breaks up mucus) that is quite effective and has very few unwonted effects. Dose before bed to prevent mucus while sleeping, and in the morning to break up overnight congestion.
- Morning shower. Great for moving congestion. Put 1-2 drops thyme essential oil on the shower floor to soothe cough and thin mucus. Cover your face and cheeks with a hot washcloth for 3 mins, then a cold washcloth for 30 seconds, and repeat the cycle 3x. After you step out, put a cold washcloth on your face for 30 seconds.
- This is a great time to use a Neti pot! This is an instrument for nasal irrigation and can encourage sinus drainage. Follow the instructions (usually ¼ tsp of salt in a full pot of mildly warm water, one pot per nostril), and do 1-2 times daily.
- Warming socks application. Pulls congestion from the head overnight by increasing circulation to your feet. Take one pair of very thin socks, wet them with cool water, wring out well, and put them on your feet! Cover with thick wool socks and jump in bed. The socks dry overnight, and you have less congestion!
Please remember: these suggestions are at-your-own-risk. They can work great for kids, but be sure to consult a pediatrician about dosage for supplements.
Watch out, sinus infection! Next time that winter cold comes around, you’ll be ready!
Dr. Jean Lowe Carlson, ND