Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses, which are found in the forehead, cheeks and behind the eyes. It is a very common and extremely uncomfortable condition, especially at this time of year when allergies and associated respiratory symptoms tend to flare. The perfect setup for pain, congestion and discomfort.
In pregnancy, sinus pain and congestion occurs often. The reason for this, apart from the usual triggers, is hormonal as the natural rise in oestrogen and progesterone – a normal part of pregnancy – can contribute to swelling and mucus production. Many women experience sinus symptoms that can be uncomfortable at best and debilitating at worse.
One of the issues with managing sinusitis in pregnancy is that many of go-to remedies you would normally use, both pharmaceutical and natural, aren’t recommended in pregnancy. However, there is still plenty you can do to reduce symptoms naturally and dramatically improve how you feel.
- Avoid known allergens – seem obvious maybe, but good to start with! If you have any specific foods or compounds that you know you react to, now is the time to reduce or remove them from your diet.
- Increase dietary intake of anti-inflammatory and mucolytic nutrients such as Vitamin C and Bioflavonoids (found in: citrus, kiwi, cherries, capsicum, leafy greens) and Vitamin A (found in: free range eggs, legumes, free range organ meats, whole grains). You can also look at options to supplement these nutrients, where appropriate, but this should be discussed with your practitioner.
- Ensure your diet is as healthy and balanced as possible. That means: regular meals, a variety of fresh fruit and veggies, healthy fats and good sources of protein in your main meals. Also look at your intake of processed foods and drinks, particularly those high in sugar and salt, which should be reduced or removed from your diet.
- Drink plenty of fluids – ensure you’re drinking lots of water throughout the day, as hydration can help to combat inflammation. Carry a water bottle with you or have a glass next to you at home, as a reminder to drink regularly.
- Flush out your sinuses with a neti pot – this is also known as nasal irrigation. Using a saline solution (salt water) to rinse our your sinuses can help to keep the membrane moist (a relief when it is sore and inflamed) as well as clearing out excess mucus – this is best done in the shower or, at very least, over the sink!
- Steam inhalation – yep, the old bowl-of-hot-water-and-towel-over-the-head treatment. This helps to break up mucus congestion (relieving pressure and pain) as well as soothing an inflamed or irritated nasal passage. Spend several minutes at a time inhaling the warm steamy air – breathe slowly and deeply through your nose – do this 2-3 times (all up, around 10-15 minutes for a session)
- Massage your sinuses – the discomfort of sinusitis can be relieved by massage over the affected area, and many people do this unconsciously, by pressing on their forehead, cheeks and temples to help relieve pain. Sinus massage can relieve pain and it can also help to drain congested mucus. To do this, place the fingers of both hands in the centre of your brow, and apply as much pressure as is comfortable while you make small circles, moving outward towards the temples. Do this several times. Then repeat the process, but this time, start on either side of the bridge of your nose and work across the cheekbones, towards the temples.
ACUPUNCTURE AND HERBAL MEDICINE
- Acupuncture treatment can help significantly to relieve congestion, inflammation and pain associated with sinusitis. There is strong evidence supporting its efficacy in allergic rhinitis (hayfever) and related symptoms (such as sinusitis). Anecdotally, we see significant improvements in women seeking support for sinusitis in pregnancy. Additionally, because acupuncture is a holistic practice, it doesn’t treat the symptoms alone, but aims to improve your overall health and vitality as well.
- There are a number of herbal medicines that have a good safety profile in pregnancy and can be used to help with sinusitis, but it’s important to speak with your practitioner before taking anything.
- Whether you’re under the care of a GP, obstetrician, midwife, or all three… your medical practitioner/s can advise on what medication or other treatments may be appropriate to help you manage sinusitis in pregnancy.