Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on May 12, 2021

Sinuses Explained

1 / 9

Your sinuses are air-filled pockets found in your cheeks, behind your forehead and eyebrows, on either side of the bridge of your nose, and behind your nose. They can get clogged easily. Healthy sinuses are lined with a thin layer of mucus that traps dust, germs, and other air particles. Ideally, tiny hair-like cilia sweep mucus and anything trapped in it out of the sinuses, down the back of your throat, and into the stomach.

What Causes Sinus Problems?

2 / 9

Sinus pain and pressure happens when the tissue in your nose and sinuses gets swollen and inflamed. That keeps the sinuses from draining properly. A change in temperature, allergies, smoking, the common cold -- pretty much anything that causes swelling in your sinuses or keeps your cilia from sweeping away mucus -- can cause problems.

Breathe Moist Air

3 / 9

Keep a humidifier on in your bedroom or other rooms where you spend a lot of time. Dry air can irritate your sinuses, but keeping air moist can help reduce congestion. Inhaling steam two to four times a day may help, too. Sit in the bathroom with the door closed and the shower running. Make sure the water is hot.

Enforce a No-Smoking Zone

4 / 9

Fumes from harsh cleaning products, paints, hair spray, perfumes -- and most of all, cigarette smoking -- can irritate your sinuses. Don't let friends or family smoke in your home. Look for "green" cleaning products in unscented varieties. They're less likely to contain the harsh chemicals that can kick-start a sinus problem.

Drink More Water

5 / 9

Sip more H2O or juice. It'll help thin out mucus and encourage drainage. Hot tea is another good option. Don't overdo caffeine or alcohol. Alcohol can worsen sinus swelling. Aim for eight or more 8-ounce glasses of water or other healthy drinks each day.


Try Nasal Irrigation

6 / 9

It's also called nasal wash, and it can help keep your sinuses clean and clear. You use a mild, sterile saline solution to flush out the mucus and allergens causing your congestion. Lean over the sink, squirt the solution into one nostril, and let it drain through your nasal cavity and out the other nostril. Keep your mouth open and don't breathe through your nose.


Nasal Irrigation: What You Need

7 / 9

Rinse bottles, bulb syringes, and Neti pots are available at most drugstores. You can buy a pre-filled container or make your own saline solution. To make your own, mix about 16 ounces (1 pint) of lukewarm sterile water with a teaspoon of salt. Some people add ½ teaspoon of baking soda to take the sting out of the salt.

Avoid Your Triggers

8 / 9

Nasal allergies can lead to sinus problems like pain and pressure. So, steer clear of common triggers such as pet dander, dust mites, and pollen. Get your allergies treated, too.

1 / 9

Show Sources


(1)        Michele Constantini / Photoalto
(2)        Marc Grimberg / Tips Italia
(3)        Steve West / Digital Vision
(4)        Brayden Knell / WebMD
(5)        Brayden Knell / WebMD
(6)        Colin Anderson / Blend Images, Craig Zuckerman / Phototake
(7)        Illustration by dieKLEINERT/Doc-Stock, photography from Getty and Photo Researchers
(8)        Lyle Owerko / Photonica
(9)        Image Source


American Academy of Family Physicians.
New York University, Dept. of Otolaryngology.
Plasse H. Sinusitis Relief, Holt Paperbacks, 2002.