Sinus drainage can make you uncomfortable particularly if it causes you to cough frequently, causes you stomach upsets, or interferes with your sleep pattern. Read on to discover everything you need to know about this problem including some intervention measures available.
What Is Sinus Drainage, Meaning
Sinus drainage, or postnasal drip if you like, is a sensation of mucus in the back of your throat which is often accompanied by an urge to swallow or cough.
This is usually a symptom of excessive mucus production or irritation by environmental allergens among other factors and is not a cause of concern unless it stays too long, has green or yellow coloration that stays along for more than a week, interferes with your daily routine, or makes it difficult to sleep.
What Causes Sinus Drainage or Why You Have It
So, what causes sinus drainage? First of all, sinus drainage is a natural phenomenon. Every day, the glands lining the sinus and nasal cavities to produce 1-2 pints of mucus to help to keep them moistened. This in turn helps to trap dust, viruses and bacteria before they enter the cavities.
These are washed down by the mucus down the throat where they are swallowed and eventually destroyed by gastric acids.
In ordinary circumstances, you don’t notice the mucus because it mixes with saliva and thins out considerably. The mucus only becomes an issue – and gets to the point where we can perceive it – when it is produced excessively or is thicker than normal.
Among the most common causes of sinus drainage are:
- Environmental and indoor irritants such as dust, pollen, dust mite, animal dander, molds etc.
- Sinus infection or Sinusitis
- Deviated septum (the cartilage separating the two nostrils), thus causing blockage.
- Certain medications, including blood pressure medications and certain birth control pills
- Change of weather and cold temperatures
- Objects stuck inside the nostrils in children
- Certain foods especially spicy foods
- Alcohol intake
- Fumes from perfumes, chemicals, cleaning products etc.
Sinus Drainage Procedure or Ways How to Drain Sinus
Sinus drainage is usually not a cause for concern but it can cause throat irritation, difficulty sleeping, and persistent coughing especially at night and leave you wondering what sinus drainage procedure to use to get rid of the problem. Below are numerous tips you may want to consider for treatment of the problem:
- Drink plenty of water and fluids but stay away from caffeinated beverages and alcohol
- OTC saline nasal sprays and decongestant: nasal sprays and decongestants offer relief from blockage and drainage.
- Hold a cloth soaked in warm water on your face, paying close attention to the forehead and the area behind your cheekbone, several times daily until it dissipates all its heat. Repeat the process a few times as necessary each time. Alternatively, stay in the shower for 25 minutes with warm water running and breathe in the hot moisture.
- Drink hot herbal tea. This also helps to drain your nasal pathways but also helps to boost you immune system
- Run a humidifier in your bedroom: A humidifier helps to keep your nasal and sinus cavities moisturized and thin the mucus out.
- Use a semi-reclined chair to rest and sleep, or lie down with your head propped up in a pillow. Sleeping on your side also gives you more comfort compared to sleeping on your back.
- Antihistamines: In case of allergy-induced sinus drainage, taking over the counter antihistamines such as Benadryl can help. Be sure to also identify and eliminate any potential allergens in your environment and house.
- Sinus inflammation medications: Your doctor may also prescribe sinus medications to help reduce sinus and nasal lining inflammation and help in more effective draining of the mucus. Antibiotics may also be needed if bacterial infection is involved.
- Drink hot herbal tea. this also helps to drain your nasal pathways but also helps to boost you immune system
- Surgery might be needed for sinus drainage triggered by anatomical defects e.g. deviated septum, or by tumor or polyps and for cases that don’t respond well to other treatment options. Prolonged use of nasal decongestants is however not recommended as it can worsen your condition rather than improve it.
Green Sinus Drainage
Sinus drainage that is accompanied by green discharge – mucus – that lasts more than 10 days is often an indication of sinus infection. This may happen after suffering a bout of cold when it causes swelling in sinuses which then prevents the outwards flow of mucus. This culminates in bacterial or viral infection of the sinuses.
Using over-the-counter decongestant medications for three days at most may help. If the green drainage persists for more than a week, then you should seek the attention of your doctor.
You should also check for the following symptoms: high fever, headache, and ear pain. All these warrants immediate consultation with your doctor. Antibiotic medication are usually administered.
Chronic or persistent green sinus drainage may also be a sign of air dryness (using a humidifier in your house could help), nasal polyps, or bronchitis.
Yellow Sinus Drainage
Yellow sinus drainage (nasal discharge) that lasts more than 10 days is also often a sign that your sinuses have suffered a viral or bacterial infection.
This color is due to the presence of white blood cells called neutrophils which the body sends to your rescue when suffering from a nose related conditions e.g. cold. Neutrophils have a greenish colored enzyme which is responsible for the yellowish (and sometimes greenish) discoloration in mucus.
Keep in mind however that you can still have a serious sinus infection (or even ear infection) and still have clear mucus as Neil L. Kao, MD, associate professor of medicine at the University Of South Carolina School Of Medicine points out.
Other telltale signs of infection are high fever, increasing pressure or pain in the facial points overlying the sinuses e.g. forehead, behind the cheekbone etc. all these warrants an evaluation by your doctor as does yellow sinus drainage that lasts more than 10 days.
Antibiotics are usually prescribed for treatment of bacterial infections and symptomatic relief is typically achieved within 48 hours of treatment. If symptoms doesn’t improve or seems to worsen after 48 hours, it may be a good idea to contact your doctor; an alternative antibiotic treatment may be needed.
Bloody Sinus Drainage
A bloody sinus drainage, that is a blood-tinged nasal discharge, is usually attributed to excessive and hard nose blowing, resulting in irritations, as the NIAID says.
Other common symptoms associated with this problem are nasal congestion, pain in the forehead and behind the cheekbones, coughing, and fatigue.
The bloody drainage from the nose is commonly mixed with mucus. It is advisable to get proper evaluation and treatment by a doctor if you consistently produce a bloody nose drainage.
Sinus Drainage in Stomach
As we have already mentioned, sinus discharge (mucus) gets mixed with saliva and flow down the throat and then into the stomach where it gets broken down by gastric enzymes before being excreted via the kidneys.
Excessive mucus drainage from the sinus can however be the culprit for stomach discomfort and pains.
Other symptoms that you may experience include nausea, dizziness, vomiting and diarrhea. It is also to uncommon for sinus drainage to cause persistent coughing and sore throat before it goes ahead to wreak havoc in the stomach.
If you experience this problem, you may want to try oral decongestants, but if allergies are suspected, try taking antihistamines and eliminating any potential allergens in your environment e.g. pet dander, dust mites, pollen, chemicals, molds etc.
Bismuth subsalicylate is also very effective in relieving stomach upsets but should not be used by children below 12 years.
Taking a piece of dry toast every morning also helps to absorb the excess mucus from your stomach.
If symptoms however persists for more than a few days, it is best to go have proper checkup and appropriate treatment from your doctor.
Sinus Drainage in Ear
Sinus drainage in ear causes pressure buildup and a muffled ear sensation akin to that you get from being inside a descending plane. This happens because the ear and sinuses are usually connected meaning that sinus problems can transcend into your ears.
Treating sinus congestion is key to getting rid of the symptoms felt in your ears, including pain, stuffiness, and discomfort.
You will in particular want to try using saline nasal sprays and nasal decongestants, run a humidifier, avoid weather extremes e.g. being out in the snow or jogging in the sun, and keep your head propped up with a pillow as you sleep.
Taking painkillers such as Motrin or Advil can help to relieve pain. As for ear drops also works great in relieving the pressure.
For dizziness, it is advisable that you avoid fast movements and refrain from alcoholic beverages, and tobacco products. Taking a lot of salt also does you no favor, but taking lots of water and non-caffeinated beverages e.g. juice does.
If all these doesn’t help, seek medical attention. In case of infection, antibiotics are typically required for treatment. Just make sure you finish the full round of antibiotics prescribed by your doctor.