I’ve had a sudden onset of sinus problems in the past few months. My oral surgeon assures me that these problems have nothing to do with the dental surgery that immediately preceded them. Because there is no connection whatsoever between the mouth and sinuses (inform the otolaryngologists that theirs is sham field). On the subject of ENTs, did you know that ENTs are actually surgeons, and if you go to one for help, they have nothing to offer in between Nasonex and surgery? Well now you know.
My real point is that with some experimentation, I’ve found a few good products that I didn’t previously know about. I’m sharing in the hopes of helping someone else by cluing them in about these surprisingly little-known gems.
Note: I’m leaving out mention of sinus rinsing and plain saline sprays because everyone knows about them and there’s a glut of information for them. Also, if sinus rinsing or plain saline spray is all it takes to keep you clear, then YOU DON’T HAVE SINUS PROBLEMS. What you have is normal sinuses. Consider yourself lucky, and stop telling people that rinsing cures everything.
First, an exercise
This won’t clear your nose for more that a few minutes, but it can be very helpful to unstuff things before using a nasal spray (assuming the congestion is inflammation and not mucus).
Exhale. Pinch your nose shut and hold your breath. Nod your head up and down, and continue until you can’t hold your breath any more. Breath through your temporarily clear nose.
Conclusion: You’ll feel like an idiot, but it works for a few minutes. That’s all the time you need to use a sinus rinse or spray.
Naturade Nasal Spray, Saline & Aloe
This is a nice step up from a plain saline spray. It’s isotonic (meaning it’s the same level of saline as in the human body). In addition to the aloe, there’s a few other extracts in it that give it a gentle boost for clearing sinuses. It’s low-level help, but sometimes that’s all you need. One of the great things about it is that it’s cheap and relatively easy to find (I got it at Whole Foods).
Oddly, the price is higher on Naturade’s website than what I paid at WF.
Conclusion: A good saline spray with just a little extra.
Xlear Nasal Spray, Pump Mist
This is a great Afrin alternative. I’ve told so many people about it that a friend asked if I was being paid to shill for them (they should pay me, but they don’t). It’s hyperosmotic (hypertonic), which means it has a higher saline content than the human body. That means it dries you out more. It also contains the sweetener xylitol, so when it runs down the back of your throat it’s tasty (you just can’t underrate how nice that is compared to some other things you might spray up your nose).
It’s not as strong as Afrin, and it might take just a bit longer to kick in. But here is the awesome part. Unlike Afrin, it’s not addictive, and it won’t damage your sinuses and sense of smell like Afrin can. So you can use it every day if you need it. Seriously, no more “three days only then suffer if it hasn’t resolved.” The only down side is that it is meant to dry things out. So it’s highly effective for clearing mucus, but might not be as helpful if dry, inflamed swelling is your problem.
The manufacturer insists that it’s pronounced “clear,” but everyone I know calls it “x-clear” to clarify that they’re referring to the product and not the condition. The company also happen to be pretty good at social media (they always thank me when I talk about them on Twitter) and they have a good store locator feature on the Xlear website (look in the nav bar at the top). In Austin, you can find it at Whole Foods and the Vitamin Shoppe, as well as a few other places.
Conclusion: Freaking awesome.
Sinusoothe Nasal Spray
This is the Holy Grail of sinus sprays: it’s expensive and ridiculously difficult to get. It’s an isotonic saline spray that contains a number of essential oils. It claims to be anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal. I didn’t even include the entire list of claims from the Sinusoothe website, and if you go look at it, it’ll set off your bullshit detectors. The amazing thing is that, in my experience, most of it is true. This stuff actually heals sinus passages like nothing else I’ve tried. I’m still skeptical about their anti-allergy claims as I haven’t had an opportunity to test that (though we’ll get to Cedar Fever season soon enough). If you have a cold, Xlear will do it for you, but if you have a sinus infection or chronic sinusitis, Sinusoothe is what you want.
Here’s the big problem. The manufacturer is in the UK. Which is great if you live in the UK, but if you live in the US like me, you have to mail-order Sinusoothe. And it comes via Royal Mail. In one to two weeks. At $30 a bottle.
About that .64 ounce size: I kept track with my second container, and I got 125 sprays out of it before it got down to the bottom (with a little bit left that was really tough to get the sprayer to pick up). So if you use it only twice a day, one spray in each side, it’ll last a month. But odds are good that if you, like me, have become desperate enough to order it, you need a lot more than the minimal amount. So it goes from expensive to damn expensive.
If you order six units at once, you can get a seventh one for free (I’m desperate enough for a product that works that I did that). The instructions tell you to skin-patch test for allergic reaction first; since most companies simply say not to use if allergic to the ingredients, their added instructions of how to test is a nice touch. I should probably also warn you that some reviews complain about it burning. I got used to it so fast I never even think about that. Either those people are wussies, or their problems are too minor for this stuff. When you get to the “holy shit, I would KILL to get my nose working again” state, then you’re ready.
Conclusion: Freaking awesome. For me, it was worth the money and the shipping time. Though if you need something now, the shipping time might be a deal-breaker.
So there you have it. Three levels of sinus spray help, and one exercise to clear you out enough to use them. If you’ve had a different experience, or you’d like to recommend something else, please speak up and comment.