How to get rid of a sinus infection quickly without painkillers

Suffering with a sinus infection? Here's how our writer got rid of hers in just 24 hours

Woman holding head in hands, sitting on step next to plant at home, in pain with sinus infection
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Looking for how to get rid of a sinus infection quickly? Our very own woman&home writer Gabrielle Dyer was in this situation recently. Here, she reveals the only thing that helped her deal with chronic sinusitis. Plus, we've spoken to an expert to determine what exactly causes this nasty condition.

If you’ve never had a sinus infection, it’s hard to explain just how awful they are. I made it my whole life sinusitis free, taking breathing through my nose for granted. Then, following a stint of back-to-back antibiotics I found myself dealing with the dreaded chronic sinusitis.

This is what happens when the spaces inside the nose and head become swollen and inflamed, explains Hussain Abdeh (opens in new tab), a superintendent pharmacist. "It becomes chronic when this goes on for at least three months in spite of treatment."

But the inability to breathe, my runny nose, and all the money spent on tissues were the least of my worries - the unbearable pain was the worst part. Being someone who's never even really had tension headaches or been in need of migraine cures, nothing could have prepared me for the 5 months of near constant throbbing face and head that a sinus infection gave me.

Woman pouring painkillers into her hand to deal with sinus infection

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What causes a sinus infection?

While sinus infections usually start off as a cold, they can also be triggered by hay fever, or in my case, a weakened immune system. This was a first time occurrence for me but it's something that Abdeh, who works with Medicine Direct, says is actually quite common. 

"Common allergies like hay fever can block the sinuses and cause this problem," he says, alongside more serious conditions like HIV and cystic fibrosis. "If you have a respiratory infection, such as a cold, this can also cause inflammation that thickens the sinus membranes and blocks mucus drainage."

At its best, it felt like a dull headache and at its worst, like my head was going to explode. Lying down made it worse so I had to sleep in a weird, half-sat-up position that left me unable to sleep properly and so feeling constantly exhausted.

I bought decongestants, nasal sprays, I steamed, I lived off painkillers for months. I hoped it would go. It didn’t. Then, on one of my many sleepless nights I came across something called a Neti Pot.

What is a Neti pot? 

It sounded strange, a pot for your nose? And illuminated by the bright light of my phone screen, it looked even stranger. Essentially, it’s a pot with a very long, thin snout that you hold up to your nose and use to flush out your nasal passage. You then buy a special Neti solution, which is basically just salt, to mix into your water and create the solution.

The pot has plenty of research behind it, Abdeh says, including a study by Khon Kaen University (opens in new tab), suggesting that it's generally safe to use. "Although, I would always recommend speaking to your doctor before using them as improper use of these types of nasal irrigation devices may increase the risk of infection," he warns.

I was skeptical at first, but handful of people were claiming across multiple forums that they were the only thing that helped - and I was ready to try almost anything at this point. This seemed too easy an answer to the months of drugs and pain. Plus, it was only £16. 

The first time I used it, it was an unusual sensation. You have to tilt your head forward in a certain way so that it doesn’t run down the back of your throat and make sure you’re breathing through your mouth only.

Afterwards, I followed the instructions and did the sinus massages included on a handy little sheet. And what do you know, the following day I felt like a weight had been lifted from my head. I woke up at a normal time just the once, rather than constantly throughout the night, and that dull pain was almost entirely gone. I literally couldn’t believe it.

It certainly takes some getting used to but if you're suffering with a sinus infection and running out of options, I would really recommend giving this a try. It's no exaggeration when I say it changed my life, freeing me of pain that kept me from doing so many of the things I love for almost half a year.

Beauty writer and editor

Gabrielle Dyer is a freelance beauty editor, social media manager, and photographer who has previously worked at Cosmopolitan.com and Look Magazine. She has written for Women's Health UK, Elle UK, Cosmopolitan, Byrdie, woman&home, Refinery 29 UK, and more.

Her favorite hobbies include sleeping, eating cake till she can't move, and uncontrollably hoarding beauty products.