Sinuses Products

As effective as irrigations are at relieving nasal symptoms, most people with sinusitis need additional measures to obtain the relief they seek. Your local drugstore carries dozens of products intended to help people with sinusitis and other congestion-related ailments.

Table below provides information on some of these products, including brand names, benefits and drawbacks, and general pricing information. Whether a particular product will help you depends on your specific symptoms and their cause. Let’s take a look at what’s available.

Drugstore Products That May Reduce

Product Category Manufacturers/ Brands Available Symptoms Treated Benefits Disadvantages/ Drawbacks Cost*
Humidifiers Bemis, Hamilton Beach, Holmes, Honeywell, Hunter, Kenmore, Vornado, others Nasal dryness, congestion, postnasal drip Combat effects of dry indoor heating systems, excellent in cold climates, work all night at bedside Need proper cleaning $$$
Nasal tape Breathe Right Congestion Provides instant relief Effective only for narrowed nasal valve, visible to others $$
Mechanical dilators Breathe with Eez, Sinus Cones Congestion Provide instant relief, not visible to others Effective only for narrowed nasal valve, can be uncomfortable $$
Saline sprays Ayr, Breathe Right, Entsol, Ocean, Rhinaris Nasal dryness, congestion Inexpensive, good on airline flights Less effective for thick mucus, short-lasting effect, requires repeated use $
Moisturizing sprays and gels Ayr, Breatheease, Breathe Right, Entsol, Ponaris, Rhinaris, Snore Relief Nasal dryness, congestion, postnasal drip Longer lasting effect than saline sprays Cost more than saline sprays $$

*Cost: $ = under $10; $$ = $10 to $30; $$$ = $30 to $150.


A humidifier can make a huge difference if you live in a hot, desert climate (where the air is always naturally dry) or in a cold climate (where the indoor air is artificially dry because the heating system produces “dry heat”).

Problems from dry indoor heating are usually worst at night, when people often bump up the thermostat a few degrees to compensate for the lower outdoor temperature.

With the windows shut and the heat on, the humidity in a home can drop to 20 percent, compared to the optimal level of 40 to 50 percent obtained when the windows are open.

The symptoms you have throughout the day are largely determined by what happens at night. If you’re inhaling extremely dry air with every breath for seven or eight straight hours, you’re setting yourself up for sinus problems.

Dryness causes mucus to thicken and form crusts, leading to nasal congestion and sinus obstruction. A bedside humidifier is an effective way to add moisture to the air and reduce congestion and coughing.

You can buy a basic model at a drugstore or hardware store for less than $50, with fancier models costing two or three times that amount. It’s best to place the humidifier on your nightstand, so it’s close to your head while you sleep.

With the addition of this simple device, many people find they no longer wake up with a blocked nose and thick mucus in their throat. Some even buy a second humidifier to place near their desk at work. Although not as critical as using one at night, this additional source of moist air during the day can also help.

While I enthusiastically recommend humidifiers, I must emphasize the importance of keeping them clean. Follow the manufacturers’ directions about changing the filter and cleaning the inside regularly.

A humidifier can do more harm than good if it becomes contaminated with mold and bacteria—the last thing you need is a device that circulates sinus-irritating microorganisms around your bedroom. One final note. Patients often ask me whether they should buy a warm-or cool-mist humidifier.

Warm-mist models boil the water before it’s released, and they tend to stay clean a bit longer but are more expensive. Apart from the cleaning issue, warm-mist models are of no particular benefit for people with sinusitis.

The extra warmth of the inhaled mist can help individuals with respiratory problems involving the throat and lungs (such as babies with croup). But you need moisture, and cool mist is just as moist as warm mist.

Nasal Tape

You’ve probably seen pro football players on the sidelines wearing odd-looking pieces of tape across the bridge of their noses. Although the strips’ effectiveness in enhancing athletic performance through better nasal breathing is doubtful.

They can help relieve nasal obstruction in a subset of sinusitis sufferers whose obstruction is caused by a very specific problem: a narrowed nasal valve. What’s a nasal valve? Well, it’s not the solid bone part at the bridge and it’s not the soft cartilage at the tip.

Rather, it’s the firmer tissue in the middle third of your nose that collapses inward slightly when you take a deep breath. In some people, the nasal valve is narrower than normal, making it hard for inhaled air to get by.

Such narrowing may result from swelling caused by allergies or from an anatomical defect, such as an old nasal fracture or a deviated septum. Each nasal strip consists of two flat parallel bands of plastic embedded in a special adhesive pad.

When placed across the nose, the bands lift the skin upward and outward, pulling open the flexible cartilage walls and widening the nasal valve. If you have a narrowed nasal valve, these strips can definitely help you breathe better.

Unfortunately, most congestion results from swelling of the turbinates or other nasal membranes in a different location than the nasal valve. If you are unsure of the source of your congestion and have problems sleeping at night because of blocked nasal breathing, then you may want to give nasal strips a try.

The worst that can happen is they won’t work. And if they do help you at night, you can also wear them during the day, as long as you don’t mind looking like an NFL linebacker.

Mechanical Dilators

Several other mechanical devices are available that widen the nasal valve. Usually made of plastic, these products are inserted just inside the nostril. Many patients find them uncomfortable, but a few swear by them. As with nasal strips, they’ll only relieve congestion if you have a narrowed nasal valve.

Saline Sprays

For people who experience nasal dryness, saline sprays are a convenient way to supplement nasal irrigation and humidifiers. These sprays come in small plastic squeeze bottles containing a saltwater solution and some preservatives. Numerous brands are available.

Saline sprays are most helpful for people with rhinitis (inflammation of the nose) caused by prolonged exposure to dry air. By moistening the inside of your nose, they ease the discomfort resulting from nasal dryness.

Like humidifiers, saline sprays loosen the thick mucus associated with a dry nose, so it’s easier to clear and less likely to obstruct the nose and sinuses. Saline sprays are also good on long airplane flights, where the recycled air is often very dry.

Saline sprays are relatively inexpensive, but you’ll go through bottles very quickly if you use them regularly. If cost is an issue, you may wish to make your own saltwater solution.

Moisturizing Sprays and Gels

Some manufacturers augment traditional nasal saline sprays with ingredients designed to prolong their moisturizing effect, soothe inflamed membranes, and cut through thick mucus. Additives often include menthol, camphor, eucalyptus, and cottonseed oil, as well as essential oils to enhance flavor and aroma, such as peppermint and clove.

Similar to moisturizing sprays, but even thicker and therefore longer lasting, are nasal gels. These products contain many of the same ingredients as moisturizing sprays and may include additional emollients, such as aloe vera.

You apply a thin layer just inside your nostril with a finger or Q-tip. As the warmth from your body slowly melts the gel, it flows back to coat the nasal cavity.

Because an application of these sprays and gels lasts longer than a spray of saline, they are especially good for combating dryness at night.

If your symptoms don’t respond to nasal irrigation or the products described in here, then it’s time to take things up a notch and enter the world of over-the-counter and prescription medications.

Next, I’ll help you make sense of the large list of medications available to treat sinusitis, starting with decongestants, mucus-thinning agents, and antihistamines.