Sinusitis During Pregnancy: Types, Causes, And Home Remedies

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A blocked nose, a heavy head, and reddened cheeks are a scary combination. Unfortunately, that’s the trouble you have when there is aggravating pressure on the sinuses.

If this happens during your pregnancy then the suffering simply doubles from the normal times. But why are you prone to sinusitis during pregnancy? What are the home remedies you can use?

MomJunction helps you understand the condition and the ways to ease that pressure and feel better. Read on.

What Is Sinusitis?

Sinusitis (rhinosinusitis) or sinus infection is an inflammation of one or more paranasal sinuses (a group of air-filled spaces that surround the nasal cavity).

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The sinuses swell and cannot drain the mucus properly (1). This could become worse during pregnancy as it is hard to detect whether sinusitis is due to infection or hormones.

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How Common Is Sinusitis During Pregnancy?

According to research (2), 20–40% of women in their childbearing years show symptoms of rhinitis and sinonasal diseases; 10–30% of these women have heightened symptoms during pregnancy.

Bacterial sinusitis is one of the most common causes of sinonasal disease requiring medical attention during pregnancy.

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Symptoms Of Sinus Infection During Pregnancy

Sinusitis may develop in any trimester. The common symptoms of the infection include (3):

  • Nasal stuffiness with mucus drainage
  • Blocked or a runny nose
  • A sore throat
  • A headache that is aggravated while tilting your head or chewing something
  • High body temperature due to an allergic reaction
  • A severe cough
  • Facial pain and pressure
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste
  • Earaches
  • Bad breath from nose and throat

What Causes Sinusitis During Pregnancy?

The typical causes of sinus infection during pregnancy are (4):

  • Pregnancy hormones, especially progesterone and estrogen, can worsen sinusitis. The hormones increase blood circulation in the vessels and membranes (including mucous membrane) making them swell. The swollen membrane leads to congestion and postnasal drip.
  • Weaker immunity during pregnancy might increase your chances of getting sinusitis due to bacterial, fungal and viral infections.

The other possible reasons that could put you at a higher risk of developing sinusitis include:

  • Allergies such as rhinitis (5) or hay fever caused by pollen
  • Allergies caused by dust, pet hair, detergents and more
  • Head or nose injuries that result in inflammatory responses
  • Cold and flu infections

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Different Types Of Sinus Infections During Pregnancy

According to the nature of progression, sinusitis is of two types (6).

  • Acute sinusitis is a temporary infection that lasts up to four weeks. Sinuses get inflamed due to a cold or allergy. The blocked sinuses prevent mucus drainage. The symptoms peak and disappear in some time.
  • If the infection lasts between four and 12 weeks, it is called subacute sinusitis.
  • Chronic sinusitis develops when symptoms of sinus infection last for more than 12 weeks and continue for several months. The symptoms get severe and disappear periodically thus varying in intensity.

The continued infection will make the immune system weak. Generally, antibiotics, decongestants, and antihistamines would work, and sometimes natural remedies are helpful too.

[ Read: Cold During Pregnancy ]

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Home Remedies For Sinus Infection During Pregnancy

Before you use any medication, you may try some safe home remedies (7) to get relief from sinusitis.

  1. Use a room humidifier in the night to keep the nasal passages moist and accelerate the healing process while you are asleep.
  1. Inhale steam from a hot water tub or bowl. Doing it twice a day will help loosen the mucus.
  1. Blow your nose carefully as aggressive action could damage the mucous membranes. Use your thumb to cover up one nostril, and blow gentle and quick burst of air from the other until you get relief.
  1. Use saline (salt water) irrigation by using saline spray/drops/flush or neti pot. Isotonic preparations from pharmarcies are preferable. Do not use water on its own as this can be damaging to the mucous membrane.
  1. Apply warm compresses around your nose, forehead, cheeks, and eyes. It will soothe the stuffiness and make the mucus drain through the nasal passages.
  1. Drink at least eight glasses of water in a day to remain hydrated.
  1. Sleep with your head elevated on pillows. This prevents cough and postnasal drip, thus helping you sleep better.
  1. Drink fenugreek tea. Add crushed fenugreek seeds in boiling water, and steep for some three minutes. Strain it and add sugar or honey. Consume three to four times a day.
  1. Make a fresh concoction of lemon by squeezing it in hot water. Sip throughout the day for the vitamin C in it to work on your immune system.
  1. Hot water, hot water with honey or black tea with ginger can provide quick relief. Soup is also a good option.
  1. Your appetite gets affected during a sinus infection. Therefore, make sure to eat nutrient-dense foods such as fruits and vegetables. Have smaller meals instead of three big meals.

Home remedies do not cure sinusitis but provide relief from its symptoms.

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When To See Your Doctor?

Sinusitis usually resolves itself with home remedies. But, if the symptoms do not improve, or they worsen, you should contact a doctor. Also, see a doctor if you are:

  • having a fever of 101°F (38°C)
  • coughing yellow or green discharge
  • unable to sleep or eat
  • having recurrent bouts of infection

Ignoring the infection or leaving it untreated could raise the risk of meningitis (inflammation of protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord). It could even spread to other body parts such as eyes, skin, and bones.

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Diagnosis And Tests For Sinus Infection In Pregnancy

The doctor diagnoses the condition by analyzing the symptoms. They may suggest a few tests to know the cause of the inflammation (8).

  • Skin tests measure the reaction to a particular allergen (pollen, dust, etc.)
  • Blood tests check the immune response of the body to common allergens
  • A nasal endoscopy helps in determining the condition of the nasal passages even to the smallest deformity
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan of the paranasal sinuses helps assess injuries, infections, and abnormalities.

The doctor will prescribe you medications based on the diagnosis.

[ Read: Ear Infections During Pregnancy ]

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Treatment For Sinus Infections During Pregnancy

The commonly prescribed medication for a sinus infection and its symptoms are:

  • Painkillers such as acetaminophen for a headache, sinus relief, and sore throat
  • Antibiotics such as amoxicillin (9) and cefprozil for acute sinusitis (10)
  • Decongestants, expectorants, cough suppressants and antihistamines for upper respiratory infections

Though these medicines are safe, try to limit their usage and go for natural remedies.

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Do Complementary Therapies Provide Relief From Sinusitis During Pregnancy?

There is no proper research on the effectiveness of these therapies. However, you may try these with the consent of your doctor and continue if they work for you.

Some common therapies you can opt for under supervision are:

  • Aromatherapy: Eucalyptus oil is helpful. Take a few drops of it on a tissue, and sniff to clear the nasal passages. You can also add two drops in a bowl of water, and inhale the steam. It helps ease the symptoms of sinus congestion (11).
  • Acupuncture: It works on a principle that stimulating some points in the body using needles will relieve the symptoms. There is little evidence that acupuncture works for respiratory infections.
  • Homeopathy: You may try it on the prescription from a qualified and registered homeopath.
  • Herbal medicine: Due to lack of experimental data there is not enough information to know how safe many herbs are in pregnancy, which means erring on the side of caution is recommended. However, echinacea is safe for use in pregnancy and may prevent secondary infections from sinusitis as well as modulate a dysregulated immune system.

Sinusitis is a troublesome issue. Therefore, take every measure to prevent the infection from recurring.

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What Can You Do To Prevent Sinusitis During Pregnancy?

The following measure will help you prevent sinus infections (2):

  • Boost your immunity by taking fresh fruits, vegetables, and vitamin supplements.
  • Yogurt contains probiotic lactobacillus that is known to improve your immune system.
  • Zinc is essential for healthy immune function and reduces the severity of maternal infections. You may choose to have foods containing zinc, such as whole wheat bread, lentils, chickpeas, eggs, cashew nuts, baked potatoes, fish and meat.
  • Keep your house clean to avoid bacterial infections.
  • Limit your exposure to plant pollen, dust, and pets.
  • Avoid environments with poor air quality.
  • Avoid contact with those having colds and infections.

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Can A Sinus Infection During Pregnancy Harm The Baby?

Sinus infection is not likely to affect the baby. Sinusitis and other infections do not transfer to the baby as the placenta filters most of the toxic products your body produces when combating a disease.

Sinus infections could be unpleasant, but following simple measures will help fight the ailment. Home remedies are sufficient for mild to moderate cases of sinusitis. However, if you are taking any medicines for the infection, do it only after consulting your doctor. Give your body proper nourishment and enough rest to recover.

[ Read: Sore Throat During Pregnancy ]

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If there is a family history of atopy (asthma, eczema, or hayfever/sinusitis), mothers can reduce the risk of these conditions in their children by taking the probiotic strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG in the last trimester.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Sinusitis; Rush University Medical Center
2. Allergic Rhinitis; The University of Michigan Health System (2013)
3. Dzieciolowska-Baran E et al.; Rhinitis as a cause of respiratory disorders during pregnancy; Adv Exp Med Biol (2013)
4. Gregg Goldstein, M.D and Satish Govindaraj, M.D; Rhinologic issues in pregnancy; US National Library of Medicine, NIH
5. Sinus Infection (Sinusitis); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017)
6. Symptoms of Sinusitis; Massachusetts Eye and Ear (2018)
7. A Guide to Natural Ways to Alleviate Allergy and Sinusitis Symptoms; The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
8. Nonallergic Sinusitis; Cedars-Sinai (2018)
9. Paul O’Keefe, M.D; Pharmacology/Therapeutics – Introduction to Antibiotics (2011)
10. Cefprozil; U.S. National Library of Medicine (2018)
11. How Do I Choose and Use Essential Oils; The University of Minnesota (2016)

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