Updated: Jun 12, 2019
Many assume that sinus congestion comes from either a virus or seasonal allergies, but there can be many causes of chronic sinusitis.
So what is going on when you have allergy-like symptoms in the depths of winter? And what is going on when this doesn't last a few days - but for months?
Here are some less-than-obvious explanations to a common occurrence - and some simple ways to fix them!
1. Fungal Infection
While most cases of sinusitis due to infection are either viral or bacterial in origin, fungal infections are also common.
Antibiotics are frequently prescribed in cases of severe sinusitis (regardless of the cause). While sometimes necessary, antibiotics wipe out beneficial bacteria and can give a fungal infection a stronger foothold. This is a way that many fungal infections turn chronic.
It is vital to know the source of your symptoms. The wrong or inadequate treatment can make you sicker for longer. In rare cases, there are certain fungal infections that are invasive and can be potentially life threatening.
If you just assume you have a chronic viral infection be sure to go to a functional medicine doctor to rule out other possibilities and properly diagnose the infection.
Proper diagnosis and targeted treatment can be the difference between months of symptoms and a rapid recovery.
2. Food Allergies and Sensitivities
If you read this blog, you'll notice how often I mention food allergies and sensitivities as a possible cause of a wide range of symptoms. That's because they are incredibly common and frustratingly under diagnosed.
A primary symptom of a food sensitivity is chronic sinusitis. Sometimes, it's the only symptom.
Pay attention to how you feel when you eat certain foods. If you get congested after eating dairy or gluten, for example, then you may have a sensitivity.
The best way to see if you have a low grade sensitivity is to do an elimination diet.
Remove suspected foods completely (no cheating!) for at least 4 weeks and see how you feel.
Blog Post: How to do an Elimination Diet
Many people who have sensitivities report feeling renewed energy, weight loss, mental clarity and better sleep once they have removed their sensitivities.
Read more about food allergies and sensitivities
3. Environmental Allergens & Toxins
With winter comes cold weather and closed up houses. Unfortunately, the toxins inside your house can be worse than outdoor pollution from a big city.
These indoor toxins are caused by the off-gassing of toxic furniture, artificial fragrances, air fresheners, candles and conventional cleaners.
Vacuum and dust regularly, and on warmer days, open up the windows to get some much needed air circulation.
You can also get a good quality air filter as well as a few houseplants to help you keep the air clean.
4. Its Really, Really Cold
Frigid temperatures, as well as wild swings in weather, place a strain on your immune system.
Many people have underlying infections like staph, strep and various strains of fungus in their sinuses.
These infections are low-grade enough not to cause symptoms unless the individual is under a biochemical strain like grief, stress, sleep deprivation, nutritional deficiency or extreme cold or heat.