Just as it seems you’re finally dropping off to sleep you bolt upright, unable to breathe – your mouth and nose are as dry as the Sahara. You check your pulse and your breathing – you’re fine, except you’re so stuffy.
Welcome to sinusitis, a common condition wherein the mucous membranes in your sinus and nasal passages become swollen and inflamed from the hormonal changes and increased blood volume of pregnancy. It’s the most cited reason women call their nurses during pregnancy, and once it starts, it can become an annoying problem throughout your entire pregnancy.
Don’t suffer in silence. Stuffiness is the leading complaint among pregnant women, but its symptoms can also be a sign of infection. Call your health care provider if you develop a fever, have thick nasal mucous (often yellow/green in color), a persistent cough or any other symptom that doesn’t get better on its own.
1. Squirt saline
You can find saline sprays and soothing nasal gels at your local pharmacy. These provide relief by soothing swollen passages and loosening any mucous. Saline is safe in pregnancy and many pregnant women use saline rinses daily.
Drink plenty of water to reduce the effects of sinusitis. Your fluid requirements increase dramatically during pregnancy, so pay attention to how much you’re drinking each day and strive for a minimum of 48 ounces of water. Avoid caffeinated drinks, like coffees and teas (even decaffeinated ones) because they can have a dehydrating effect.
3. Boost humidity
Whether through a room humidifier, steamy shower or face steam mask device, breathing moisture helps reduce the stuffiness you feel when your passages swell. This is particularly important during winter months, when a pan of boiling water on the stovetop will help return the humidity that your forced hot air heater robs you of.
4. Avoid allergens
Especially if you’re prone to sinus problems when you’re not pregnant. Smoke is dangerous anytime but even more so during pregnancy. Talk to your health care provider about which antihistamines are safe for use during pregnancy.
5. Ask for relief
If you’ve tried these top 4 tips without relief, ask your health care provider about both over-the-counter and prescription medications that can help you with your symptoms.
Tamera L. Young, RN, MSN, is an obstetric clinical instructor at Central Ohio Technical College in Newark, OH.
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