Note: I am so completely not a doctor, and I do not recommend the following to anyone. If you have chronic or acute sinusitis, you should always first consult a medical professional. You can ask them about using baby shampoo to clear out sinuses, but most of them would probably tell you that's stupid.
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I sometimes feel that a spiky glob of devil mucus has taken root in the sinus cavity behind my right cheek.
And that glob has gained sentience. And that sentient glob feels I have wronged it and seeks revenge by grinding against my maxillary sinus. And it will one day burrow into my brain like one of those bugs in “The Mummy.”
But after years of feeling like this, I think (hope, desperately hope) I finally have my sinuses under control.
The magic ingredient: baby shampoo.
Backing up a tic ... I've had chronic sinusitis (continual inflammation of the sinuses) for about eight years. It started after an epic sinus infection that I think was caused by living in a house with black mold in the walls. But I don't know. I've also always had a weak little baby of an immune system and bad allergies.
We sinus sufferers are legion. A U.S News report said that “health experts estimate 37 million Americans are affected by sinusitis every year and spend nearly $6 billion annually on the costs of battling it.”
You know that front skull ache that sometimes comes with hangovers? It's like that, but you didn't even have the pleasure of getting hammered the night before.
For several years, just doing a basic sinus rinse (distilled water mixed with salt and baking soda) every few days got me by. Various antihistamine sprays have also mitigated the symptoms in the past.
But this summer my sinuses took a dark turn. I started getting debilitating sinus infections over and over, and the basic rinses wouldn't expel the mucus or open my sinuses much at all.
Here's what I tried on my twisted path to snorting baby shampoo:
1. Went to the doctor. Antibiotics prescribed.
2. Called the doctor when the antibiotics didn't work. Got another round of antibiotics.
3. Felt better for a few days but then felt even worse.
4. Repeated steps 1-3. Got a legendary bout of diarrhea, like "Ben Hur" epic, like chariot race in "Ben Hur" epic.
5. Researched endoscopic sinus surgery.
6. Realized I couldn't afford endoscopic sinus surgery.
7. Read every hippie-dippy, holistic, all-natural website and public forum Google could find.
8. Added Apple Cider Vinegar to my sinus rinse. Low point in treatment, maybe in entire life. Felt like death but really cleared my mucus out, at least for a while.
9. Eucalyptus oil in a steam bath. Opened sinuses, providing temporary relief, but didn't clear out the mucus.
10. Chopped up garlic cloves and put them in a steam bath. Similar experience to No. 9.
11. Started reading up on biofilms, the hard-to-kill little bacteria that encase the infection and make it resistant to antibiotics.
12. Convinced myself that, hey, I have that!
13. Looked into various methods of breaking down biofilm. The two most prominent solutions I found during my research (thanks, Internet!): Xylitol, which is a natural sugar substitute, and baby shampoo.
14. Bought some Xylitol spray at Whole Foods. It kind of worked. As soon as I used it, snot started draining down the back of my throat. I heard some snap and crackle up in my frontal sinuses, the ones above the eyes. Some of the pathways were peeling themselves open, and, joy!, air was flowing again.
15. But the snot demon ball in my face had not been fulling exorcised. In a late-night moment of desperation, I overcame my reservations (there's research!, I told myself). I put a teaspoon of Johnson & Johnson's Baby Shampoo into my sinus rinse, which also contained salt, baking soda, Xylitol and distilled water.
16. And it didn't hurt or feel uncomfortable in the slightest. In one nostril and out the other. Disconcerting and maybe a little hilarious: A bubbly brew started streaming out my nose after the rinse, and everything smelled like my early childhood.
17. I didn't notice anything at first, but, gradually, my sinuses started popping, and mucus flowed down the back of my throat in big gushes. The baby shampoo broke through. I baby shampoo-ed my sinuses for a few more days, and now I feel better than I've felt in several years.
Now, it might have been more than the baby shampoo. I was also using the Xylitol spray and was also on the tail-end of some powerful antibiotics. It could have been a combination of factors that de-snottified me.
But there is a growing amount of research that biofilms are a major foe in the sinus wars. If you have chronic sinus infections, read up on biofilms (I've attached some links below) and ask your doctor if biofilms are potential culprit in your recurring sinus problems.
And since general practitioners' standard operating procedure for sinus infections is just to prescribe antibiotics, I would recommend going to an ear, nose and throat specialist if your sinusitis is ongoing and implacable.
Some additional links and headlines about biofilm treatment: