Sinus Infections – What It Is and What You Can Do About It

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Your head feels heavy, you have a clogged nose, and you just can’t bear the pain in your forehead! If it isn’t colds or flu, it may be sinus infections!

Many people often mistake the symptoms of sinus infections for colds, flu or another upper respiratory tract infection. It’s only when it’s gone on for days and days that sinusitis is suspected.

Sinusitis is defined as inflammation or swelling of the paranasal sinuses. These are hollow structures in your skull located in the forehead and below the eyes. They function to keep the nasal passages moist and trap dirt and germs.

This allows the air to enter and leave the body freely through the nose.
When the paranasal sinuses are clogged and swollen, we experience the symptoms associated with sinusitis.

What are the symptoms of sinus infections?

Sinusitis can occur as a short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic) infection. Acute cases last for about a couple of weeks to a month. On the other hand, chronic cases can last until 12 weeks.

Symptoms may vary depending on the severity of the inflammation. Nevertheless, the following symptoms are the most common:

  • Facial pain or a feeling of fullness around the eyes and/or forehead
  • Nasal discharge
  • Nasal obstruction or difficulty in breathing
  • Reduced sense of smell
  • Fever
  • Bad breath due to infection
  • Ear and eye pain

What are the causes of sinus infections?

A lot of factors can cause sinus infections. The most common include:

  • Blocked sinus drainage
  • Swelling in the nasal passages due to the common cold
  • Allergies – Read my post about allergies
  • Nasal polyps
  • Irritants such as cigarette smoke, chemical sprays, cocaine, pollens etc.
  • A lowered immunity caused by stress, disease, or medications that suppress immune function

What are the treatments for sinus infections?

Usually, acute sinusitis can be relieved through rest and increased fluid intake. If it’s caused by a virus, sinusitis can resolve on its own. However, when the symptoms persist, you may need to see your doctor for an antibiotic prescription.

The uncomfortable symptoms can be managed by over-the-counter medications. One of these is acetaminophen for facial pain, headache and fever. You can also take a decongestant like phenylephrine to ease your stuffy nose. Remember though, that medications containing decongestants should not be taken for more than three days. This helps avoid rebound nasal congestion that can be worse than the initial congestion.

You can also take a medication like guaifenesin. This is a mucolytic that helps breaks down mucus to make it easier to expel. Most sinusitis medications come as combination products. They contain two, three or four of these active ingredients. This makes it more convenient to take compared to taking separate medications. Some also contain chlorpheniramine to help ease a runny nose.

There are some home remedies that can help as well. Steam inhalation from a pan of warm water can help relieve a clogged nose and alleviate difficulty in breathing. A warm compress can also ease the pain around the nasal area, eye and ear.

Avoiding irritants like pollens, chemical fumes and cigarette smoke greatly helps in preventing complications. Finally, living a healthy lifestyle and boosting your immune system can speed up recovery and prevent any recurrence.