Ways To Recognize Serious Signs Of Sinus Infections
The length of the infection is an important determinant of the seriousness of the infection.
I usually consider most infections less than 3 weeks to be viral or inflammation related to congestion. At this point, the best treatment is usually medications that decrease the congestion and inflammation. This in turn will alleviate the symptoms and ultimately cure the illness.
When the illness continues beyond 3 weeks, bacterial infection can begin to develop. Though antibiotics can be considered at this point, other treatments may still be the best answer if they have not yet been given a try.
#2: Mucous Color
I will dispel a myth right here and now. Yellowish/greenish mucous does not necessarily mean the infection is bacterial.
Viruses can cause the same color mucous. The reason for the mucous is generally not the actual bacteria or virus, but the bodys immune response to the intruder.
So dont worry just because you see a colored mucous when you blow your nose. This will also improve as the infection abates.
#3: Sinus Pain
Sinus pain can occur anytime throughout a sinus infection. This is normal and means there is inflammation in the sinuses, as we discussed previously.
However, severe pain, redness over the skin, hardened skin over the sinuses, or even a severe headache are not generally normal and can indicate a bacterial infection.
A fever can be caused by both viruses and bacteria. So how do you differentiate between the two?
How Do You Know If Your Sinus Infection Is Getting Better
Lets say you do have a fever and thick, yellowish mucus. Odds are its a sinus infection. But how do you know whether or not its a bacterial sinus infection?If youre on day 3 or 4 of an infection, it will be difficult to ascertain what kind of infection you have on your own.
However, if youre somewhere between day 7 and day 11, this is what you should be on the lookout for:
- Fever is completely gone or noticeably improving
- Your congestion and discharge is obviously lessening
- You dont feel as fatigued as you did a few days ago
The theme here is obvious improvement. If your situation is improving, then you probably have a viral sinus infection and do not need antibiotics. If your situation is not improving , schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Can Sinus Infections Or Sinusitis Be Prevented
Currently, there are no vaccines designed specifically against infectious sinusitis or sinus infections. However, there are vaccines against viruses and bacteria that may cause some infectious sinusitis. Vaccination against pathogens known to cause infectious sinusitis may indirectly reduce or prevent the chance of getting the disease however, no specific studies support this assumption. Fungal vaccines against sinusitis are not available, currently.
If you are prone to recurrent bouts of a yearly sinus infection it may be important to consider allergy testing to see if this is the underlying cause of the recurring problem. Treatment of the allergy may prevent secondary bacterial sinus infections. In addition, sinus infections may be due to other problems such as nasal polyps, tumors, or diseases that obstruct normal mucus flow. Treatment of these underlying causes may prevent recurrent sinus infections.
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Sinus Infections Most Clear Up Without Antibiotics
ROCHESTER, Minn. Sinus congestion and the common cold go hand in hand. Usually, congestion goes away within a week or so as the body fights off the illness. But sinus congestion and a feeling of sickness can linger and worsen, which may indicate a bacterial infection.
The October issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter covers sinus problems, including symptoms of a bacterial infection and when antibiotic treatment may help clear out the stuffiness.
Sinus inflammation often begins with a cold, caused by a virus. When the sinuses become irritated and inflamed, sinus tissues swell. Expansion of these tissues can close off the ostia, the small openings that allow mucus to drain out of the sinus cavities. That blockage creates a feeling of stuffiness. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses and typically aren’t recommended within the first week of developing a cold.
The stagnant, moist environment of a blocked sinus cavity gives bacteria a place to grow and thrive. If bacterial infection develops, antibiotics may have a role in treatment. It’s tricky to determine whether sinusitis is caused by a virus or bacteria. The symptoms congestion, facial pain, drainage of mucus, cough, headache and feeling unwell can occur with both types of infections.
The likelihood of bacterial infection increases when:
What Are The Sinuses How Many Do We Have
A sinus is a hollow, air-filled cavity. For the purposes of this article, a sinus will refer to those hollow cavities that are in the skull and connected to the nasal airway by a narrow hole in the bone . Normally all sinuses are open to the nasal airway through an ostium. Humans have four pair of these cavities each referred to as the:
The four pairs of sinuses are often described as a unit and termed the paranasal sinuses. The cells of the inner lining of each sinus are mucus-secreting cells, epithelial cells, and some cells that are part of the immune system .
Functions of the sinuses include humidifying and warming inspired air, insulation of surrounding structures , increasing voice resonance, and as buffers against facial trauma. The sinuses decrease the weight of the skull. If the inflammation hinders the clearance of mucous or blocks the natural ostium, the inflammation may progress into a bacterial infection.
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Inhale Menthol And Camphor
Another inhaled odor that can help open up sinus passages is menthol, which is an ingredient in popular ointments that are used specifically to treat a stuffy nose. These ointments also contain eucalyptus oil and camphor, which combine with menthol to create a powerful scent that immediately relieves sinus pressure. This ointment can be rubbed on your chest and under your nose to deliver its soothing benefits. Unlike eucalyptus oil, this ointment should not be placed in the mouth.
What You Can Do To Soothe A Cold Or Ear Infection:
- Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce fever and head pressure.
- Try a cool-mist humidifier or shower steam to loosen congestion.
- Try over-the-counter saline drops to clear the nose.
- Consider sinus rinses or devices to remove mucus from young childrens noses.
- For children older than age 1, honey in warm water can soothe a cough.
- For older children, an extra pillow under their head can help them sleep better.
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When Should You Talk To An Ent About A Sinus Infection
You should schedule a consultation with an ear, nose, and throat doctor if you are experiencing these sinus infection symptoms:
- An infection that lasts longer than 10 days
- Chronic, recurring sinus infections
- Sinus pain and pressure that is disrupting your daily activities
- At-home remedies dont work to relieve your symptoms
- Increase in pain
Family doctors or primary care physicians can help with basic sinus infection treatment by prescribing antibiotics and prescription-strength decongestants. But recurring sinus infections or chronic issues should be addressed by an ear, nose, and throat specialist also known as an otolaryngologist. Depending on your insurance coverage, you might need a referral from your primary care physician before visiting an ENT.
How To Tell If These Remedies Are Not Working
You will know if these remedies are effective because you will begin to feel better and your sinuses will be less congested.
However, unlike with antibiotics where symptoms start to diminish quickly, natural remedies typically take longer to work. So you should continue to do these remedies regularly for at least a week or two before determining if they are working.
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Is It Possible To Get Over A Sinus Infection Without Antibiotics
While antibiotics are often recommended treatments for sinus infections, this medication isnt a one-size-fits-all solution for every patient. While many sinus infections are caused by bacteria or fungus, viral infections can also be the root cause.
For example, if the root cause is a viral infection, then antibiotics wont help in clearing up the infection. You will need to wait for the virus to run its course. Sometimes a secondary bacterial infection develops with the virus. Have you come down with a head cold, then the congestion worsens, and sinus pain develops a week later? The symptoms of the viral infection likely created the perfect conditions for the development of a bacterial infection in the sinuses.
In fact, with the rates of antibiotic resistance increasing, doctors are working to reduce the number of antibiotic prescriptions. There are times when antibiotics are needed for treatment. But each patient needs to be evaluated individually before jumping to conclusions about treatment options.
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Can Sinus Infections Lead To Ear Infections
Yes. A sinus infection can cause fluid to be trapped in the ear behind the eardrum. Bacteria and viruses can grow and can cause an ear infection. Its especially important to get to the doctor if youre feeling pain or pressure in the ear.
When you have a sinus issue, its important to understand that the nose and sinuses are a unit. This means you could be dealing with rhinosinusitis, which is inflammation of the nasal and sinus cavities. Sinusitis refers to an infection of the sinuses only.
There are many reasons why the nose and sinuses become inflamed it can be an anatomical issue or an infectious one. A former injury or birth defect, as well as sensitivities to allergens can cause some of the physiological impairments that lead to sinus issues.
Next Steps & Resources:
- To make an appointment with Dr. Winarsky or another physicians, call or visit our website
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When To See A Doctor For Sinus Pain
If your sinus symptoms are not getting better with at-home treatments, and if your sinus symptoms last longer than seven to 10 days, you should see a doctor for treatment. Allina Health has many convenient care options for care, from online visits to walk-in care, to help you get better fast.
If you have frequent or reoccurring sinus infections, you may want to see an ear, nose and throat for your treatment options.
Symptoms Of Bacterial Sinusitis In Children
In children, the symptoms of sinusitis may differ from those in adults. Children may experience:
- Tooth or mouth infections such as a dental abscess
In general, women are slightly more likely than men to get bacterial sinusitis.
If youâve had a cold or any of the disorders listed above, and youâre concerned that you may have bacterial sinusitis, check out the Ada app for a free symptom assessment.
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Is It How Much Youre Sleeping
Another major reason people get recurrent sinus and other infections is exhaustion.
Often an infection is the bodys way of telling us to slow down.
Have a friend bring you some old-fashioned chicken soup.
Then, force yourself to stay in bed until youre better.
Once youre well again, give yourself a bedtime. And start practicing the good sleep hygiene Dr. Paul Thomas, MD, and I describe in this book.
What Is A Sinus Infection
Behind your cheekbones, eyes, and forehead, you have six small sacks that fill with air when you breathe called your sinuses. Your sinuses are responsible for filtering the air you breathe before it enters your lungs.
Healthy sinuses have no viruses or bacteria in them. They can drain mucus easily, and air can flow freely through them.
A sinus infection is when mucus builds up in the sinuses creating an environment where viruses and bacteria thrive. As a result, the lining of the sinuses become inflamed and swollen.
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Is It Safe To Take Sinus Decongestants While Pregnant
It depends on the active ingredient. OTC pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine should only be used during pregnancy under your doctors supervision. They should not be used during the first trimester, only after, and even then, only with your doctors recommendation.
Talk with your doctor before using drugs containing these ingredients if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Research in animals has shown adverse effects on the fetus when the mother takes these drugs. There havent been enough studies with humans to be certain how the drug might affect the fetus. These drugs should only be used if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk.
What Home Remedies Help Soothe Sinus Infection Or Sinusitis Symptoms
Sinus infections caused by viruses can use home treatments such as pain and fever medications , decongestants, and mucolytics. In addition, some health care professionals suggest nasal irrigation or a sinus rinse solution to help relieve symptoms of sinus infections, even chronic sinusitis symptoms. This irrigation is accomplished with a Neti-Pot or a sinus rinse kit . The last reference of this article shows a video of a sinus rinse procedure. In 2012, the FDA issued a warning about the use of Neti-Pots. The FDA cautions people not to use untreated tap water for rinsing, as contaminated tap water rinses lead to two deaths.
Bacterial and fungal sinus infections usually require antibiotic or antifungal therapy so home treatments without them are often not successful. However, some authors suggest home treatments may reduce symptoms after medical therapy has begun some healthcare professionals recommend nasal irrigation after sinus surgery.
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Can I Treat Chronic Sinus Infections Without Antibiotics
Regardless of the type of sinusitis you have, there are a number of treatments that can help. The key to finding relief is to figure out whats really causing the underlying problem thats causing your sinusitis.
Your doctor may recommend any of the following treatments to help relieve your symptoms:
- Saline nasal irrigation: This treatment involves spraying or pouring a saline solution into one nostril. The solution washes out mucus as it moves from one nostril to the other.
- Nasal corticosteroids: These sprays help reduce the swelling and mucus associated with chronic sinusitis. They can also be used to help prevent nasal polyps from growing back after theyve been surgically removed.
- Oral or injected corticosteroids: Similar to nasal corticosteroids, these are used to relieve inflammation, especially if you also have nasal polyps.
- These medications are available as over-the-counter and prescription medications in various forms. They help lessen the leaking of fluid into your nasal tissues and help your nasal passages feel more open.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers: Medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help relieve facial pain.
Antibiotics are only sometimes necessary for sinusitis if you have a bacterial infection.
If chronic sinusitis keeps coming back, surgery is occasionally the best treatment option. A surgeon can remove blockages and enlarge the sinus passages, making it easy for fluid to properly drain.
Surgical Treatment For Bacterial Sinusitis
Surgery is not usually needed for acute bacterial sinusitis. It is only necessary in some cases of chronic sinusitis that do not respond to other forms of treatment. Endoscopic treatment, where a small camera-equipped probe is used to guide and perform the procedure, is one option. In this surgery, the endoscope is used to widen the natural drainage pathways in the sinuses and nose, which improves mucus drainage and cuts down on congestion and the chance of infection.
Rarely, acute bacterial sinusitis may cause an abscess to form near the eye or the brain. In these cases, surgical treatment will be needed to drain the abscess.
Good to know: Complications from bacterial sinusitis are rare, affecting only about one in every ten thousand people with the disorder. However, they are more common among children than adults, so caregivers of children with suspected bacterial sinusitis should exercise caution and be alert for worsening symptoms, swelling or redness of any area of the childÃ¢s face.
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What To Look For When Buying Otc Sinus Decongestants
When youre figuring out which decongestant to buy, youll need to determine whats causing your congestion.
If its allergies, youll probably want a product that contains an antihistamine ingredient like diphenhydramine. Antihistamines target your bodys immune response to allergens like pollen. Antihistamines usually make the person taking them a bit drowsy, so keep in mind taking them at any time other than bedtime may have you needing a nap.
If you have cold or flu symptoms, you may be looking for a product that includes phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine. These ingredients work by shrinking your blood vessels, which can help you breathe more easily and reduce the symptoms of a sinus headache or a stuffy nose.
However, both of these ingredients can cause you to feel restless and can make it difficult to fall asleep. These types of drugs can also make you nauseous. Generally, phenylephrine may have fewer serious side effects than pseudoephedrine. You should always consult a doctor before taking these meds if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Some OTC sinus decongestant formulas include both antihistamines and decongestant ingredients, and some add pain relief ingredients such as ibuprofen to their formula. Its best to treat for symptoms that you have, not for additional symptoms that you dont have.
Treating your congestion with OTC products doesnt always provide relief. You should seek professional medical care if you experience any of the following: