Tips For Treating Chronic Sinus Infections
No matter the season, having a cold is never convenient. Its even worse when your cold turns into a sinus infection. A sinus infection will stick around long after symptoms of an upper respiratory infection are gone. You might even know its a sinus infection because you get sinus infections frequently. Perhaps your doctor diagnosed your sinus infection after you just couldnt seem to get better. After all, since almost 30 million Americans suffer from sinusitis, your doctor likely treats them a lot.
The question is, when do you need to see a specialist? If your sinus infection just isnt going away, or if you seem to get recurrent sinus infections, it may be time to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist.
What Are Sinus Infections
The hollow spaces in the bones of your face around your eyes, nose, and cheeks are called sinus cavities. Theyre lined with mucous membranes, and they produce mucus to keep your nasal passages moist. If you get a cold or experience allergies, your sinuses can become irritated and inflamed.
This irritation may then trigger your mucous membranes to produce more mucus. And since the sinuses are already inflamed, the excess mucus may get trapped. Not only can this make it difficult to breathe, but it can create the warm, moist environment the infection can thrive in, giving you a sinus infection.
How Do I Stop Excess Sinus Drainage
There are a variety of reasons why someone may suffer from excess sinus drainage. Allergies as well as the common cold virus can lead to sinus drainage. The sinus cavities in your head are narrow passages. An excessive amount of drainage can be more than an annoyance. It can lead to painful sinus infections if the fluid builds up in these narrow passages and becomes infected.
You can use several techniques to reduce drainage. Some people believe that certain foods, such as dairy products, increase the amount of drainage that you produce. While there is little science to back this up, you may give it a try. Dairy products are one food product that many people are sensitive to, so cutting back may decrease the amount of drainage.
Drinking plenty of water is another cure that may help reduce sinus drainage. While the effectiveness of this is not proven either, in general, drinking plenty of water helps thin sinus secretions. This can lead to less noticeable drainage.
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How Do Sinus Infections Start
Sinusitis occurs when the lining of the sinus or nasal cavity becomes inflamed. What can start as inflammation in your sinuses from a respiratory infection, allergies or environmental pollutants can spark a sinus infection when the lining of the sinuses becomes inflamed and swollen, causing mucus to become trapped and germs to grow.
“Once you have a cold or upper respiratory tract infection, that virus can then settle into the sinuses and cause inflammation as well,” said Dr. Mas Takashima, an otolaryngologist and chair of Houston Methodist ENT Specialists. “About 95% of sinusitis is caused by a virus making it much more common than bacterial sinusitis. Viral sinusitis is also much more infectious as well.”
Certain conditions, such as having allergies, asthma or a respiratory infection, can make people more susceptible to getting chronic sinus infections, and it is important that these patients be evaluated to address the cause and not just the sinusitis symptoms.
“There are many causes of chronic sinusitis. “Patients with a weakened immune system are more prone to getting recurrent acute sinusitis,” explains Dr. Takashima. “Sometimes, however, the issue may be anatomy, such as a deviated septum , scarring from previous sinus surgery, or nasal polyps, which result from chronic inflammation in the nose. Once the polyps get to a certain size, they rarely regress on their own and they narrow the sinus drainage pathways.”
Do You Need Antibiotics For A Sinus Infection
A viral sinus infection will likely resolve itself on its own, but it can take a few weeks to do so. If the sinus infection is caused by bacteria, it is likely to need antibiotics in order to resolve. But antibiotics arent a cure-all. They will not cure a sinus infection that was caused by a virus or an irritant in the air.
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A Sinus Rinse Can Help Relieve Your Symptoms But It Should Be Done Properly
If you try a sinus rinse with a bulb syringe, saline rinse bottle or neti pot, use a prepared salt packet or homemade saline solution instead of plain water. If making it yourself, use only distilled or boiled and cooled water to make sure organisms in tap water dont further contribute to sinus problems.
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, you can mix 3 teaspoons of pickling or canning salt that contains no iodide, anti-caking agents or preservatives with 1 teaspoon of baking soda, then add 1 teaspoon of that mixture to 1 cup of lukewarm sterile water. For children, use a half-teaspoon with 4 ounces of water.
Also, make sure to clean your nasal irrigation system afterward.
How Can I Tell If I Have A Sinus Infection Cold Or Nasal Allergy
It can be difficult to tell the difference between a cold, allergies, and a sinus infection. The common cold typically builds, peaks, and slowly disappears. It lasts a few days to a week. A cold can transform into a sinus infection. Nasal allergy is inflammation of the nose due to irritating particles . Symptoms of a nasal allergy can include sneezing, itchy nose and eyes, congestion, runny nose, and post nasal drip . Sinusitis and allergy symptoms can happen at the same time as a common cold.
If you are fighting off a cold and develop symptoms of a sinus infection or nasal allergy, see your healthcare provider. You will be asked to describe your symptoms and medical history.
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Antibiotics And Sinus Infections
When a sinus infection hits, it seems worse than what you remembered from the last time you had one. This may give you the idea that you need antibiotics, but most clear up without them. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses and aren’t recommended within the first week of developing a cold. About 70% of sinus infections go away within two weeks without antibiotics.
Consider these other forms of treatments instead of antibiotics:
- These medications are available for over-the-counter purchase. Be careful to only take these medications for a few days at most, as they can cause the return of more severe congestions.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers Aspirins, acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help relieve temporary pain.
- Saline nasal spray This is used to spray into your nose several times a day to rinse your nasal passages. It can help to prevent and treat inflammation.
Antibiotics only will be needed if the infection is severe, recurrent or persistent.
The likelihood of bacterial infection increases when:
- Symptoms last seven days or more, particularly when symptoms initially improve and then worsen.
- Mucus is thick and yellow or green in color.
- There is facial or sinus tenderness, particularly if it’s worse on one side of the face.
- Pain is present in the upper teeth and is worse on one side of the face.
If the infection becomes severe, recurrent or persistent, contact your provider.
You Can Lessen Your Chances Of Sinusitis
Prevention for a sinus infection often starts with preventing the cold that might lead to it: Wash your hands, avoid people who are sick, and keep your body in good shape by eating healthy.
You can also help keep sinuses moist by using a humidifier and drinking plenty of fluids. In addition, control allergies and avoid smoking and secondhand smoke.
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Research And Statistics: Who Gets Sinus Infections
Each year, acute sinusitis affects about 31 million Americans, who spend a whopping $1 billion on over-the-counter medications and $150 million on prescription medications to treat the illness, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology.
Epidemiologic studies suggest 5 to 12 percent of people have chronic sinus infections. However, research published in December 2018 in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggests this may be an overestimation due to misdiagnosis. According to the study, which relied on imaging tests for diagnosis , about 3.0 to 6.4 percent of people may have chronic sinus infections. 32786-6/fulltext rel=nofollow> 5)
What Causes A Sinus Infection
In most cases, acute sinusitis is caused by a bacterial or viral infection, which means it usually develops after youve had a cold or the flu. Its possible for an acute sinus infection to develop into a chronic infection over time. However, most chronic sinus infections are caused by:
- Problems with the physical structure of your sinuses such as nasal polyps, narrow sinuses, or a deviated septum
- Allergies such as hay fever that cause inflammation
Certain health conditions are also known to accompany chronic sinusitis. These include:
- Primary immune deficiency disesase
How Can I Prevent A Sinus Infection
One of the best ways to prevent chronic sinusitis is to avoid the initial infection. Follow these tips:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for a least 20 seconds, especially when coming into contact with commonly used surfaces. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer.
- Avoid anyone with a cold, flu or other respiratory illness.
- Stop smoking or avoid secondhand smoke.
If you have a sinus infection, stay home, if you can. Remember to practice the following safety measure so that you avoid making others sick:
How Is Chronic Sinusitis Treated
Chronic sinusitis is not usually caused by a bacterial infection, but it can be. If your healthcare provider really thinks that you have a bacterial infection, they might give you a prescription for something like amoxicillin. Antibiotics only help for bacterial infections. Other ways to treat non-bacterial chronic sinusitis include:
- Avoiding triggers .
- Using intranasal corticosteroid sprays and leukotriene antagonists or antifungal medication to get rid of a fungus.
- Treating the underlying condition, such as allergies, asthma, and/or immune deficiency conditions, with medications such as topical antihistamine, or steroid, sprays or antihistamine pills.
- Having surgery . Fungal balls are clumps of fungal infection that block sinuses.
- Having a procedure called balloon sinus ostial dilation, which inserts a balloon into a sinus cavity to open it further and make more room.
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Overuse Of Nasal Products
While it’s true that nasal decongestant sprays relieve congestionâthey constrict the blood vessels in the noseâyou should avoid prolonged use of over-the-counter nasal sprays, as they can make your symptoms worse if not used as directed.
If you use sprays for an extended period of time, you can become less sensitive to their effects so that your nose becomes swollen again, a condition known as rebound nasal congestion, says Dr. Bains.
As a result, prolonged use of OTC nasal sprays can lead to dependency, adds Dr. Hueston, who recommends that people who use sprays to treat cold symptoms stop after four or five days.
Did Your Sinus Infection Really Go Away
Related to a viral, fungal, or bacterial infection, sinusitis is generally categorized as:
- Acute sinusitis, typically lasting 2-4 weeks
- Subacute sinusitis, lasting from 4-12 weeks
- Recurrent sinusitis that occurs several times a year
- Chronic sinusitis, diagnosed when your symptoms persist for 12 weeks or longer
Its important to note that acute sinusitis can improve after a couple of days but then appear to return, sometimes with more severe symptoms. This, however, is a worsening of the original illness and not a new or recurrent sinus infection. Recurrent sinusitis is that which occurs four or more times a year without any symptoms between these episodes.
Your evaluation at Petoskey ENT Specialists starts with a detailed discussion of your symptoms as your provider investigates the potential causes of your sinusitis and your best treatment options.
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When To See A Doctor
If someone has dry sinuses that do not improve with home treatment, they should see a doctor if possible. Dry sinuses are sometimes due to an underlying condition, which may require medication.
Over time, dry sinuses can lead to a buildup of thick mucus. This buildup prevents the sinuses from clearing away potentially harmful bacteria, which can cause a sinus infection. The symptoms of a sinus infection include:
Sinusitis May Or May Not Need Antibiotics
You might not need antibiotics however, for acute sinusitis due to a bacterial infection, antibiotics can help decrease the length of symptoms and lessen their severity.
If a sinus infection lasts more than one to two weeks, it is more likely to be a bacterial infection, so antibiotics and/or oral steroids may need to be prescribed, Dr. Hur says. Sinus infections that do not improve with antibiotics may need to be treated with surgery.
Talk to your doctor to see whether or not you should be treated with antibiotics.
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Scar Tissue In The Sinus Cavities
Previous injuries, anatomic defects from birth, or previous sinus injections can all cause scar tissue to build up in the sinuses. This blocks the cavities from functioning and draining properly, which can trap irritants in the cavity. Recurrent sinus infections can continue causing more scar tissue, further compounding the problem.
If Dr. Hester notices that scar tissue is impacting sinus function, he may recommend endoscopic sinus surgery to clear the tissue away.
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Sinusitis May Require A Call To Your Doctor
Although many sinus infections go away on their own, you may need to see a doctor if:
- You have severe symptoms from the beginning
- You start to get better but then feel worse again
- Have symptoms that last more than 10 days
You should seek care from a doctor if sinusitis impacts your quality of life and hasnt improved with over-the-counter treatments, Dr. Hur says.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Chronic Sinus Infection
Chronic sinusitis emerges more insidiously than acute sinusitis. At times, however, the symptoms start suddenly and may resemble that of the common cold or acute sinusitis that just wont go away.
Chronic sinusitis is most likely if you have two or more of the following symptoms:
- Nasal congestion or stuffy nose
- Mucus and pus-like discharge
- Facial pain, pressure around your eyes and nose, or fullness
- Partial or complete loss of your sense of smell
Chronic cough, sore throat, and fatigue may also be seen in a chronic sinus infection. That said, these symptoms are not required for the diagnosis of chronic rhinosinusitis.
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When Should I Call My Healthcare Provider About Chronic Sinusitis
Remember, your health is your business. You do not have to put up with feeling ill for long periods of time. Pay attention to how long you have sinus symptoms because this is something that your care provider will ask you. Keep track of things that you have done to make yourself feel better. If medications are prescribed, make sure you store them and take them as instructed.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/04/2020.
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How Do You Treat A Sinus Infection
Treatment for acute and chronic sinus infections include self-care, over-the-counter and prescription medications, and sinus surgery, if necessary, to enlarge the opening to the sinuses or address other anatomical issues.
Your doctor may also recommend a combination of over-the-counter and prescription medications, including:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Steroid nasal sprays
- Saline nasal irrigations
Patients with sinusitis often go to the doctor expecting to get a prescription for an antibiotic. If you have signs of a sinus infection, talk to your doctor about whether an antibiotic is appropriate to treat the type of infection that you have. Dr. Takashima warns that we must be vigilant about not treating viral infections with antibiotics, which only work on bacterial infections, to prevent creating superbugs antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Abnormal Growths Or Other Anatomical Abnormalities
The body is a mysterious and complex series of systems. Seemingly out of nowhere, tissues can thicken, cells can excessively multiply causing tumors, or small issues that didnt cause problems in the past can begin to cause you trouble. If your nasal passages or sinus cavities experience abnormal growths of any kind, they can usually be removed through surgery. If it is a tumor or mass, we will biopsy the tissue to make sure it is not cancerous.
Most anatomical abnormalities affecting the bony or soft tissues comprising the sinus cavities can be repaired via surgery, greatly eliminating the experience of recurrent sinus issues.
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Whats The Best Way To Get Sinus Pressure Relief
Over-the-counter options include nasal decongestants and nasal steroid sprays. Some people try saline spray and nasal irrigation to find relief. Others stick with over-the-counter pain relievers to manage pain and fever symptoms. Drinking plenty of fluids, applying warm compresses to the sinus area, light facial massage and vaporizer use can also keep congestion moving on the way out.
This is a very complex problem and depending on the severity and the level of inflammation there are a host of diagnostic exams and tests to be performed before a true diagnosis can be made so that a treatment plan can be formulated, Winarsky says.
As such, there is no silver bullet or one pill to take that can alleviate all the symptoms.
While a sinus infection can go away on its own, it is a good idea to make an appointment with your doctorespecially if you seem to be getting a lot of sinus infections. Also, nasal discharge, fever, congestion or pain that lasts more than 10 days warrants a trip to see your physician.