Will My Sinus Infection Clear Up On Its Own
The first few weeks of the common cold arent fun, but the acute sinusitis that can pop up afterwards doesnt help either. Sinus congestion and the common cold, unfortunately, go hand in hand. Acute sinusitis frequently is caused by the common cold, but also can be caused by allergies and bacterial and fungal infections.
Sinus infections are caused when the cavities around your nasal passages become inflamed and swollen, which eventually interferes with drainage and causes mucus to build up. This tends to get annoying, because it makes breathing through the nose difficult. It also affects the area around your eyes and face, and can cause a throbbing headache.
When a sinus infection hits, its always 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 arent recommended within the first week of developing a cold. About 70 percent of sinus infections go away within two weeks without antibiotics.
Consider these other forms of treatments instead of antibiotics:
- 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. They can help to prevent and treat inflammation.
Antibiotics only will be needed if the infection is severe, recurrent or persistent.
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Symptoms And Treatment For Viral Vs Bacterial Sinusitis
Weve all experienced the common cold symptoms of a runny nose, nasal congestion, and sinus pressure. But sometimes these symptoms can indicate something different: sinusitis, or a sinus infection. Sinusitis can be viral or bacterial. Knowing which one you have can be helpful for treating sinus infection symptoms and helping ensure you feel better fast.
In this article, I will describe the symptoms of both viral and bacterial sinusitis. I will also talk about the causes of each, how theyre diagnosed, and what your treatment options are.
What Is Bacterial Sinusitis
Bacterial sinusitis is a bacterial infection of the paranasal sinuses, the hollow spaces in the bones of the face around the nose. Sinusitis is a very common problem, affecting approximately one in every eight American adults annually. Almost 30 million people seek medical help for sinusitis in the USA every year.
Bacterial sinusitis involves inflammation of the mucous membrane lining of the sinuses, and is caused by a bacterial infection. There are four pairs of paranasal sinuses which are located below, above, between and behind the eye sockets â the maxillary sinuses, frontal sinuses, ethmoid sinuses and sphenoidal sinuses. The maxillary sinuses are the largest of these, and are most often affected by sinusitis. However, sinusitis can affect any or all of the paranasal sinuses. Because sinusitis often occurs along with rhinitis, inflammation of the mucous membrane in the nose, it is sometimes known as rhinosinusitis.
Bacterial sinusitis often follows a viral infection, such as a cold or the flu. Viral infections can cause the mucosal lining of the sinuses to swell. In healthy sinuses, mucus drains into the nasal cavity via small holes, known as ostia. Swelling of the mucus membranes in the nose or sinus cavities can block these holes, preventing mucus from draining out of the sinuses. Bacteria colonize the undrained mucus, which can lead to bacterial sinusitis.
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Risk Of Unnecessary Antibiotics For Sinus Infections
Taking unnecessary antibiotics for a sinus infection is not only ineffectual, but can actually be harmful to the patient. Risks of taking unneeded antibiotics include:
- Increased chance of getting an antibiotic-resistant infection at a later time
- Destruction of healthy stomach bacteria, which can allow harmful bacteria to grow
- Possible side effects, such as upset stomach, rash, or dizziness
- Allergic reaction
According to studies conducted by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology , 60-70% of patients with sinus infections fully recover without the use of antibiotics. Additional research shows that almost 90% of U.S. adults diagnosed with acute sinusitis are prescribed antibiotics.
This overuse of antibiotics for sinus infections, as well as other conditions, can lead to antibiotic resistance, a state in which bacteria change over time as a reaction to antibiotic treatment, in order to survive and multiply, thus making the antibiotics less effective.
How Long Should It Take For A Bad Sinus Infection To Go Away
Before we delve into what to do when your sinusitis wont go away, lets figure out whether you have a sinus infection in the first place. The symptoms shared between the common cold, chronic sinusitis, and chronic allergies, are similar making it rather difficult to deduce which culprit is causing your sinus issues.
One major differentiator, however, is time. A cold should go away within a week. If your cold lasts longer than 7-10 days, its likely that your cold has either turned into a bacterial sinus infection, or you actually had a sinus infection from the very beginning. Whatever the case, if your symptoms persist for more than a week, its best to see a doctor.
Once your doctor determines treatment, your sinus infection symptoms should begin to subside within a few days.
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Treating A Viral Or Bacterial Sinus Infection
How you treat a sinus infection depends on whether bacteria or a virus is to blame. In the case of a viral infection, your surgeon or doctor is likely to recommend a wait and see approach, since there is no type of medicine that will kill the virus and speed up healing.
While you do have to wait for a virus to clear up on its own, there are some things you can do to make yourself more comfortable in the meantime. Your surgeon might recommend using a saline rinse in your nostrils to help clear away mucus and debris. Pain relievers can also reduce any discomfort youre experiencing due to headaches or facial pain. A pain reliever can also help lower a fever.
Medicine is available to treat a bacterial sinus infection. If your surgeon determines that bacteria is the source of your infection, he might prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria and speed up healing. Depending on the type of bacteria thats causing the infection, you might need to take antibiotics for just a few days or for a few weeks.
Theres one thing thats important to understand about antibiotics: They wont help viral infections at all. In fact, they might make things worse. While they wont exacerbate the infection, antibiotics can cause some unpleasant side effects. They can also lead to antibiotic resistance, making future bacterial infections more difficult to treat. Its important only to take antibiotics if your doctor prescribes them.
How Long A Sinus Infection Lasts
While the symptoms youre experiencing wont necessarily help you determine the cause of your infection, the duration of the sinusitis can provide some clues. Often, viral infections dont last that long. If your sinus infection lasts for about a week, its usually due to a virus.
Bacterial sinus infections, on the other hand, can persist for some time. They usually last for 10 days or longer. While viral infections usually start to get better after a few days, bacterial infections tend to get worse over time. Bacteria are usually responsible for cases of chronic sinusitis.
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Do You Need To Talk To An Ent
As you can see, untreated sinus infections arent something that you should ignore. If you suffer from chronic sinus issues, then it might be time to talk to an ear, nose, and throat specialist about your condition.
Here are a few signs that you should book an appointment with an ENT for a sinus infection:
- Symptoms continue for more than 10 days
- Recurring infections throughout the year
- Discolored, thick nasal discharge
- Pressure and pain that is interrupting your daily life
- At-home or over-the-counter treatments dont provide relief
- Pain and discomfort are increasing with time
A general practitioner can help with occasional sinus infections, but they will refer you to see an ENT for recurring, chronic conditions. Primary care doctors are limited to prescription medications for treatments. On the other hand, an ENT can address sinus infections with a range of other treatments.
Symptoms Of Bacterial Sinus Infection
As per the guidelines, a sinus infection is more likely to be bacterial than viral if any of the following conditions are present.
- No clinical improvement occurs in the symptoms even after the passage of at least 10 days.
- The severity of the symptoms is quite high, including facial pain, nasal discharge and a fever in excess of 102°F which remains for at least 4 days on the trot at the start of the illness.
- Worsening of the symptoms is characterized by the development of a new headache or fever or increase in the amount of nasal discharge, usually after a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract that has remained for 6 days and had seemed to improve initially.
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What Can A Doctor Do To Treat Chronic Sinusitis
Acute sinusitis normally requires time to run its course and will go away after the cold or flu. Chronic cases will need more attention than acute sinusitis. Diagnosis is usually based on the amount of time the patient has exhibited symptoms. An examination of the ears, nose, and throat will reveal any physical ailments that may be contributing to the sinusitis. Polyps, a deviated septum, and redness from infection are among the physical causes of sinusitis.
The doctor will also ask you if you experience any headaches and the frequency of occurrence. If you have allergies, the doctor may ask about interactions that may have contributed to the infection. The doctor may also probe further to ask about mucus secretions and other side effects.
Essential Oils For Sinus Infection
There are many essential oils that have antiseptic, antifungal, antibacterial and anti inflammatory properties, including:
- Eucalyptus oil
- Thyme oil
- Rosemary oil
Combining a few drops from different oils may be the best route to obtain maximum benefit from their different properties. Components of eucalyptus oil help to clear the air as well as break up mucus, while oregano oil is a potent antibacterial and antifungal oil. Eucalyptus is commonly found in cough drops and other medicines, but using it as an essential oil will yield a pure and more concentrated dose. There are a few ways to reap the benefits of these oils when you have a sinus infection.
- Steaming add a few drops to a pot of boiled water and hold your face over the steam.
- Sinus irrigation add a few drops to your neti pot solution for sinus irrigation.
- Homemade vapor rub or massage oil combining a few drops of essential oil with a base oil such as coconut oil or olive oil will yield a mixture that you can massage onto your throat to soothe and break up congestion.
- Oral consumption put one drop of food grade essential oil on the roof of your mouth. Careful not to consume much more than this, as essential oils are highly concentrated.
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Causes Of Your Sinus Infection
Nearly 31 million Americans get a sinus infection each year, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
The inflammation of the lining of your sinuses, the air-filled pockets in your face that sit around your nose, is caused by a viral or bacterial infection. A viral upper respiratory infection, also known as the common cold, or allergies can block your sinuses. This blockage promotes the development of a secondary infection.
You may have heard the urban legend that you can tell the cause of your sinus infection by the color of your mucus. According to Dr. Donald Ford, a family medicine physician at the Cleveland Clinic, this is a myth.
The green-yellow color of mucus that can develop is a byproduct of our own white blood cells, which we use to fight any kind of infection, viral or bacterial, so we cant tell the cause from the color of the mucus, he said. When mucus is thick and dark it usually suggests some mild dehydration, and you should increase fluid intake and use lots of saline spray to keep the mucus thin.
How To Treat Sinus Infections Without Antibiotics
While sinus infections caused by viruses, allergies, or other non-bacterial factors may not require antibiotics, they still cause the same symptoms which make you feel sick.
Symptoms of a sinus infection include:
- Nasal congestion
- Pain or tenderness around the eyes, cheeks, or forehead
- Thick nasal or post-nasal drainage
Taking steps to alleviate your sinusitis symptoms is often the best treatment to lessen your discomfort.
Sinus infection treatment options include:
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Rest, especially the first few days, to help your body fight the infection
- Moisturize the air with a cool-mist vaporizer
- Elevate your head while sleeping to decrease post-nasal drip
- Take warm showers or baths, as steam can soothe your sore throat and loosen mucus
- Gargle with warm salt water for a sore throat
- Use saline nasal spray or nasal irrigation kit to alleviate congestion
- Use over-the-counter treatments, such as nasal drops and sprays or pseudoephedrine pills, as your doctor recommends them
What Not to Do for a Sinus Infection
You should always follow your doctors instructions when you are diagnosed with a sinus infection.
- Ask for antibiotics if your doctor feels they are unnecessary
- Take antibiotics that are prescribed for someone else
- Skip doses of your antibiotics or stop taking your antibiotics early when your doctor prescribes them
- Save antibiotics for the next time you get sick
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Treatments For Sinus Infections Other Than Antibiotics
#1: Saline Nasal Wash
Saline nasal wash can be a great way to thin out the mucous in the sinuses enough to clear out the blockage. I recommend starting this early on in the course of the illness to prevent the infection from worsening.
You can even make this at home using 2 cups of water and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. I would add a 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of baking soda to prevent burning that can occur with use. There are also plenty of over the counter saline nasal sprays that you can purchase. You can use this 4-6 times per day.
Vaporizers are great because they can also thin out the mucous and make you feel a lot better. An easy home remedy, steam is probably the best way to use this treatment. Beware if you are an asthmatic as the steam could cause worsening of the asthma symptoms.
#3: Steroid Nasal Spray
Steroid nasal sprays such as Flonase have been my go to remedy recently and the great news is that they are now over the counter. The general recommendation is to use 1-2 sprays per nostril daily.
But I have found great relief using 2 sprays in each nostril twice daily. At these higher doses it is important to remember that you should use this short term, no more than 5-7 days.
These medications can significantly reduce inflammation allowing the congestion blockage to clear and significantly alleviate symptoms.
Guaifenesin such as Mucinex can certainly break up the mucous, allowing the congestion to clear more quickly.
What Is Chronic Sinusitis
Chronic sinusitis is a long-lasting sinus infection that often seems less severe than typical sinusitis and may be less symptomatic. The main issue with this type of sinusitis, however, is that it lasts much longer than normal sinusitis. The symptoms are usually most pronounced during the morning when the nasal drainage and congestion is at its worse. When sinusitis becomes chronic, the cause is usually a chronic infection or allergies.
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Symptoms Of Bacterial Sinusitis In Children
In children, the symptoms of sinusitis may differ from those in adults. Children may experience:
- Scar tissue in sinus areas, for example from nasogastric tubes or mechanical ventilation
- Facial fractures
- 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.
What Can Happen If A Bacterial Infection Is Left Untreated
An untreated bacterial infection can also put you at risk for developing a life-threatening condition called sepsis. Sepsis occurs when an infection causes an extreme reaction in your body. The bacteria most likely to cause sepsis include Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, and some types of Streptococcus.
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How Long Do Antibiotics Take To Work On Sinus Infections
Often, sinus infections are treated with antibiotics. However, your doctor will determine the best treatment based on the root cause of your sinus infection. If antibiotics are prescribed, you may want to know how long it will be before you start to experience relief from symptoms.
Read on to find out how sinus infections are diagnosed, when your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, and how long it will take antibiotics to take effect.
Things Which May Worsen A Sinus Infection
Lets take a look at what you can remove or eliminate from your diet and environment to both encourage healing and discourage chronic sinusitis or recurrent infections in the future.
Monitoring your symptoms is key to making sure you see treatment when and if it is needed. If you think you may have a sinus infection, consult your doctor or visit an urgent care center.
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