Sinus Infection: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

What Is a Sinus Infection

It’s typical for someone with a cold to feel congested, but when your sinuses are severely blocked; swollen and inflamed, chances are likely that what you’ve got is a sinus infection. Basically this means that your sinuses are inflamed. A sinus infection (also known as “rhinosinusitis” or “sinusitis” for short) is not uncommon, and has been known to plague 37 Mil. per year in the U.S. alone. People of all ages can become prone to sinus infections, especially if they come into contact with large crowds of people throughout the day (like schools and the workplace, or on subways and trains). Kids can get sinus infections too and if they do, they’ll have to stay home from school and get plenty of rest! Adults, if you’re diagnosed with this illness, you better stay home also, for they are nothing to mess around with. They zap your energy and can leave anyone out of commission for at least a few days. (Moms and Dads: stick a bottle of antiseptic spray in your kids’ book bags. Better to be safe than sorry). There are four different classifications of sinusitis to watch out for, and of different intensity: acute and sub-acute are mild, while recurrent and chronic are longer-lasting. Thankfully, it’s only contagious if it’s caused by a virus, and is fairly easy to treat with the help of a doctor’s diagnosis and a prescription.

Causes

Sinusitis can be caused by external influences like something as common as an allergy to air pollen, like Hay Fever, or sensitivity to chemicals like Clorox or the Chloride found in swimming pools. They are also caused by internal influences such as viral, fungal and bacterial pathogens found in the body. (The fungal and bacterial types of sinusitis are not contagious; bacterial infections are more common in Sinusitis than fungal infections are.) People who have autoimmune diseases or have a weak immune system and are more prone to illnesses so they are more likely to get a fungal infection type of sinus infection. If a person has a deviated septum (or blockage of the nasal septum), they are also more likely to find it difficult to breath, which can makes it more possible for them to get sinusitis. Air pressure can also be a cause of blockage in the sinuses which might make it infected (i.e. during flight, which causes increases in cabin pressure as the plane rises, and decrease during descent.) Using the same nasal spray too often can irritate the nose, so make sure to use only as directed, as blood vessels inside the nasal cavity can constrict, which blocks air flow. Unusual swollen formations in the nose called Nasal Polyps can also cause blockages which might lead to Sinusitis (these can be cured easily by steroids or by safely removing through surgery). Being around air pollution like smoke can also cause Sinusitis (yet another good reason to quit, and never smoke around children).

Symptoms

Generally, if your cold lingers for quite some time and/or gets progressively worse, then chances are you become a sinus sufferer. You definitely are infected if you feel two or multiple incidences of the following symptoms: congestion (a stuffy-like feeling), pressure and pain in the face, localized headache (typically concentrated around the forehead), foul breath, pain in the teeth, fever and even losing your sense of smell. There’s some major differences between the symptoms of acute and chronic Sinusitis. It’s chronic if you’ve had symptoms for more than 8 long weeks and you’re feeling easily fatigued, your nose is almost entirely blocked, your face might be feeling extra stuffed from the pressure of the blockage, and you’re also experiencing lots of post-nasal drip (pus included: a sure sign of a more serious form of this illness). Sounds pretty bad, right? Well don’t worry, because the sinusitis is pretty easy to cure.

Treatments

Having sinusitis is no fun, and by now you’re probably tired of not only lying in bed all day with a swollen nose and stuffed-up head, you just plain tired of being tired. There’s nothing good on TV and you just want the pain to go away. Well, you’re in luck: all you have to do is somehow drag yourself off the couch or bed and take a quick trip to the doctor’s. Then once you’ve got your diagnosis and prescription, all it takes is one trip to the local pharmacy and you’re well on your way to recovery! First things first, though: your doc will want to review your medical history so that he or she is all up to date and knows what your body can handle, medication-wise. Then, the doc will write you a prescription for medications like Amoxicillin which is an antibiotic. Your doc might also write you a prescription for corticosteroids, which are anti-inflammatory medications. He or she might also prescribe a decongestant to bring down swelling and decompress the pressure. Please Note: You must never use antihistamines for treating sinusitis because it only thickens the mucus membranes and prevents drainage.

In addition to prescriptions, there are even simple, non-exhaustive ways that you can help yourself at home: for instance, you can use the moist and comforting steam from the shower to help break up that annoying mucus in your nose. You’ll want to keep hydrated by keeping tons of fluid flowing through your system (i.e. water especially, as well as juice—and make sure to avoid diuretics like tea and coffee, which won’t hydrate your body like water and juice does). You’ll also benefit from using washcloths on your face, which are soft and warm and also great for headaches. (Plus warm washcloths are also comforting in general.) If that doesn’t do the trick, you can take your doc’s recommendation for nasal saline spray by getting some at your local pharmacy (but remember, don’t overuse, as you might go right back where you started!). Neti pots and steam inhalers for personal use can also be found at local pharmacies and stores. A simple way to really help is to sleep propped up (i.e in a chair with your feet up on a stool) as this will help the mucus drain down, and clear up your passageways. You can also find relief by either messaging yourself (or having someone else help you) where you feel the extra pressure. While messaging, rub away from the eyes and towards the cheeks. You will feel the difference!

Remember, a sinus infection is easy to treat with antibiotics and a couple of simple homemade remedies. With the right prescription and actions, you’ll be feeling back to your old self in no time!