If you have never had a sinus headache, you are very lucky. Inflammation of these holes in your head can cause painful, throbbing misery. Even your teeth can hurt. (Some of you are shouting "amen" right about now.) Usually your sinuses are 4 pairs of cavities that make your skull lighter, insulate your skull, allow your voice to resonate, and help warm and humidify the air you breathe. They are lined with mucous and tiny hair-like cilia. The problem occurs when bacteria or fungus grows along your sinus linings, a virus or allergen invades, or a physical irregularity exists. The sinuses become irritated, inflamed, and swollen, and the pressure causes your head to feel like it is going to explode from the inside out. Let's look at some things that can help you diagnose, treat, and (best of all) avoid sinusitis.
Do You Have A Sinus Infection? Symptoms Of A Sinus Infection & Diagnosis
The symptoms of a sinus infection vary depending on which pair(s) of sinuses are involved. Symptoms can also vary according to the type of sinusitis you have: acute or chronic. Acute sinusitis usually occurs 3 to 4 times a year lasting about 10 days each time. Chronic sinusitis can persist for longer than eight weeks or occur more than four times per year with symptoms usually lasting more than 20 days. Typical symptoms of sinusitis include:
- Difficulty breathing through your nose
- Throbbing facial pain
- Thick yellow drainage from nose or down throat
- Pain, tenderness, swelling and pressure around your eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead
- Aching in upper jaw & teeth
- With the sinuses behind your eyes: Pain or pressure symptoms are worse when coughing, straining, or lying on the back; you feel better when the head is upright
- With the sinuses behind your cheeks: Pain and pressure symptoms are worse with the head upright and bending forward; you feel better when reclining
- With the sinuses behind your forehead: Pain is worse when reclining; you feel better with the head upright
If you have sinus infection symptoms that do not go away after a few days, you may want to see a doctor for a positive diagnosis and relief. The doctor will probably first do a visual examination by feeling your face for tenderness and looking into your nose. According to the Mayo Clinic, other methods your doctor may use to make a diagnosis include:
- Nasal endoscopy. A thin, flexible tube (endoscope) with a fiber-optic light inserted through your nose allows your doctor to visually inspect the inside of your sinuses.
- Imaging studies. Images taken using computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can show details of your sinuses and nasal area. These may identify a deep inflammation or physical obstruction that's difficult to detect using an endoscope.
- Nasal and sinus cultures. Laboratory tests are generally unnecessary for diagnosing acute sinusitis. However, in cases in which the condition fails to respond to treatment or is progressing, tissue cultures may help pinpoint the cause, such as identifying a bacterial cause.
- An allergy test. If your doctor suspects that the condition may be brought on by allergies, an allergy skin test may be recommended. A skin test is safe and quick, and can help pinpoint the allergen that's responsible for your nasal flare-ups.
Where Did You Get A Sinus Infection? Causes
A sinus infection can start with a cold. As a matter of fact, if you have a cold that just seems like it won't go away, you may have a sinus infection. In addition to viruses, sinusitis can be caused by bacteria or fungi growing in the sinus linings, allergens such as pollen or smoke that irritate the sinuses, or physical blockages due to nasal polyps or a deviated septum.
What Can You Do To Get Rid Of A Sinus Infection? Home Remedies & Medical Treatment
Often you can get rid of a sinus infection on your own or find relief until the infection runs its course with home remedies like these:
- Get plenty of rest
- Drink plenty of fluids to thin mucous
- Inhale steam to loosen mucous
- Use nasal irrigation to wash away debris, clear mucous, and restore natural cilia action
(Helpful Hint: The SinuPulse Elite Sinus Irrigation System is now offered at the great low price of $79.95.)
- Moisten nasal and sinus passages with saline nasal sprays to keep mucous flowing
- Sleep with your head elevated
- Apply warm compresses to your face
- Use over-the-counter decongestants and pain relievers
If these methods don't work your doctor may recommend:
- Antibiotics if the infection is bacterial (they don't work on viral infections)
- Allergy testing / immunotherapy (allergy shots) / allergy medications
- Anti-fungal medications
- Surgery if you have polyps or a deviated septum
How Can I Keep From Getting Another Sinus Infection? Prevention
The following suggestions may sound simplistic bordering on "well, duh", but sometimes we get caught up in daily duties and dramas and just forget to take these basic actions for our health.
- If you are prone to sinus infections after a cold, minimize contact with people who have colds. Avoid crowds. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially before your meals.
- If you frequently have sinus infections following allergy flare-ups, the most important actions to take are to avoid allergens and to work with your doctor to control your allergies.
- For pollen allergies: keep doors shut - stay indoors - use room air purifiers and allergen reduction furnace filters.
- For dust mite allergies: encase your bedding in mite proof covers - do your laundry with a product that eliminates allergens - remove carpet or use a carpet treatment.
- For pet allergies: keep pets outdoors if possible, but definitely out of your bedroom - use shampoos and moisturizers that reduce dander.
- For mold allergies: clean and protect bathroom and other surfaces prone to mold - repair leaks.
- In addition, your doctor can recommend OTC or prescription medicines or immunotherapy (allergy shots) that can help you keep allergies under control.
- If exposure to air pollutants leads to sinus infections, avoid cigarette smoke and polluted air. Tobacco smoke and other pollutants can irritate and inflame your lungs and nasal passages.
Tips everyone can use to prevent sinus infections:
- Use a humidifier if the air in your home is dry. Be sure the humidifier stays clean and free of mold.
- Reduce stress and eat healthy to help strengthen the immune system.
- Drink plenty of fluids to keep nasal secretions thin.
- Use nasal/sinus irrigation to wash out debris including allergens and pollutants that could lead to inflammation and infection. (Helpful Hint: The SinuPulse Elite Sinus Irrigation System is now offered at the great low price of $79.95.)
- Inhale steam from a bowl of hot water (cover your head and the bowl with a towel), from a steamy shower, or a steam-producing machine to help loosen mucous and keep sinuses clear.
- Use saline nasal sprays to help keep the nasal passages moist and to help remove infectious agents.