How Do I Recognize a Sinus Infection?

Your sinuses are air-filled cavities in your skull. They rest in the forehead, cheek and bridge of the nose, and they play a role in filtering the air that you breathe. These hollow chambers are lined with a moist mucus membrane, and they drain fluid out through the nasal passage. If the sinus passages become blocked, they can get infected. The warm, moist environment inside the sinus is a breeding ground for germs, and infected sinuses can swell and trap those germs inside. By understanding what sinus infections are and how to identify them, you can learn to treat them quickly and properly.Symptoms of Sinus InfectionsSinus infections can occur any time the sinuses or nasal passage becomes blocked by mucus or swelling. This often happens as a result of a cold, flu or seasonal allergy. In many cases, a sinus infection may be described by the patient as a cold that’s lingered for several weeks. Unlike most respiratory infections, which usually clear up within a week or two, sinus infections can linger for many weeks. Some people even experience chronic symptoms for several months at a time.

Here are the most common symptoms:
– Nasal congestion
– Runny nose or post-nasal drip
– Sinus headaches
– Blood or pus in nasal secretions
– Facial swelling or pain
– Pain in the top teeth and gums
– Fever and other cold-like symptoms

Depending on the cause of the infection, symptoms may vary. Viral infections usually last only a few days and may be accompanied by a high fever. Bacterial and fungal infections will present with different symptoms. In any case, if you have cold symptoms that seem to last longer than a week or gain in severity, it’s a good idea to visit a doctor for treatment.

Sinus Infection Treatment

Bacterial infections respond well to broad-spectrum antibiotics. Viral and fungal infections are more difficult to eradicate, so doctors may need to focus on treating the symptoms and allowing the disease to run its course. You may receive a decongestant to help relieve sinus pressure and drain out some of the infected mucus. Anti-inflammatory drugs are also effective in reducing the swelling of nasal passages and providing relief from pain. You may be prescribed an anti-inflammatory painkiller or a steroid-based nasal spray to deal with these symptoms.

In addition to medication, routine nasal irrigation can help reduce the duration and severity of sinus infection symptoms. Over-the-counter nasal irrigation kits are available. These flush the nasal passage and sinuses with saline, which reduces inflammation and helps clear blockages and dissolve mucus. For allergy sufferers, nasal irrigation is particularly helpful as it can remove allergens from the nasal passages and reduce the irritation that may lead to mucus production and sinus infections.

Tips for Avoiding Sinus Infections

Although it’s impossible to guard against all sinus infections, certain things can reduce your risk:

– Keep your nasal passages clear. If you have frequent congestion even without other symptoms, have your doctor check for nasal polyps. These growths in the lining of your nasal passages can block drainage and make sinus infections more common.

– Treat cold, flu or allergies early on. Most sinus infections develop as secondary infections after a person catches a cold or develops allergies. Treat your symptoms right away by using a decongestant or other appropriate medication. If you suffer chronic allergies, talk to your doctor about long-term solutions.

– Keep your home the right humidity. Dry air can make sinus inflammation more severe. Consider purchasing a humidifier to keep the air in your home humid enough. If you don’t have a humidifier, taking a hot shower and breathing in the steam can provide temporary relief from sinus symptoms.

– Treat sinus symptoms promptly. Sinus infections rarely get better on their own. If you don’t relieve the build-up of infected mucus, the sinuses will continue to become worse. Left untreated, some sinus infections can migrate to other parts of the body and cause severe complications. Tooth abscesses are the most common complication of untreated sinus infections, but infection can sometimes travel toward the brain and cause meningitis, bran abscesses or other serious conditions.

Some people are at an increased risk of experiencing sinus infections due to the shape of their faces and sinuses. If you have unusually narrow sinus passages due to your bone structure or a facial injury, your sinuses may have a difficult time draining. If this leads to repeated or chronic sinus infections, surgery may be an option. A doctor may choose to widen the sinus passages as a way to provide drainage. These operations are fairly rare, but they are an option for people who have a difficult time controlling their frequent sinus infections.