Sinus & Allergy

Frequent Questions About Sinus Infections

written by Becki Andrus

When sinus pain and pressure hit, you probably find it difficult to think about anything other than relief from this discomfort. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first sinus infection or you deal with chronic sinus issues, the best thing you can do is find an effective treatment plan.

In today’s article, we have answers to the most common questions about sinus infections and treatments. This information will help you understand what is happening and how you can find relief.

How Do You Feel with a Sinus Infection?

Most of the time, sinus infection symptoms are focused on the upper respiratory tract specifically. The specific symptoms vary from one patient to the next, which is why it is vital to work with an ENT for a personalized treatment plan.

Sinus infection patients often describe their experience as:

  • Pain in the sinus areas (face and forehead)
  • Pressure in the cheeks and behind the eyes
  • Increase of pain when leaning over or laying down
  • Headache that worsens with time
  • Fever and fatigue
  • Thick, green or yellow mucus draining from the nose
  • Difficulty breathing through your nose
  • Postnasal drip
  • Bad breath

One way to tell the difference between a sinus infection and a head cold is the way the symptoms change with time. If the symptoms are intensifying and you don’t experience any relief after a few days, then it’s a good indication that you have a sinus infection.

How Does a Person Get a Sinus Infection?

Often, a sinus infection occurs as a secondary infection. For example, you might have a viral head cold that causes congestion and mucus. These conditions create the perfect environment for a bacterial infection to develop, leading to an infection in the sinus cavities.

Any time there is a fluid build-up and/or inflammation in the sinuses, it could potentially turn into a sinus infection. The sinuses are air-filled pockets in the facial area, but they can become blocked if bacteria lead to infection.

Certain risk factors increase the likelihood of developing a sinus infection:

  • Head cold
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Structural issues with the sinuses
  • Nasal polyps
  • Weak immune system
  • Smoking
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Environmental exposure to mold or other irritants

One of these risk factors could lead to the development of a sinus infection. If you have multiple risk factors, then the likelihood of an infection goes up.

How Do You Get Over a Sinus Infection?

In most cases, treatment is required to clear up a sinus infection. In mild cases, a few at-home treatments might be sufficient to clear up the infection. But moderate or severe cases typically require medical intervention.

If you think that you have a sinus infection, try these remedies to help with the infection:

  • Flush the Sinuses: Use nasal irrigation, such as a neti pot, to rinse out the sinus passages. The combination of distilled water and a special saline packet can keep the sinuses open and transparent.
  • Nasal Spray: Sometimes, it can help to use a decongestant spray in the nose. Buy an over-the-counter product from a local pharmacy and follow the instructions on the package. These sprays introduce moisture, reduce inflammation, and unblock congested sinuses.
  • Rest and Hydration: As with any other type of illness, focus on supporting your immune system with good rest and hydration. Getting enough sleep at night and staying hydrated can help the infection clear more quickly.
  • Steam: A hot shower can be a great way to open your sinus passages. Or, try using steam by breathing in with your face over warm (not hot!) water. Some people like to put a bit of eucalyptus or peppermint in the water.
  • Medications: Over-the-counter medications can help to relieve congestion and reduce pain. If allergies cause the infection, then try an antihistamine. Otherwise, decongestants can be helpful to reduce the symptoms of a sinus infection.

When sinus infections are a recurring problem, it’s wise to pay attention to your triggers. For example, some people find that the risk of sinus infection increases during the spring. Suppose you know that seasonal allergies are a problem. In that case, it can help to start taking an antihistamine early in the allergy season, helping to reduce the risk of severe symptoms.

What Happens If You Let a Sinus Infection Go Untreated?

Treating a sinus infection in the earliest stages is the most effective solution to stop the symptoms before developing into a serious problem. At this point, inflammation, swelling, and congestion are building in the sinus areas.

Early treatments help to keep the sinuses open, which in turn reduces the likelihood of complications. As the infection progresses, it results in increasing pain and discomfort. Eventually, the symptoms are so severe that they can interrupt every area of your life.

These symptoms can last for weeks or even months until you talk to a doctor. While serious complications of a sinus infection are rare, it’s possible that the infection can spread. These are some of the uncommon problems that can develop from an untreated sinus infection:

  • Eye Infections: If the infection spreads to the eyes, it can cause vision issues, eye redness, and swelling around the eyes. It’s rare, but severe infections can result in permanent blindness.
  • Brain Infection: When the infection spreads to the brain, it can result in life-threatening conditions. For example, brain abscesses and meningitis are both rare but possible complications from an untreated sinus infection.
  • Invasive Treatments: Treating a sinus infection in the earliest stage usually involves medication. When the infection progresses, other more invasive treatments might be needed, such as IV antibiotics or a CT scan.
  • Chronic Conditions: One problem is that the symptoms start to get better, but the infection comes back again. Some people with chronic sinus issues have recurring infections requiring multiple treatments each year.

The best way to avoid these sinus infection complications is by working with an experienced ENT. We can stop the infection in the beginning stages, which helps to reduce the risk of other problems affecting your ears, nose, and throat.

Schedule an Appointment with an ENT

Don’t make the mistake of ignoring sinus infection symptoms. We can help you clear up the issues with simple treatments. Here are a few signs that it’s time to book an appointment with an ENT:

  • Symptoms last longer than a week or 10 days
  • Thick, discolored nasal discharge
  • Recurring infections
  • No relief from at-home remedies
  • Pain increases over time
  • Your work and daily responsibilities are interrupted by the pain

In addition to early interventions, we also offer treatments for chronic sinus issues. Our goal is to reduce your pain and help you live a life free of chronic congestion and sinus infection symptoms. We’ll help you find the right treatment options to clear up your sinuses before the infection gets worse.

Don’t delay scheduling an appointment with an ENT in the Collin County or Dallas area. At Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat, we offer a variety of doctors and industry specialists. Talk to a provider at one of our nearby offices, located in either Frisco or Plano, TX. You’re invited to request an appointment through our online form or call our office staff at (972) 596-4005.

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