Ear, Nose & Throat

How Do I Get Rid of a Sinus Infection That Keeps Coming Back?

written by Becki Andrus
How Do I Get Rid of a Sinus Infection That Keeps Coming Back?

It’s common to get a sinus infection occasionally, and most people can clear up the infection quickly with the assistance of an experienced doctor.

But there are times when sinus infection symptoms are recurring. It can be frustrating to treat a sinus infection, only to have the symptoms return in a few short weeks or months.

What should you do if you have a sinus infection that keeps coming back? The first step is to schedule a consultation with an ENT for a personalized diagnosis and treatment plan.

The Difference: Acute vs. Chronic Sinus Infection

Even though it’s relatively normal to get an acute sinus infection occasionally, it isn’t normal to have a sinus infection that keeps coming back. If you experience symptoms that return over and over again after following a treatment plan, then it’s important to consult with an ENT right away.

Acute Sinus Infection

The normal type of sinus infection falls in the “acute” category. Usually, it is a secondary infection after a person has a cold or the flu or is living with chronic allergies.

In this situation, increased congestion in the nasal passages creates the perfect conditions for the development of an infection.

Acute sinus infections happen once and usually clear up relatively quickly. In fact, sometimes the sinus infection can heal without medications. Once an acute sinus infection heals, you should remain symptom-free for at least a year or more.

Chronic Sinus Infection

When you notice that your sinus infection symptoms are continuing for 12 weeks or more, then you might have chronic sinusitis.

For some patients, the symptoms continue on a daily basis without relief. Other times, the symptoms will start to improve, then flare again because of the recurring infection.

Chronic sinus infections are a common problem for patients who have some type of obstruction in the sinuses. This obstruction makes it difficult for mucus and congestion to drain from the sinuses, which traps bacteria and leads to recurring infections.

Why a Sinus Infection Keeps Coming Back

The most effective way to manage chronic sinus infections is to identify the underlying cause. Your ENT specialist can help you identify the reasons why your chronic sinusitis is recurring.

  • Blockages: Structural issues that are blocking drainage from the sinuses could be a root cause of chronic sinus infection. In this situation, the ENT might recommend a treatment to open the passages. For example, a small surgery might be necessary to remove nasal polyps or adjust a deviated septum.
  • Inflammation: When the delicate tissues in the sinus area become inflamed, then it can contribute to congestion and the development of a sinus infection. Inflammation can occur due to environmental factors, illness, allergies, and more.

Many times, chronic sinus infections keep coming back if you don’t have an accurate diagnosis. For example, you might be treating seasonal allergies, but the symptoms keep coming back because of an anatomical abnormality that needs to be corrected.

You want the best treatment results, which is why it’s important to identify the root cause. An ENT specialist can help with your personalized treatment plan.

At-Home Solutions for Sinus Infections

If you are wondering how to get rid of a sinus infection, then you might try a few at-home remedies before talking to an ENT. The goal is to alleviate congestion and open the drainage pathways in the sinus area.

  • Nasal rinse, using a neti pot or similar tool
  • Steam inhalation, such as taking a hot shower to clear the sinuses
  • Avoid second-hand smoke and cigarettes
  • Place a warm compress on the facial region where you are feeling pain to relieve the pain and congestion
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of a healthy lifestyle (clean diet and sufficient sleep) in boosting your immune function and helping to prevent future infections
  • Stay hydrated so the body can thin out the mucus
  • Keep the sinuses moist by using a humidifier
  • Remove impurities in the air using an air purifier
  • Avoiding certain triggers and outdoor activities if allergies are a contributing factor
  • Improving overall health and immune function with a healthy diet, exercise, and stress management plan

Medical Interventions for Chronic Sinus Infections

When the sinus infection keeps coming back, then one of the best things you can do is talk to an ENT for a personalized treatment plan. Once the doctor identifies the root cause, then it’s easier to treat the infection and prevent recurrences in the future.

  • Nasal Spray: Your doctor might recommend the use of a corticosteroid nasal spray. This medication provides immediate relief from nasal inflammation, which helps the sinuses to drain and heal.
  • Oral Steroids: Sometimes it makes sense to use oral steroids instead of a sinus spray.
  • Antibiotics: It’s important to determine whether the sinus infections are caused by bacteria before using antibiotics as a treatment. While antibiotics are more common for acute infections, there are also times when antibiotics can be helpful for chronic sinus infections as well.
  • Decongestants: Depending on the underlying cause, decongestants can be helpful for treating and preventing sinus infections. These medications thin and clear out the nasal congestion, which can be necessary for supporting the natural healing process.
  • Surgery: If you are using minimally invasive treatments without success, then your ENT might recommend a more intensive treatment. For example, surgery can be an effective solution for opening the drainage pathways and correcting any physical issues that are affecting your sinuses (such as bone breaks or deformities, nasal polyps, etc.).

As with any other type of medication, it’s essential that you follow proper frequency, dosages, and timeline. When it comes to steroid use, never use the medication longer than directed. In fact, continued use can potentially cause more harm in the future.

Signs You Should Talk to an ENT About Recurring Sinus Infections

How do you know when it’s time to consult with an ENT specialist about your recurring sinus infections? There are several factors that indicate you might benefit from a visit with an ENT.

  • Antibiotics Without Success: Your primary care physician prescribed a course of antibiotics. You took the medication according to the instructions and you are still not achieving the desired results.
  • Nasal Blockages: You suspect some type of blockage that might be affecting your sinuses, such as polyps or bone deformities.
  • Chronic Symptoms: No matter what you do, the symptoms persist for longer than 3 months.

Getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step to help you find relief.

For more information about the diagnosis and treatment plan, schedule a session with a trustworthy ENT in the Collin County or Dallas area. Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat can help after one phone call. We offer services in two nearby offices, located in Frisco and Plano, TX. Use our online form to request an appointment, or call: (972) 596-4005.

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