When pressure and pain are building in the sinus area, it can be a warning sign that an infection is developing. These early symptoms are a good indication that you should be proactive about sinus care to prevent additional complications.
The truth is sinus infections are common occurrences in life. Most people will experience sinus infections on an occasional basis, especially after having a head cold or allergy symptoms. So, you need to know how to handle the sinus infection symptoms so you can get over this condition as quickly as possible.
Sinus Infection: What Is Happening in the Sinuses
The sinus cavities are located above and below the eyes in the facial area. When swelling or inflammation occurs in the tissues of the sinuses, then it can make it hard for mucus to drain.
These sinuses are connected with narrow channels that lead to the nose and ears. In a normal, healthy sinus, the natural mucus production drains through the nose and ears without a problem – keeping the upper respiratory tract free of bacteria and infection.
But if the drainage can’t occur because of localized inflammation, then it can result in the development of an infection. The sinuses are normally filled with ear, but they become filled with mucus and congestion. Bacteria grow in the sinus cavity, causing the symptoms to worsen.
Acute vs. Chronic Sinus Infections
What type of sinus infection are you dealing with? When you meet with an ENT specialist, the first step in the diagnostic process is to identify the underlying cause of the infection. Also, you need to know the type of infection you are dealing with to determine the proper treatment protocol.
- Acute Sinus Infection: An acute infection starts suddenly, and the symptoms happen quickly. An acute sinus infection often occurs as a secondary infection when you have other health issues, such as allergies or a head cold.
- Chronic Sinus Infections: If you have sinus infections several times a year, it might be diagnosed as a chronic sinus infection (also known as sinusitis). Some chronic sinus infections cause the symptoms to be long-lasting for more than 3 months. Other people with chronic sinus infections experience multiple flare-ups throughout the year.
Symptoms of a Sinus Infection
Keep in mind that the symptoms of a sinus infection can be similar to the symptoms of a head cold or allergies. The timing and severity of the symptoms can help you determine the underlying cause of your health concerns.
For example, with a head cold, the symptoms usually peak and start subsiding as you recover from the illness. You’ll be feeling better within a few days to a week.
But a head cold can cause congestion, leading to a sinus infection. Allergies can also increase the risk of sinus infection development. If you find that the symptoms aren’t going away or getting worse, then it might be time to talk to an ENT for a diagnosis.
Common sinus infection symptoms include:
- Pressure in the sinuses
- Pain in the facial region
- Pressure and pain that increases when you lead over
- Nasal discharge – thick and yellow or green in color
- Post nasal drip
- Bad breath
Treatments for Sinus Infections
If the symptoms are mild, start with at-home treatment and management to see if you can clear up the sinus infection without seeing a medical doctor. Sometimes, sinus infections can clear up without the need for prescription medications or medical interventions
At-home treatment options for minor sinus infections include:
- Over-the-Counter Medications: You can buy different types of medications at the local drug store or pharmacy. Depending on your symptoms, try using decongestants, cold medications, or allergy medications.
- Nasal Irrigation: A neti pot or other form of nasal irrigation is a great way to clear out the congestion and minimize the risk of infection-causing bacteria in the sinuses.
- Overall Health: Focus on healthy habits that help to boost the immune system, such as a healthy diet and good hydration. If your body is fighting a viral or bacterial infection, immune-boosting habits can help you kick the infection more quickly.
- Humidifier: Some patients notice an improvement in symptoms when they use a humidifier in their homes.
Medical Treatments from an ENT
If you notice that the symptoms aren’t improving after a few days, then it might be time to talk to an ENT for diagnosis and medical treatment. Identifying the underlying cause of the sinus infection is critical, so an accurate treatment plan can be designed for your unique needs.
Your doctor might recommend any of these treatments for acute sinus infection:
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics are only effective if the sinus infection is caused by bacteria. If it’s a viral sinus infection, then the antibiotics won’t help. Doctors want to verify the underlying cause before prescribing antibiotics, primarily because of the concerns about prescribing antibiotics too frequently and causing antibiotic-resistant super-germs.
- Decongestants: If over-the-counter decongestants aren’t working, you might try using a prescription-strength medication.
- Intranasal Steroid Sprays: One option to decrease the inflammation in the sinus cavities is using a spray that delivers steroid medication into the nasal passages. The steroids reduce inflammation which allows the sinuses to drain. As a result, the sinus infection can clear up. These sprays can only be used for a few days at a time.
If the sinus infection isn’t clearing up, or you have recurring infections throughout the year, the ENT might talk to you about other treatment options. For example, chronic sinus infections might be aggravated by the presence of nasal polyps. Removing these polyps can reduce the risk of recurring infections in the future.
Sinus Infection Prevention
Not only will your ENT help you identify the ideal treatment for your sinus infection, but it’s also important to learn about preventive lifestyle habits to avoid future infections.
If you know that you have a high risk for sinus infection development, then you might use nasal irrigation on a regular basis. Or, taking allergy medication to manage your upper respiratory symptoms can help to reduce the risk of future sinus infections.
Talk to an ENT About Sinus Infection Management
Do you have a sinus infection right now and need medical treatment? Then our team is here to help. Reach out to Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat for expert services from an ENT you can trust.
We serve families in both the Collin County and Dallas areas, with two offices located in Frisco and Plano, TX. Don’t delay the medical care that you need. Complete our online form for an appointment request, or call any time at (972) 596-4005.