Ear, Nose & Throat

Why Do I Keep Getting Sinus Infections?

written by Becki Andrus
Why Do I Keep Getting Sinus Infections?

Do you feel frustrated because you have sinus infections that keep coming back? It can be hard to live with recurring infections, especially because the pain and congestion can take a toll on many aspects of your life.

If the sinus infection is a secondary infection after a cold or the flu, then these symptoms can linger after the viral infection clears up. Acute sinus infections are typically short-lived but sometimes require treatment, such as an antibiotic, to address the underlying cause of the infection.

On the other hand, chronic sinus infections are recurring. Even if you can clear up the symptoms, they keep coming back, resulting in multiple infections throughout the year. Or, you might have a sinus infection that never seems to get better, with ongoing symptoms such as congestion and facial pain.

How to Tell the Difference Between an Acute vs. Chronic Sinus Infection

An acute sinus infection typically lasts between 7 – 10 days, and the symptoms will clear up on their own when you heal from the illness. But some short-term sinus infections might hang on a little longer, with symptoms for up to a month or so.

The timing of the symptoms is key to determining if you have a chronic condition. If the symptoms continue for 12 weeks or longer, or you have sinus infections 3 – 4 times per year (or more), then it likely falls within the category of a chronic infection.

The best way to get an accurate diagnosis is by talking to an ENT. Testing and a personal consultation can be done to determine the underlying cause and ideal treatment to help you find relief.

Getting to the Root of the Problem

Keep in mind that there are two treatment approaches for sinus infections. Basic medication such as sinus-relief decongestants for an acute condition is sufficient to alleviate the symptoms while your body is healing from the infection. Typically, these short-term infections are viral based, which means you need to give it time before you will start feeling better.

The second treatment approach is essential when living with recurring or chronic sinus infections. In this situation, you need to get to the root of the issue: identifying the reason why the symptoms keep coming back.

An ENT can offer testing and diagnostics to determine why you are experiencing ongoing sinus inflammation and congestion. Once the underlying cause is identified, a treatment plan can be implemented to provide immediate relief and prevent recurring infections in the future.

  • Physical Abnormalities: Sometimes, the underlying cause is a physical blockage that interferes with sinus drainage. Examples include a deviated septum, nasal polyps, or narrow sinuses. These issues might need to be treated with a surgical intervention to open the sinus passages.
  • Allergies: If you suffer from allergies, the sinus symptoms will continue to recur as long as you are exposed to the allergic triggers. Allergy testing can be helpful in identifying the compounds that are contributing to your sinus infections. Common culprits include pollen, pet dander, mold, and more.
  • Other Health Conditions: Did you know that having other health issues could potentially increase your risk of chronic sinus infections? For example, it’s common for recurring sinus infections to be accompanied by GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), asthma, cystic fibrosis, HIV, and more. Managing these other health issues can help to prevent recurring infections.

Treating Chronic Sinus Infections: Medical Interventions

Keep in mind that addressing the root cause of a recurring sinus infection is the most effective solution for preventing symptoms in the future. You can take medications to clear up the symptoms immediately, but these symptoms will keep coming back as long as the underlying cause is left untreated.

For example, a primary care physician might prescribe antibiotics repeatedly when the sinus infection flares up. But if the sinuses are blocked with nasal polyps, the conditions continue to promote inflammation and bacteria growth. It’s necessary to remove these polyps to facilitate proper drainage, which works to prevent infections from coming back again.

Each patient is unique, and the specific treatment plan varies depending on the underlying conditions. The ideal solution is to partner with an experienced ENT specializing in sinus treatments. If the initial treatments aren’t sufficient to clear up the infection, you can move on to other interventions as the doctor recommends.

At-Home Care and Prevention for Sinus Infections

Also, keep in mind that certain at-home practices can be quite helpful in preventing recurring sinus infections. If you know you are at high risk for recurring infections, consider the benefits of implementing preventive practices.

A few minor things right now can make a big difference in helping you avoid pain and symptoms in the future. These tips can also help to ease the immediate symptoms by keeping the sinus passages open and clear.

  • Nasal Irrigation: Sinus rinses are helpful in removing bacteria, mucus, and allergens that collect in the nasal passages and sinus cavities. Some patients find nasal irrigation to alleviate immediate symptoms and prevent future recurring infections.
  • Saline Spray: You can keep the sinuses moist and healthy with an over-the-counter saline spray. Be careful to avoid using nasal sprays with steroids for too long because ongoing use can actually make the congestion worse. Always follow the recommendations on the box.
  • Medications: If allergies are the root cause, then managing allergies with medication can prevent sinus infections. You might be able to use an over-the-counter medication, or it’s possible that the ENT will recommend a prescription if the symptoms are severe.

When to Visit an ENT for Sinus Infections

How do you know when it’s time to talk to a specialist about diagnosis and treatment for a sinus infection? An ENT can be a great resource if the infections won’t go away or keep coming back.

  • Have you gone through multiple rounds of antibiotics and are still experiencing symptoms?
  • Have you been diagnosed with physical obstructions, such as polyps or a deviated septum?
  • Are your symptoms lasting for 12 weeks or longer?

All of these factors are indicators that you will benefit by talking to an ENT specialist for chronic sinusitis treatment.

Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat is Here to Help

Rest assured knowing you don’t have to live indefinitely with sinus pain and pressure. If you are experiencing chronic symptoms, we invite you to call at your convenience to book an appointment and learn more about available treatment options.

We provide ENT services for families in the Dallas and Collin County communities. Reach out to us at Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat for an appointment at our offices in Plano or Frisco, TX. You can quickly complete an online form for an appointment request or call us any time: (972) 596-4005.

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