What is a Sinus Infection?
A sinus infection, also referred to as sinusitis, is a condition in which inflammation and swelling of the lining of the sinus and nasal passages caused by bacteria occurs. Sinuses are the air chambers in the bone behind your eyebrows, cheeks and jaw. Normally, mucous cleans the bacteria and other particles that collect in the sinuses. With the help of tiny hairs called cilia, mucus is moved out of sinuses so that it can drain into the nasal passages. However, when you have a cold or allergy attack, your sinuses become inflamed or infected and drainage cannot occur.
Types of Sinus Infections
1. Acute bacterial sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses caused by bacteria and usually starts with a cold, allergy attack or as a result of environmental irritants. Chronic sinusitis is characterized by frequent bouts of sinusitis which lasts for three months or more.
2. Sinus infections are common and affect millions of Americans every year. However, people tend to be more prone to this condition and these include those who are born with narrow nasal openings, have a weakened immune system, suffer from asthma or allergies, smoke or have a nose injury.
If left untreated, sinus infections can lead to serious complications such as eye infections or meningitis.
Common signs and symptoms of a sinus infection
- Post nasal drip
- Pain or pressure in the forehead, eyes or cheeks
- Thick, yellowish-greenish nasal discharge
- Blocked or congested nose
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Aching in the upper teeth
- A persistent cold
What causes a Sinus Infection?
A sinus infection occurs as result of swelling in the sinus passages or if anything prevents the cilia from moving mucous.
There are several factors that contribute to sinusitis developing and these include:
- Viral, bacterial or fungal infection especially after you have a cold
- Allergy attack
- Tooth infection
- Nasal polyps, deviated septum or tumors
- Enlarged or infected adenoids
- Changes in temperature
- Air pressure
- Swimming or diving
- Excessive use of decongestant nasal sprays
- Exposure to pollutants cigarette smoke, pollution and chemical fumes
Certain medical conditions such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, or immune disorders can increase your risk of getting acute sinusitis .
Diagnosing a Sinus Infection?
The diagnosis of a sinus infection is based on your physical symptoms, full examination, and a review of your medical history. In some cases, x-rays or a CT scan of your sinuses if you fail to respond to initial treatment. In more extreme cases, your doctor may refer you to an ENT specialist.
Help for a Sinus Infection
Treatment of a sinus infection typically involves reducing the inflammation or swelling in the nasal passages and promoting drainage of the sinuses. It is also vital to get rid of the infection and help to keep the sinus open. Simple home remedies have proven to be very effective in opening sinus passages.
Drink plenty of fluids, rinse your sinuses with a saline solution, apply warm, moist face packs and inhale steam to loosen mucus. Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can offer pain relief. Nasal sprays and oral decongestants help to reduce congestion and should only be used in the initial treatment to ease symptoms. Avoid overuse of these types of medications as they can cause the return of more severe congestion. Your health practitioner will prescribe antibiotics symptoms persist. If you are prone to allergies, make sure that you have regular allergy shots to prevent a sinus infection flare-up. In more extreme cases where a sinus infection fails to respond to medications, surgery may be required.
Natural remedies have also proven to be extremely beneficial in reducing the symptoms of sinus infections. Homeopathic ingredients such as Kali bich, Pulsatilla, and Hepar sulph treats the inflammation and swelling in the sinuses. Other effective ingredients such as Thuja occ and Spigelia relieve congestion and blockage, and promote drainage from the sinuses. Remember to consult a qualified herbalist or homeopath for guidance.
More Information on Sinus Infection
Helpful Tips to cope with a sinus infection
There are a number of things that you can do to reduce the episodes of a sinus infection and they include:
- Drink lots of fluids such as water and juice which prevents congestion, drains the mucous and increases moisture in the body
- Eat a healthy, well balanced diet that contains plenty of vegetables and fruit to boost the immune system
- Rest as much as possible to fight off the infection and speed recovery
- Inhale steam by leaning over a bowl of hot water for a few minutes to loosen mucous and moisten the throat
- Apply warm compresses to your face to relieve facial pain
- Control your allergies by getting regular allergy shots
- Use a humidifier in your home to moisten the air
- Remove allergens from the air by attaching filters to air conditioners and heaters
- Avoid cigarette smoke and other air pollutants which aggravates the sinus lining
- Practice good hygiene habits by washing hands thoroughly with warm water and soap
- Avoid contact with people who have colds and flu
- Avoid air travel and swimming in chlorinated pools