Medically termed as rhinosinusitis, a sinus infection is a common condition where the air cavities in the bone situated around the eyes and nose get inflamed. There are two forms of sinusitis, that is, acute or chronic sinusitis. These are caused due to bacterial, fungal, or viral infections. Acute sinusitis persists for a brief period, roughly less than 4 weeks. It is characterized by signs and symptoms such as facial pain, stuffy and runny nose, cough and congestion, and loss of smell. Dental pain, bad breath, fatigue, and fever are some additional signs of this condition.
Conversely, chronic sinus infections last for more than 12 weeks and tend to recur. A nasal blockage, feeling of congestion and fullness in the face, a pressure in the ears, fever, pus in the nasal cavity, a runny nose, and discolored drainage from the nose are some common signs of chronic sinusitis. One may also experience tooth pain, foul-smelling breath, and headaches.
Adults are more likely to have sinus infections if they smoke, have a common cold, blocked drainage ducts, nasal polyps, deviated septum, tooth infections, and immune system issues that require them to consume immunosuppressants. On the other hand, allergies, pacifiers, passive smoking, injuries to the nose, and illness spread from other children at school or daycare could cause a sinus infection in kids.
Treating sinus infections
Acute sinusitis will resolve within a week or so if it is caused by a viral infection, without requiring any major medical intervention. To relieve any bothersome symptoms, the doctor might prescribe some medicines. Moreover, one can use a saline nasal spray or nasal saline irrigation to get rid of the mucus blocking the nasal passages and sinuses. However, if the condition is caused by a bacterial infection, the doctor will prescribe a course of antibiotics lasting for at least 2 weeks. This is because bacterial infections comparatively take a longer time to recover from.
Treatment for chronic sinus infections involves the long-term use of medications such as nasal steroid sprays. A short course of oral steroids might be recommended if one is suffering from a severe form of nasal inflammation. Topical or oral decongestants and saline nasal solutions are some additional types of options used for alleviating the symptoms. Antibiotics might be prescribed in cases where the cause of a chronic sinus infection is bacterial. The antibiotic drug therapy will typically last anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks.
If the sinus infection is complicated by structural issues or nasal polyps, one might have to opt for surgery. In case of a fungal nasal infection, endoscopic surgery might be necessary. Likewise, if one’s sinus infection is aggravated due to allergies, they will have to use antihistamines to keep the symptoms under control.
Home remedies such as applying a warm compress to the affected area, drinking herbal teas, inhaling steam, a facial massage, and getting enough sleep can further help ease the symptoms.
Preventing sinus infections
There is no infallible way to prevent sinus infections; however, one can try the following measures to keep them at bay:
- Abstinence from smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke
- Avoiding things that can trigger allergies
- Washing hands frequently, especially when the cold and flu season is at its peak