What is a Sinus Infection?
Every day, thousands of people suffer from mild, acute, or even a more severe form of sinusitis, most commonly referred to as a sinus infection. The medical term not often heard, but mostly associated with a sinus infection, is rhinosinusitis. This is a condition that causes inflammation of the soft tissues that directly align with the sinuses.
Normal nasal passageways are filled with air and allow mucus to naturally drain in the nostril, but when the sinus passageways become inflamed and swollen, due to fungi, bacteria, and viruses, it becomes difficult to breathe.
Below is a list of some of the environmental changes and conditions that may cause the rhinosinusitis:
- common, everyday cold
- allergies – dust, pollen, etc.
- changes in the nasal cavity
- polyps growing in nasal lining
Sinus infections are irritating, bothersome, and altogether uncomfortable. While many people suffer from sinus infections year rounds, others suffer from sinus infections during certain seasons of the year, known as recurrent sinus infections.
Most recurrent sinus infections reappear several times a year. This type of sinus infection is triggered by several conditions like environmental changes, pollutants, or other seasonal allergies. Recurrent sinus infections can cause mild to severe symptoms and often lead sufferers to experience pain in various parts of the face, including the head and neck.
Types of Sinus Infections
Sinus infections that last two months or longer are referred to as chronic sinus infections. Doctors look for 2-4 symptoms, before they determine whether or not a sinus infection is chronic in nature. These symptoms include:
- a thick discharge from the nose or drainage running down the back of the throat
- difficulty breathing due to congestion or nasal blockage
- swelling, puffiness or pain around the facial areas including the nose and forehead
- a cough and decease in taste or/ and smell.
Sinus infections that last 4-6 weeks are considered subacute sinus infections. The symptoms are severe and may affect the teeth, upper jaw, and ears. Oftentimes the symptoms worsen or the pressure is more prevalent when bending over. Finally, sinus infections that last from 10-14 days are considered acute. These types of infections are usually caused by the common cold.
Treatment Options for a Sinus Infection
Over-the-counter Treatment Options
Most symptoms of a sinus infection are not serious, and can most likely be treated with over- the- counter medications:
A good decongestant can loosen the phlegm in the throat and clear the nasal passages, but it cannot provide a cure for the condition. If using a decongestant, the chances of prolonged use can worsen the symptoms, therefore, after a few days of use, with no decrease in symptoms, individuals should stop using the decongestant, as there might be an underlying problem, such as a nasal blockage.
A steam vapor treatment can do wonders in clearing the nasal passages, as well. Allow the steam to penetrate the nostrils by inhaling warm, moist air from a small bowl of warm water. Use the vapor, in addition to a cough decongestant and saline nose drop solution, for the best results.
Professional Treatment Options
In most cases, however, it is recommended that individuals contact their physician before deciding to self-medicate. Some sinus infections are mild and can be easily treated before they become severe, and it is best to have your doctor make this treatment recommendation. Self-diagnosis of the condition is never recommended, as a severe sinus infection can sometimes produce symptoms that mimic other conditions. If your sinus infection lasts for more than a week, seek medical assistance.