Sinusitis: Seven Simple Things You Can Do and Signs That It Might Be Something More
By Dr. G. Zachary White, otolaryngologist at Bronson Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery Specialists in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek.
As seen in Scene Magazine, September 2019
G. Zachary White, DO
Most of us have found ourselves asking the question, “is this cold getting worse or what?” Spend a couple of days in this questionable state and you soon realize that you’re either getting better or your cold might well be something a bit more intense. Your next question may be, “is this a sinus infection?”
What is Sinusitis?
A very common condition, sinusitis comes in different forms. The different types of sinusitis are based on how long and how often the bouts of sinusitis last.
Acute sinusitis presents itself in the manner described above. It starts out feeling like a nasty cold and lasts for 2 to 4 weeks. Typical symptoms often include:
- Runny nose
- Facial pain or pressure
Fever is not a common symptom unless a subsequent infection has set in.
- Subacute sinusitis is simply acute sinusitis that continues for up to 12 weeks.
- Chronic sinusitis is classified as sinusitis that lasts longer than 12 weeks and, as the name implies, may last an indefinite amount of time.
- Lastly, recurrent sinusitis will feature several bouts of sinusitis during a year.
The majority of acute sinusitis cases are minor and recovery is a relatively simple matter. Generally, a case of acute sinusitis will not require a visit to your doctor. In fact, viruses cause most cases of acute sinusitis and a prescribed antibiotic will have no effect on the virus or longevity of your illness.
Feel Better Faster
Nevertheless, there are things that you can do to lessen symptoms and make yourself more comfortable while you are ill. There are procedures and products that may lessen or relieve symptoms. The next time you are sick, try these seven easy tips:
- Rinse your nasal passages using a saline spray, neti pot, or similar.
- Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. Dehydration will make your congestion worse. The extra congestion can make your sinuses more susceptible to infection.
- Get plenty of sleep. Your body needs rest to heal itself.
- Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
- Inhale steam from a hot shower, steam machine or towel/bowl of hot water.
- Apply warm compresses on affected areas of the face.
- Use medications sparingly, and only for as short a period as possible. These may help: Corticosteroid or decongestant sprays, oral decongestants and over the counter pain relievers.
If your symptoms have not subsided or have worsened after a week to ten days, you may have developed a secondary infection in the sinus cavities due to prolonged congestion and inflammation. In this instance, a doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to treat the secondary infection.
Chronic or Recurrent Sinusitis
Sinusitis should be an occasional thing. If your sinusitis doesn’t go away or you have ongoing bouts of sinusitis that do not get better with standard treatment, you may have an underlying issue that is keeping your sinuses inflamed or not allowing them to drain properly. Some conditions that can cause chronic sinusitis include:
- Chronic allergies or respiratory tract infections
- Compromised immune system due to medical conditions
- Physical damage to the nose or sinuses
- Tumors or nasal polyps
- Deviated septum
- Smoking or consistent exposure to cigarette smoke
Beyond the constant stuffiness and sinus pressure, chronic sinusitis can also cause:
- A reduced sense of smell or taste
- Difficulty breathing through your nose
- Pressure or tenderness around eyes, nose forehead or cheeks
- Postnasal drainage, drainage down the back of your throat
- Discolored drainage from the nose
- Ear pain
- Chronic cough
Chronic sinus infections can be more than unpleasant; they can cause serious medical conditions such as vision problems, chronic pain or headaches, and infections that spread from the sinuses to other areas of the head and neck. Chronic sinusitis can also affect mental health. Dealing with the symptoms associated with chronic sinusitis can affect quality of life, not only for those living with condition, but also for others around you.
An occurrence of acute sinusitis that comes and goes is something that should not concern you. However, if you can’t get rid of your sinusitis or have cases that occur over and over, talk with your primary care provider about seeing a specialist. It is important that you and your doctor get to the root of the problem and find a solution. Your sinuses, your quality of life, and those who share your life will thank you.
G. Zachary White, DO, is an otolaryngologist at Bronson Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery Specialists in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek. He uses the latest surgical techniques, studies the newest research, and applies this knowledge to personalize care for each of his patients.