Sinusitis, commonly known as sinus infection affects nearly 30 million adults each year. Sinusitis occurs when your sinuses become inflamed and swollen. Sinuses are glands that secrete mucus and partially serve to humidify, filter and warm the air one breathes. They have an important function in your respiratory health.
Sinusitis can be caused by bacteria or a virus and can become chronic when it lasts longer than four weeks, more than four times a year. Nasal polyps, allergies or respiratory tract infections are all causes of chronic sinusitis.
How do you know if you have a sinus infection? These five telltale signs should help you decide whether to call your doctor.
Headache is one of the most common symptoms of sinusitis. It usually affects your forehead, upper jaw and teeth, between your eyes, or your neck. The infected pair of sinus determines the parts of your head where you’ll experience pain. You have four pairs of sinuses, including the frontal, which are near your forehead. Your maxillary sinuses are located by your cheekbones. Your ethmoid sinuses are between your eyes. Your sphenoid sinuses are behind the ethmoid sinuses.
Thick nasal secretions are another sign of sinusitis. The secretions can be white, greenish, yellowish, or tinged with blood. If the secretions drip into the back of your throat, it can be difficult to clear your throat. With a sinus infection, you’re likely to have a stuffy nose. Your face may also feel full.
Fever is also linked with sinusitis. Pain and fever associated with sinusitis can be relieve d with an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, which should be taken as directed. Check with your doctor before giving a pain reliever to your child. If your child is younger than three months and has fever, see the doctor right away.
Sinusitis can make you feel tired. Fatigue also comes with a head cold and allergies, so take an inventory of all your symptoms to help figure out if your fatigue could be due to sinusitis. Getting plenty of rest can help you feel better, especially if your sinus infection is caused by a virus. Antibiotics can’t treat a viral infection, so rest and drinking lots of fluids are the best remedy.
Symptoms Lasting for More Than Two Weeks
If you have symptoms of cold for weeks, there’s a good chance you actually have a sinus infection. It’s easy to be confused between the two. The common cold typically lasts 7 to 14 days. Acute sinusitis, on the other hand, can last up to four weeks. A sub-acute form of sinusitis can last 4 to 12 weeks, and chronic sinusitis can last 12 weeks or more, continuing for months and years.
Sinusitis caused by a virus cannot be treated with antibiotics. But self-care by drinking plenty of fluids, using a clean humidifier, taking a hot shower and breathing in the steam, and avoiding smoking and second-hand smoke can help substantially. Putting a warm compress over your nose and forehead can also help relieve sinus pressure. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever to reduce the swelling in your nasal passages which will help you breathe easier.
If your symptoms last more than 10 days or you’ve had several episodes of sinusitis in the past year, and/or over-the-counter medicines don’t relieve your symptoms, consult your doctor. Your doctor can detect if you have the bacterial form of sinusitis, which can be treated with antibiotics. If your symptoms continue to get worse or if you have other concerns, call your doctor for a follow-up appointment. Although very rarely, sinusitis can even cause brain infection and other serious complications.
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