Whether it is allergies, a cold, or the flu, most of us have experienced the unique discomfort of extreme sinus congestion. While there are many things that can make it feel like someone has stuffed an entire pillow inside your face, the sinus infection is a unique form of misery that is worse than a simple common cold or seasonal allergies.
What is Sinusitis?
A sinus infection, or sinusitis, is a condition where the tissues of the sinus cavities become infected and inflamed. Symptoms tend to be similar to those of the common cold, though there are some differences. The most recognizable symptoms include:
- pain or pressure around the eyes, cheeks, and forehead
- bad breath
- blocked nose
- nasal discharge
- sinus headache
- a heavy cough with thick mucus
- reduced senses of taste and smell
- yellow or green mucus when you blow your nose
- post-nasal drip
Unlike the viruses that cause the common cold, sinus infections are typically caused by bacteria, though fungi and viruses can be responsible in rare occasions.
Sinus pressure is something many people feel after coming down with a cold or the flu. This pressure is caused by the mucosal layer lining the nasal passages becoming inflamed and swollen. When this happens, normal sinus drainage stops happening, allowing bacteria or fungi to build up, causing a sinus infection. This is also the reason a bacterial infection can follow exposure to allergens such as pollen or mold.
Some people are more prone than others to sinus infections. Those with a compromised immune system may find that bacteria form more readily in the nasal passages. People prone to seasonal allergies, or those who get colds easily, are at a greater risk for sinusitis.
Can You Get Rid of a Sinus Infection Without Antibiotics?
For most healthy people, even a moderate sinus infection can be cleared up if the nasal passages are allowed to drain. There are many different over-the-counter medications and home remedies that can provide relief from nasal congestion, and in some cases sinus infections can be handled by your body’s immune system.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications to treat sinus issues fall into a few different categories depending on your symptoms. Decongestants and antihistamines are designed to help alleviate the swelling that is preventing normal sinus drainage. Pain relievers such as ibuprofen can also help with reducing swelling and inflammation. Many cold and allergy relief drugs are a combination of two or three of these components.
In recent years, decongestant nasal sprays have become more popular, but increasing research is showing there can be dangers to this form of treatment. You should always be careful when using nasal sprays, and always follow treatment directions carefully. In most cases, you should not use a nasal spray for more than three days, as there is a risk of your nasal congestion getting worse over time with long-term use of sprays.
In addition to treating the sinus blockage itself, many people find it useful to take OTC pain relievers to alleviate the facial pain caused by swollen nasal passages. While pain medication such as ibuprofen will not reduce the amount of congestion, it can help you feel better while your sinus cavities heal.
One of the most effective ways to fight off a sinus infection is also the hardest for some of us to get. A little extra rest and a few good nights’ sleep will go a long way toward helping your body fight off an infection. In many cases, this is the goal of decongestants and pain relievers, as the symptoms of a sinus infection can keep you from sleeping soundly.
How Do You Get Rid of a Sinus Infection Naturally?
For those who want to limit their intake of all medications, including over-the-counter drugs, there are several natural home remedies that can provide relief from sinus pressure.
Many home remedies for sinus infections rely on hydration of the nasal passages. This can take the form of anything from holding a warm compress to your face, keeping your head over a bowl of hot water to breath in the steam, or even taking a hot shower. Increasing the amount of moisture in the nasal cavities can help flush irritants out of your nose, which will reduce your inflammation.
One of the most popular ways to treat a sinus infection at home is with the use of a neti pot. This treatment involves nasal irrigation where the sinuses are flushed with saline solution or distilled water either by pouring water from a neti pot or injecting it carefully into the sinuses with a bulb or syringe.
Just because nasal irrigation with a neti pot or small syringe is natural does not mean it is universally safe. It is vital that you use distilled water, as further infection can result from untreated tap water being placed in the sinus cavities. The infections caused by improper use of a neti pot have resulted in death, and for this reason some medical professionals are hesitant to recommend this treatment.
How Do You Treat Chronic Sinusitis?
Whether it is seasonal allergies that return every year like clockwork, or naturally small nasal passages that do not drain readily, some people find that chronic sinusitis is a part of life. In these cases, proactive treatment with decongestants and antihistamines can help to stave off the sinus congestion that can give rise to an infection.
Changes to your home environment such as eliminating dust and mold where possible and using a humidifier can all help provide relief as well. Many people who have recurring or chronic sinusitis also make use of steam therapy or neti pots to keep their sinus passages hydrated when symptoms begin. In extreme cases, having a doctor who knows your symptoms and knows when to give prescription medications may be necessary.
When Should I Ask My Doctor About a Sinus Infection?
As with any other medical condition, it is imperative that you see a doctor if certain worrisome symptoms begin to appear. This is especially true during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While the first hint of sinus pain may not be a reason to head to the doctor, if you have been exposed to others who have tested positive or may be infected with the coronavirus, you should get tested if you begin feeling poorly. Similarly, a bit of nasal decongestion may not be cause for concern, but if you begin experiencing severe shortness of breath, get medical help immediately.
One of the reasons many people do not seek medical attention when they should is uncertainty about when they can get an appointment with their healthcare provider. At TrustCare, our many walk-in clinics are open every day of the week to make sure you can get the care you need without the hassle of making an appointment. If you are experiencing symptoms that seem like more than a bit of nasal congestion, visit one of our TrustCare locations today.