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Sinus infection: The causes and treatments

The sinuses are hollow cavities that surround the nose and are filled with air. Between the eyes are the ethmoid sinuses. The sphenoids are located in the center of the skull. Excess mucus plugs the sinuses, resulting in a sinus infection.

Mucus drains readily from the nose when the sinuses are clear, sweeping out debris and bacteria. Excess mucus builds up in the sinuses, allowing viruses, bacteria, and fungi to thrive in the moist, stagnant environment.

A runny or stuffy nose, pain or pressure in the face, and a sore throat are all signs of sinus infections. Sinus infection is also called sinusitis by some people.

Learn how to get rid of a sinus infection using home remedies or medical therapy in this post.

When to consult a doctor

how to get rid of sinus infection

People should contact their doctor if they have the following symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • several sinus infections in a year
  • any severe symptoms, such as facial pain
  • a sinus infection for more than 10 days
  • fever lasting more than 3–4 days
  • symptoms that worsen after a period of improvement

If your child is under the age of three months and has a sinus infection, you should consult a doctor right once. Any youngster with a temperature of more than 100.4°F (38°C) should consult a doctor.

A sinus infection in a child under the age of three months is uncommon. Sinitis is sometimes misdiagnosed as an upper respiratory infection (URI) or an adenoid infection.

If a sinus infection lasts more than 12 weeks or if a person has more than three sinus infections in a year, they may develop chronic sinusitis. Chronic sinusitis symptoms might be reduced with the help of a doctor.

A doctor will inquire about a patient’s symptoms and perform a nose and throat examination. A swab of the inside of the nose may also be taken for culture testing.

If antibiotics do not relieve a sinus infection, an ENT, or otolaryngologist, may use a nasal endoscope to inspect the sinuses in greater detail. This is a tube with a light and a camera at the end of it. They may also perform a CT scan to better check the sinuses. An ENT may do a targeted culture of a particular sinus.

Treatments

If home cures haven’t worked, medical treatments for sinus infections work to unclog and empty the sinuses.

Antibiotics

Most sinus infections resolve without the need for antibiotics.

According to the ACAAI, a doctor may recommend antibiotic therapy if a person has had a bacterial sinus infection for more than 7–10 days.

Viral sinus infections may resolve within two weeks.

Prescription nasal spray

If over-the-counter remedies are ineffective, a prescription nasal spray can assist reduce nasal swelling. This makes it easier for mucus to discharge from the sinuses.

A saline solution for draining extra mucus out of the nose may also be prescribed by a doctor. A doctor may prescribe compounded irrigation solutions including steroids or antibiotics for persistent sinusitis.

Oral steroids

A doctor may prescribe oral steroids for severe or persistent sinusitis. These are powerful medications, and people should speak with their doctors about any potential side effects.

Surgery

If a sinus infection does not respond to medicine or other treatments, or if it has spread, a surgical operation to relieve the blocked sinuses and restore normal mucus drainage may be required.

Antifungal medication

A doctor may give antifungal medicine if a fungal infection is causing sinusitis.

Most people will need surgery in addition to treatment to eliminate fungus from the sinuses.

Home remedies

People can start treating symptoms of a sinus infection using home remedies, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI). A sinus infection normally clears up in two weeks if it’s a viral illness.

To help reduce antibiotic resistance, the ACAAI recommends that people only use antibiotics to treat a sinus infection if symptoms last longer than 7–10 days. The following home treatments may help people who are suffering from sinus infection symptoms:

Over-the-counter pain relievers

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers may help alleviate sinus infection symptoms. The following drugs may be used:

  • ibuprofen, such as Advil or Motrin
  • acetaminophen, such as Tylenol
  • aspirin, only for people over the age of 18 years

Localized pain, fever, and headaches may be relieved with over-the-counter pain medications.

Nasal sprays

People should only take over-the-counter decongestant nasal sprays for 3–4 days at a time. Some nasal sprays, such as steroid nasal sprays and saline, are also available over-the-counter and can be used for a longer period of time. Nasal sprays may aid in the reduction of nasal swelling and the drainage of mucus from the sinuses.

When taking nasal decongestant sprays, people should exercise caution. Overuse of nasal sprays can cause the nasal passages to expand and lock up, a condition known as rebound phenomenon.

To avoid any negative side effects, it is important to carefully follow product instructions. It is important to see a doctor before using nasal sprays if a person has a medical condition or is pregnant.

Nasal irrigation

Nasal irrigation may aid in the relief of sinus infection symptoms. People who utilized nasal irrigation had fewer symptoms, fewer headaches, and were less likely to use OTC drugs, according to a 2016 study.

For nasal irrigation, people can use a neti pot, which is a tiny container with a spout, or a rinse bottle. Using a neti pot with the improper type of water, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), can be harmful.

In a neti pot, it’s important not to use water straight from the faucet. Because stomach acid eliminates any bacteria or parasites present, tap water is safe to drink. Because these germs cannot be killed in the nasal environment, using a neti pot with tap water can cause in a serious infection.

The FDA recommends taking one of the following precautions while using a neti pot:

  • buying distilled or sterile water to use
  • filtering water through a specialized filter that traps harmful organisms
  • boiling tap water for 3–5 minutes and letting it cool before using
  • storing any previously boiled water in a clean, sealed container and using it within 24 hours

People can use a neti pot, nasal bulb, or syringe to generate their own irrigation solution. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) recommends the following solution and protocol for nasal irrigation:

  • Mix 3 teaspoons (tsp) iodide-free salt with 1 teaspoon (tsp) baking soda in a clean, airtight container with a spoon.
  • Add 1 tsp of the salt and baking soda mixture to 1 cup, or 8 ounces (oz), of sterile water.
  • Reduce the dry combination amount if the solution causes any stinging or burning sensations.
  • If people are using the solution for children, use a half teaspoon of the dry mixture and mix with 4 oz of water.
  • Apply the solution with a tiny syringe or a neti pot.
  • Rotate your head to the left over a sink and gently squeeze 4 oz of saline rinse into the right nostril while breathing through your mouth.
  • Turn the head to the right and repeat for the other side once the solution has been rinsed out through the left nostril.
  • After each usage, rinse the neti pot or syringe with sterile water and dry thoroughly.

A nasal irrigation solution can also be purchased at a pharmacy. To avoid the transmission of germs, bacteria, or both, irrigation bottles should be replaced every few months.

Steam inhalation

Although there isn’t enough data to suggest that steam inhalation is a helpful treatment for sinus infections, some people may discover that it does.

A person can employ steam inhalation to ease sinus infection symptoms by leaning over a bowl of hot water with a cloth over their head to keep the steam contained. They should breathe deeply through their nostrils for 10–15 minutes three–four times per day.

One or two drops of essential oil, such as eucalyptus or peppermint oil, can be added to the water. Anti-inflammatory and antibacterial characteristics of eucalyptus oil may aid in the battle against infection.

Eucalyptus essential oil is available in health food stores.

Rest

While suffering from a sinus infection, people should aim to obtain enough of rest. This will aid recovery and allow the body to focus its resources on battling the illness.

Staying at home and resting can also help prevent the virus from spreading to others.

Hydration

Keeping the body hydrated during a sinus infection is as simple as drinking enough of clear drinks. Drinking several glasses of water each day is a good goal.

Other than soda or coffee, any beverage can assist. When a person gets a sinus infection, they should drink the following fluids:

  • herbal teas
  • broth
  • plain water
  • hot water with lemon, honey, or ginger

Warm compresses

Applying a warm compress to the face can help reduce pain and pressure from blocked sinuses.

People can produce a warm compress by soaking a clean facecloth in hot water, wringing it out, and applying it to the affected facial areas, such as the nose and forehead.

Antihistamines

Antihistamines are antihistamines that are used to alleviate inflammation caused by allergic reactions. As a result, they may be beneficial in treating similar symptoms of a sinus infection, such as nasal passage and sinus swelling.

OTC combination drugs

Antihistamines and decongestants may be combined in some OTC drugs. Before using them, people should consult a pharmacist or doctor because they may dry out and harden mucus instead of loosening it.

Symptoms

A sinus infection can cause the following symptoms:

  • a fever
  • bad breath
  • tiredness
  • an aching jaw or teeth
  • headache
  • pain or a feeling of pressure in the face
  • a stuffy nose
  • altered sense of smell
  • extra mucus in throat due to post-nasal drainage
  • coughing
  • a sore throat

Summary

People with a sinus infection may be able to treat it at home with over-the-counter drugs, nasal irrigation, and warm compresses. As the body heals, it’s also important to get enough of rest and stay hydrated.

People should consult their doctor if they have symptoms of a sinus infection for more than 7–10 days or if they have any severe symptoms.

A sinus infection may be treated with antibiotics and prescription nasal sprays. People with persistent conditions may require steroid irrigations or surgery.

Sources:

  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2221169115001033
  • https://www.enthealth.org/conditions/fungal-sinusitis/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5588489/
  • https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm316375.htm
  • http://www.cmaj.ca/content/188/13/940
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324743
  • https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/ritual-ablution.html
  • https://acaai.org/allergies/types/sinus-infection
  • https://www.aaaai.org/Conditions-Treatments/Allergies/Sinusitis
  • https://www.aafa.org/sinusitis-sinus-infection/

About the author

Obianuju Chukwu

She has a degree in pharmacy and has worked in the field as a pharmacist in a hospital. Teaching, blogging, and producing scientific articles are some of her interests. She enjoys writing on various topics relating to health and medicine, including health and beauty-related natural treatments, the nutritional worth of various foods, and mental wellness.