What Are The Sinuses
The sinuses are hollow, interconnected spaces inside your skull. They extend across your forehead, behind your nose, between your eyes and under your cheekbones. Sinus walls have a layer of mucus that traps bacteria and keeps the air inside moist.
Sinuses need to drain frequently. If theres a blockage or inflammation, the sinuses dont work like they should.
Antibiotics For A Severe Sinus Infection
You may be surprised that antibiotics are not listed as the first step in treatment. While many patients with sinusitis expect antibiotics, they aren’t usually needed if good drainage is achieved.
Antibiotics have potential disadvantages. They can trigger allergic reactions or cause side effects. Widespread use of antibiotics has encouraged the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria . And many of these drugs are expensive.
Still, if your sinusitis does not improve with two to four days of drainage therapy, or if it’s very severe to begin with, it probably needs an antibiotic to help get rid of the trapped bacteria. Antibiotic therapy for just three to seven days is generally as effective as traditional 10- to 14-day treatment for uncomplicated acute sinusitis.
Many bacteria can cause acute sinusitis the most common include some with fearsome names like Pneumococcus, Streptococcus, Hemophilus, and Moraxella. Unless you have a sinus puncture , there’s really no way to know which bacteria are causing your sinusitis. Cultures of your mucus or your nose, even if they are obtained through a nasal speculum, are not helpful because they are always contaminated by the many bacteria that live in every nose.
Runny Nose And Postnasal Drip
When you have a sinus infection, you may need to blow your nose often because of nasal discharge, which can be cloudy, green, or yellow. This discharge comes from your infected sinuses and drains into your nasal passages.
The discharge may also bypass your nose and drain down the back of your throat. You may feel a tickle, an itch, or even a sore throat.
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Is It Possible To Prevent Sinus Infections Or Sinusitis
Currently, there are no vaccines designed specifically against infectious sinusitis or sinus infections. However, there are vaccines against viruses and bacteria that may cause some infectious sinusitis. Vaccination against pathogens known to cause infectious sinusitis may indirectly reduce or prevent the chance of getting the disease however, no specific studies support this assumption. Fungal vaccines against sinusitis are not available, currently.
If you are prone to recurrent bouts of a “yearly sinus infection” it may be important to consider allergy testing to see if this is the underlying cause of the recurring problem. Treatment of the allergy may prevent secondary bacterial sinus infections. In addition, sinus infections may be due to other problems such as nasal polyps, tumors, or diseases that obstruct normal mucus flow. Treatment of these underlying causes may prevent recurrent sinus infections.
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I Keep Saline Spray On Standby
Saline sprays work the same way as sinus rinses, helping to clear out mucous and soothe nasal passages.
“I like to use Euka’s Infused Cold & Allergy Saline Spray throughout the day,” says Beverly Hills-based ENT Shawn Nasseri, MD. “It’s infused with essential oils, including eucalyptus, has glycerin for an extra boost of moisture and is alkaline for greater comfort.”
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When Should I Go See The Doctor About A Sinus Infection
It is pretty easy to care for most sinus conditions on your own. However, if you continue to have symptoms that concern you or if your infections continue to happen, your primary care doctor might suggest you see a specialist. This could also happen if your CT scan shows something that does not look right.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Sinusitis, or swelling of the tissues of the sinus cavities, is a common condition with many causes, including viruses and bacteria, nasal polyps or allergies. Signs and symptoms may including facial pressure, fever and tiredness. You can treat symptoms at home by resting, taking over-the-counter products and increasing your fluid intake. Make sure you contact your healthcare provider if symptoms do not improve, if sinusitis happens often or if you have any symptom that worries you.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/04/2020.
What Tests Diagnose The Cause Of Sinus Infections And Sinusitis
Sinus infection is most often diagnosed based on the history and examination of a doctor. Because plain X-ray studies of the sinuses may be misleading and procedures such as CT and MRI scans, which are much more sensitive in their ability to diagnose a sinus infection, are so expensive and not available in most doctors offices, most sinus infections are initially diagnosed and treated based on clinical findings on examination. These physical findings may include:
- redness and swelling of the nasal passages,
- purulent drainage from the nasal passages ,
- tenderness to percussion over the cheeks or forehead region of the sinuses, and
- swelling about the eyes and cheeks.
Occasionally, nasal secretions are examined for secreted cells that may help differentiate between infectious and allergic sinusitis. Infectious sinusitis may show specialized cells of infection while allergic sinusitis may show specialized white blood cells of allergy . Physicians prescribe antibiotics if the bacterial infection is suspected. Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections many physicians then treat the symptoms.
In addition, both rigid and flexible endoscopy has been used to obtain diagnostic material from sinuses. These procedures are usually done by an otolaryngologist under topical and local anesthesia. Occasionally, there may be a need to sedate the patient. Some investigators suggest that endoscopy specimens are comparable to those obtained by needle puncture.
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Causes Of Chronic Sinusitis
In chronic sinusitis, the membranes of both the paranasal sinuses and the nose are thickened because they are constantly inflamed. Most experts now use the term “chronic rhinosinusitis” to describe this condition, and they also recommend that the condition be divided into rhinosinusitis with or without nasal polyps. Nasal polyps are grape-like growths of the sinus membranes that protrude into the sinuses or into the nasal passages. Polyps make it even more difficult for the sinuses to drain and for air to pass through the nose.
The causes of chronic sinusitis are largely unknown. The condition often occurs in people with asthma, the majority of who have allergies. It is possible that constant exposure to inhaled allergens that are present year-round, such as house dust mites, pets, mold , and cockroaches cause chronic inflammation of the nose and the sinuses. An allergic reaction to certain fungi may be responsible for at least some cases of chronic sinusitis this condition is called “allergic fungal sinusitis.” At least half of all people with chronic rhinosinusitis do not have allergies, however.
Most health experts believe that chronic rhinosinusitis is not an infectious disease . If you suffer frequent episodes of acute sinusitis, however, you may be prone to develop chronic rhinosinusitis. Other causes of chronic rhinosinusitis may be an immune deficiency disorder or an abnormality in the quality of mucus produced by the respiratory system .
Common Colds And Sinus Infections
A viral infection associated with the common cold is the most common cause of sinus infections .
This virus may jump to other people, causing a cold that may also develop into viral sinusitis.
In only 0.5 to 2 percent of cases do people develop bacterial sinusitis , which is typically a complication of viral sinusitis. Bacterial sinusitis is not contagious.
In rare cases, fungi can cause a sinus infection, particularly if a person has a fungal allergy. But fungal sinusitis generally does not affect people with healthy immune systems.
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When Does A Sinus Infection Require Urgent Care
While a minor sinus infection does not require a trip to urgent care or indicate a reason for significant concern, a more severe sinus infection in which the symptoms become intolerable or last for an extended amount of time may need medical assistance for the underlying cause of the sinus infection to be appropriately treated.
During a sinus infection, it is essential to keep an eye on the symptoms and come in for a visit to our urgent care facility in the event the symptoms become intolerable or no sign of improvement is noticed after more than a week. At our urgent care facility, we can efficiently and effectively diagnose and treat the underlying cause of your sinus infection.
While prevention is the best way to handle a sinus infection, it is not always possible to prevent, especially when caused by the common cold. Therefore, it is essential to know exactly what to do if a sinus infection develops.
If you or your child develop a sinus infection that becomes concerning for any reasons, do not hesitate to come in for a visit or give us a call to find out the next step to take. There is no appointment needed, and we promise you quick and effective care here at our urgent care facility.
Questions to Ask Your Urgent Care Provider
Some Steps You Can Take
Whether your sinus infection turns out to be viral or bacterial, you can help to ease your symptoms early on with supportive sinus care:
If your symptoms arent improving after one week, its important to see your doctor. If a bacterial infection is suspected, youll probably need to take an antibiotic to clear up the infection and prevent further complications.
If your infections occur more frequently, and your doctor really wants to establish if they are bacterial or viral, your Otolaryngologist or ear, nose and throat doctor can sample the snot from your nose when youre infected and send it to a laboratory to know for sure.
Note: Antibiotics wont help a viral infection, and taking an antibiotic unnecessarily can do more harm than good. You risk possible side effects and increase your chances of developing antibiotic resistance, which can make future infections harder to treat, says Dr. Sindwani. So its important to wait and see how long your symptoms last.
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When To Seek Urgent Care For A Sinus Infection
Most minor sinus infections get better on their own without the need for medical treatment. More severe sinus infections, however, require urgent care.
First and most importantly, it is important to seek urgent care for a sinus infection if the symptoms begin to worsen or last for an extended amount of time. In the event you have severe trouble breathing due to your sinus infection, then be sure to come in for a visit as soon as possible to have your sinuses cleared out. Also, keep a close eye on your symptoms and seek medical attention if they do not improve after a week.
Additionally, urgent care is highly encouraged if your child develops a sinus infection as they have less of an ability to fight off the infection quickly. Also, it can be much more challenging to diagnose the cause of the sinus inflammation in children. In some cases, the reason could be due to an underlying allergy that you were not aware about.
When you visit, expect us to thoroughly examine you or your childs symptoms and document any information that is relevant to make a proper diagnosis. It may be helpful for you and your child to make a list of all of the symptoms that you or your child has been experiencing, any medications that are currently being taken and any allergies that may exist. Also, consider any questions you may want to ask the doctor at your visit.
When To See The Doctor For Sinus Infection
Symptoms that last more than 10 days without improvement and are worsening after you started to improve is cause for concern. If you have symptoms like severe headache or facial pain and a fever that lasts longer than three to four days, you should seek immediate medical care. Your doctor will be able to help diagnose the underlying cause of your symptoms and will provide an active plan of treatment.
While sinus infections are common, they can also be life-threatening. If a sinus infection becomes severe and goes untreated, it can spread to the brain.
How Do You Treat The Common Cold
Unfortunately, theres no cure for a cold. Instead, the CDC recommends getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of fluids. You can take over-the-counter cold medications, but they wont speed up the course of your illness.
Worth noting, per the CDC: Because the common cold is caused by viruses, antibioticswhich treat bacterial infectionswont help you get better.
Of course, you want relief from your symptoms, too. Susan Besser, M.D., a primary care physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, recommends taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever and aches and a decongestant if you are uncomfortably stuffy. Honey is also excellent for coughs, she says. A steroid nasal spray like fluticasone can also help, she says.
Ultimately for a cold, symptomatic treatment is best, Dr. Besser says.
Prevention Of Sinus Infection
A sinus infection is not exactly contagious. But depending on what caused a person’s inflammation, other people may also develop the illness. For example, the common cold and flu are both contagious conditions that can lead to a sinus infection.
Taking steps to reduce your risk of contracting viral infections can help prevent sinus infections. These include:
- Practice good hygiene, such as by washing your hands often and covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze
- Get the recommended vaccinations, such as the flu vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine
- Keep your distance from people who have upper respiratory infections
- Take steps to reduce your stress, which affects your immune system
- Keep your immune system healthy, such as by eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables
Other ways to reduce your risk of getting a sinus infection include:
- Dont smoke cigarettes and try to avoid inhaling secondhand smoke
- Minimize your exposure to allergens and pollutants, such as by keeping your home windows closed and using a HEPA air conditioner filter, driving with your external vents closed and air conditioner on, and avoiding activities that expose you to pollen like lawn mowing and leaf blowing
- Moisten the air at home with a humidifier and avoid dry environments
- Inhale steam or use a saline nasal spray regularly
- Drink lots of water
- Irrigate your nasal passages regularly
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Do I Have Covid Or A Sinus Infection
Although some of the symptoms are shared, there are several distinct ways to tell if you have covid or a sinus infection.
Its human nature to sometimes think the worst if you experience any symptoms in todays environment but in fact, the common cold, influenza, allergies, and sinus infections share some of the same symptoms as the COVID-19.
Heres how you can tell the difference and when you should consider seeking medical help.
Is There A Right Way To Blow Your Nose
If you have a stuffy nose, trying to force yourself to blow your nose could make it worse. The best thing to do is to blow one side of your nose at a time gently into a tissue. You might want to first use some type of nasal rinse to loosen any material in your nose before blowing. Make sure you dispose of the tissue and then clean your hands with soap and water or an antimicrobial sanitizer.
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Are Sinus Infections Contagious
A sinus infection caused by a virus is contagious. When you sneeze or cough, the virus can travel in droplets of moisture through the air. If another person breathes in the virus, they might develop a cold that turns into a sinus infection. In order to limit the spread of sinus infections, remember to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. And wash your hands frequently to avoid leaving the virus on objects that you touch.
If your sinus infection is caused by a bacteria or fungus, its not contagious. But you should still wash your hands frequently and cover your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze.
How A Sinus Infection Is Diagnosed
The diagnosis of a sinus infection is usually based on symptoms and a physical exam. If your symptoms don’t improve with treatment, you may need X-rays or a CT scan. Sometimes a sample of sinus fluid may be taken for microscopic exam and culture .
Though not all sinus infections require treatment, early diagnosis and treatment can help you feel better sooner and potentially prevent the infection from progressing.
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What Is A Fungus
A fungus is a living organism. It cant make its own food, so it takes its nutrients from decomposing matter in the soil, water or plants where it lives. Fungi live in the air, on surfaces, and on humans and other animals.
Scientists classify fungi in groups. They include mold, yeasts and mildew. Some fungi are big enough to see , and some are so small you can only see them with a microscope.
There are more than 100,000 species of fungi. They live all around us, and most arent dangerous. But some fungi can invade the body and multiply, leading to serious health problems. Different types of fungi cause infections in many parts of the body. Some examples are yeast infections, thrush and toenail fungal infections.