Sinusitis Causes and Symptoms: 5 FAQs About Sinus Infection and it's Treatment Answered By An Expert
Sinusitis (Photo Credits: Flickr)

It’s that time of the year again where everyone is sniffling and sneezing, sitting bundled in sweaters under the inclement air conditioner of their offices. But you have been extra careful in your efforts to avoid the cold because you are prone to sinusitis, which, unlike the common cold, won’t abate in a week or two. Sinusitis or sinus infection is an inflammation of the sinus cavity or the air cavities of the nose. Usually caused by infection, allergies or chemical irritants, sinusitis can be accompanied by facial tenderness and headaches.

Common symptoms of sinusitis include thick, discoloured nasal discharge flowing through the back of the throat; nasal pain and congestion; tenderness around the cheeks, eyes, nose and forehead; fever; bad breath; nausea; cough that get worse during the night; pain in the jaws and teeth; and reduced sense of taste and smell. If you too have been having a harrowing experience with sinusitis and are looking for answers, here are 5 main FAQs about the condition addressed by ENT specialist Dr Susheen Dutt from Fortis, Bangalore.

1 What is The Difference Between Sinusitis and Cold?

The common difference between sinusitis and cold would be the duration of the affliction. Common cold is usually self-limiting. Usually, a cold stays for two to three days and a sinus infection hangs for seven days or more. It might lead to fever, nasal discharge, and pus formation. Unlike colds which have clear mucus, bacterial/fungal infections can produce greenish or yellow mucus.

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2 Who Are More Prone To Sinusitis?

There are certain environmental and lifestyle factors that can predispose a person to sinusitis:

• An active or a passive smoker becomes vulnerable to suffering from sinusitis and sinus infections.

• People with pre-existing nasal obstructions, food or nasal allergies caused by fumes or smoke leads to the development of sinusitis.

• Patients suffering from congenital chronic diseases like diabetes, AIDS, cystic fibrosis, and certain immunodeficiency disorders have a high risk of being affected with sinusitis.

• Lastly, patients who are recuperating from other surgical procedures, and have undergone surgery prior to this are more prone to infections.

3 What Worsens Sinusitis?

A combination of factors that aggravate sinusitis. Here are a few of those:

• Most sinus infections start from common cold which is caused by virus which swells up the nasal tissue and this leads to nasal blockage.

• Allergies are also associated with the sinus infection, people who have sinus infections along with allergies tend to have more troublesome sinusitis.

• Thirdly, allergens or pollutants present in the air can increase the risk of having sinusitis.

• Other factors like swimming in the chlorinated water for a long period, smoking, overusing nasal decongestant drops, snuff powder and a dry environment can all contribute in aggravating sinusitis.

4 When Should I Go To The Doctor?

In most cases, antibiotics are not necessary for trivial sinus infections to go away. If your sinus doesn’t get better in a week, and you have signs of fever, heaviness in the face, headache, ear blocks, post nasal drip, the one should see a specialist. The specialist might perform a nasal endoscopy or ask for a CT scan. Surgical treatment may be effective in select situations only.

Sites of infection in sinusitis (Photo Credits: Flickr, National Institutes of Health)

5 How Can I Treat Sinusitis At Home?

A couple of measures can be taken at home for quick relief from sinus infections.

• Saline nasal wash (Neti) is a very good remedy. It has proven to be very effective and should be the first remedy to be tried in such cases. Saline washes help flush the mucus out of the nasal passage as it thins the mucus down. Doing this once a day will help keep the sinus moist and easy to flush out, and if you have a cold or your allergies are acting up, then double your saline washes every day.

• Warm compresses and steam inhalation also help to keep the mucus loose and the nasal passage clean. Getting a humidifier may be of value for people living in dry areas, keeping them protected from getting triggered by allergic reactions.

When it comes to sinusitis, prevention is better than cure any day. If it is a recurrent problem, ensure you follow certain tips to avoid the infection. Regular saline washes, keeping yourself hydrated, inhaling steam, avoiding dry air and keeping the head elevated during sleep are some ways to avoid sinusitis this monsoon.