Sinusitis belongs to upper respiratory tract infections. It is one of the commonest and a relatively troublesome condition one can have. Yet, it is also one of those infections which patients often attempt to treat at home.
So before you understand when to go to the doctor for a sinus infection, it would be worthwhile to go through a few basic facts about sinuses; their infections and how to recognize which sinus is infected.
What is a Sinus?
The sinuses are also called the paranasal sinuses because they are hollow, air-filled spaces present within bones around the nasal cavity (nose). The paranasal sinuses drain into the nasal cavity.
Sinuses are present in pairs. They are:
- Frontal Sinus – Above and between the eyes
- Maxillary Sinus – Over the cheeks
- Sphenoidal Sinus – Between the eyes and upper part of nose
- Ethmoidal Sinus – Between the eyes and near the temples
Causes for Sinus Infection:
Acute bacterial sinusitis is often preceded by an acute viral upper respiratory tract infection. This leads to inflammation of the sinuses and mucous is formed as a part of our body’s defense mechanism. Formation of mucous blocks the sinuses making it difficult for them to drain.
- Viral and bacterial infection
- Blowing the nose during an acute viral infection tends to push infection into the sinuses.
- Air pollution, especially tobacco smoke
- Allergies to dust, pollen, chemicals and animal dander
Patients having nasal deformities like nasal polyps and deviated nasal septum are at higher risk for recurrent cold and cough infections.
Having a recent dental procedure can equally increase chances of having a sinus infection.
Although it is difficult to differentiate between bacterial and viral sinusitis; viral sinusitis typically lasts for 7-10 days, while bacterial sinus infection is rather persistent.
Majority of acute sinus infections are caused by the following microorganisms:
- Streptococcus pneumonia
- Haemophilus influenza
- Moraxella catarrhalis
Types of Sinusitis:
Sinus infection can be divided into the following types depending upon onset, duration and severity of symptoms:
Acute Sinusitis – Infection lasting for up to 4 weeks
Sub-Acute Sinusitis – Lasting for 4-12 weeks
Chronic Sinusitis – Lasting for more than 12 weeks
Acute Exacerbation of Chronic Sinusitis – Worsening of symptoms of a chronic sinus infection
Signs and Symptoms of Sinusitis:
A case of acute sinusitis presents with the following signs and symptoms:
- Facial pain and tenderness on pressure
- Nasal congestion
- Nasal obstruction or runny nose
- Yellowish (purulent) post-nasal discharge into the throat
- Loss of sense of smell
- Pain in frontal region of head or between the eyes
- Aching in upper jaw or teeth
- Occasionally facial swelling may also be present
- Constitutional signs and symptoms like fever, loss of appetite, bodyache and generalized weakness may be present.
- Pain. Pressure or fullness in the ears.
- Halitosis (bad breath from mouth)
Home Remedies for Sinus Infection:
Uncomplicated acute sinus infection can be treated at home. Or home remedies can also be used along with conventional medical therapy.
Rest – Take adequate rest as your body is already working enough to fight infection. Another reason to get good rest is so that you don’t spread the infection at your workplace, school or institution.
Water – Drink plenty to water to not just stay hydrated but water also helps to flush out toxins from the body; making recovery easier.
Steam – Inhaling steam decongests your air passages allowing the sinuses to drain easily.
Essential Oil – Menthol is a well-known essential oil for blocked sinuses. It can be used along with steam to inhale.
Kitchen Herbs – Our kitchen itself can provide the best of natural remedies to fight infections. You can use natural anti-infective and anti-inflammatory herbs like turmeric, ginger, and garlic.
When to go to The Doctor for a Sinus Infection?
A simple sinus infection usually clears up within a few days by following simple home remedies and diet. However, you must visit your doctor for a sinus infection if you have any one or more of the following alarming signs and symptoms:
- Persistent high-grade fever not responding to medications.
- Persistence or worsening of signs and symptoms in spite of taking antibiotics.
- Presence of rash on the face or any other part of the body.
- Presence of yellowish or greenish nasal discharge with an unusual odor.
- Swelling around the eyes and visual disturbances.
- If you have a severe headache
- If you have vertigo or light-headedness
- If you have a severe cough with yellow-green expectoration.
- If there is an absolute loss of smell
- If you notice bleeding from the nose
- Difficulty in breathing and breathlessness
- Altered consciousness or disorientation
- Recurrence of signs and symptoms even after medications.
- If you already suffer from some pre-existing medical condition like diabetes or hypertension, it is important to go to the doctor for a sinus infection.
- If you are an immune-compromised patient.
- Children with suspected sinus infection should not be treated using home remedies. You need to consult a pediatrician.
- If you are pregnant and breastfeeding. There is a possibility that you may transmit the infection to your baby. That’s why it’s important to report to your doctor for a sinus infection.
Failure to receive timely treatment for sinus infection can result in the following complications:
- A chronic cough
- Brain abscess
- Ophthalmic abscess
- Blindness or ophthalmitis (infection of the eye)
- Osteomyelitis (bacterial infection of the sinus or surrounding bone)
Sinus infection, although a relatively self-limiting disease, can have some serious complications if treatment is delayed or if it is left untreated. This is the reason it is important to know when to go to the doctor for a sinus infection in order to get immediate relief and avoid further illness.
Dr. Himanshi is a Homoeopathic consultant and currently working as a lecturer in Post-graduate faculty of Homeopathy, Parul University, Vadodara. Completed BHMS and MD in Homeopathy in January 2018 and also has a clinical experience of about 6 years. Personal interests include reading, spending time with family and traveling.