Author: Nathan Kiskila, MD
Sinus infections are not fun. Understanding what causes them can help you get the treatment you need—and find relief quickly.
Many of us use the term “sinus infection” as if it’s the same thing as the common cold. While the two can be related, it is significant to note that a sinus infection—also known as sinusitis—is a distinct condition. It has many causes and often requires a different treatment than a generic cold. Getting the proper treatment from a physician can help you get relief and get over your sinus infection quickly.
What is a Sinus Infection?
Sinusitis refers to inflammation (swelling) of the lining of the sinus passages. These are the passages that allow you to breathe through your nose. They become inflamed for several reasons:
- When a virus infects the membranes (lining) of the sinuses
- When a bacteria or fungus infects them
Any of these causes can cause swelling and irritation of the sinuses, which means that sinusitis is not always tied to a condition like a cold, but can have many causes. The most common symptoms of sinusitis include a runny nose, headache or sense of pain, and stuffiness in the sinuses. It may also cause a sore throat or coughing and sneezing.
Because sinus infections have many different causes, not all remedies work for every sinus infection. Treatment will be most effective if you see a doctor to identify the cause. For most sinus infections, a physician will likely recommend some combination of over-the-counter NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory medicines), decongestants, and mucolytics. However, if they determine that your sinusitis is caused by allergies, you will need antihistamines and possibly take steps to reduce your exposure to allergens.
It is rare that a doctor will recommend antibiotics for a sinus infection. Most sinus infections are not bacterial and antibiotics will not help. If your sinus infection persists and there’s reason to believe it is bacterial, however, antibiotics may be recommended.
One important note: it’s very important not to fly with a sinus infection. This can cause serious ear pain and ear damage when pressure changes during takeoff and landing. If you have to fly while you have a sinus infection, use decongestants before takeoff and landing.
Lastly, there are home remedies that can help such as a neti pot to clear your sinus passages, while always using sterilized water/saline solution. It also helps to humidify your home, since dryness aggravates the sinus passages and worsens sinus infections.
With a little care and the right treatment, in most cases a sinus infection will clear up quickly.
The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.