Sinus Infection or Sinusitis
Sinus infection, or sinusitis, is an inflammation of the nasal cavity caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi. Symptoms of sinus infection may include a stuffy, runny nose; painful pressure in the face; swollen and tender cheeks or forehead; headache or facial pain; bad breath and/or reduced sense of taste and smell.
Most people associate sinus infections with the cold season which can worsen symptoms. But other environmental factors can cause and aggravate sinus infections as well. This includes allergens like pollen and mold, air pollution such as car exhaust and smoke, dust particles, perfumes and fragrances, changes in temperature (indoors or outdoors), and even changes in altitude during travel.
Who gets sinusitis?
Chronic sinusitis and acute sinusitis are common health conditions that affect people of all ages but tend to be more prevalent in those with weakened immune systems. The most common symptoms of sinusitis include difficulty breathing, facial pressure or pain, headaches, and earaches.
In general, anyone can experience sinusitis at some point in their lives. Certain groups are at a higher risk of developing the condition though. These groups include:
- Pregnant women
- People with allergies
- People with asthma
How to recognize if I have a sinus infection, cold, or nasal allergy?
When trying to determine whether you have a sinus infection, cold, or nasal allergy, it’s important to understand the common signs and symptoms of each. Sinus infections typically cause pain and pressure around the nose, jaw, cheeks, and forehead while colds frequently involve a sore throat. Nasal allergies can include sneezing and itchy eyes.
The best way to confirm what you are dealing with is by seeking medical advice from your healthcare provider. They can assess your symptoms and order tests to accurately diagnose the underlying condition. In some cases, such as sinus infections, your doctor may also suggest pathology testing for identifying the type of bacterial or fungal infection. Additionally, blood tests can be used for diagnosing nasal allergies.
Symptoms and Causes
Chronic sinusitis and acute sinusitis are the most commonly diagnosed illnesses and can be caused by a variety of sources. The main symptom of sinusitis is inflammation and congestion in the sinuses, which leads to pain. This condition is often triggered by viruses and allergies, as well as environmental pollutants.
For those suffering from allergies, sinusitis symptoms may include redness and swelling around the eyes, frequent sneezing or coughing, nasal congestion or loss of sense of smell, headaches, fatigue, and post-nasal drip. Sinusitis can also be caused by exposure to smoke or other particles in the air. Pollen, pet dander, and mold spores are common triggers for people with allergies and can cause an attack of sinusitis. Foggy weather can also trigger an attack of sinusitis as it creates an environment that is ripe for pollen growth as well as bacterial growth.
Aside from environmental triggers, there are other factors that contribute to this condition such as smoking (inhaling smoke into your lungs), swimming in contaminated water (by taking a dip in a public pool), cold temperatures (causing respiratory problems) or simply spending too much time inside surrounded by recirculated air (through heating or cooling systems). Understanding what triggers affect you personally will help you better understand how to protect yourself against these irritants when possible. Another important trigger to consider is that of a bacterial infection that requires treatment.
Management and Treatment
Management and treatment are the first steps in combating sinusitis triggers. It’s important to know that environmental pollutants, allergens, and irritants may be one of the main causes of sinusitis. Standard treatments include corticosteroids and antihistamines to prevent further flare-ups.
With proper management, you can reduce your exposure to allergens and irritants that trigger a sinusitis attack. This might mean changing your home environment, getting rid of dust and mold, or avoiding certain activities that aggravate symptoms like smoking or exercising in a polluted area.
Your doctor can also prescribe additional treatments such as nasal sprays or topical ointments to help open up congested airways. Additionally, if allergies are to blame for your sinusitis symptoms, allergy shots may be recommended as an effective long-term treatment for preventing future attacks.
Prevention is always better than a cure when it comes to sinusitis. By making simple lifestyle changes, you can reduce your risk of experiencing the symptoms of sinusitis.
First and foremost, be proactive in avoiding any irritants that may trigger an episode of sinusitis. Exposure to smoke, dust, and pollen should be avoided whenever possible. Use a HEPA filter to keep indoor air quality high and install an air purifier if necessary.
Second, since congestion often triggers common colds which in turn lead to sinusitis, keeping nasal passages as clear as possible is important. You can use over-the-counter saline sprays or nasal irrigation systems (i.e., neti pots or squeeze bottles) to facilitate healthy mucous flow from your nose throughout the day.