What is a Sinus Infection?

What is a sinus infection? How is it different from the common cold? Let’s look at answering these two questions.

A sinus infection can be defined as inflammation, or swelling, of the tissues lining the sinuses. Normally, the sinuses are filled with air. However, when they become blocked they can fill with fluid allowing germs to grow resulting in an infection.

Blockage of sinus cavities can occur due to swelling from allergies or the common cold, nasal polyps or a deviated septum. About 37 million Americans suffer from at least one episode of sinusitis each year. In children, some common environmental factors which can contribute to the incidence of sinusitis include exposure to other sick children at day care or school, the use of pacifiers, bottle drinking while lying on one’s back, and second hand smoke. In adults, smoking and allergies are the main contributors to developing a sinus infection.

Some of the primary symptoms of acute sinusitis include:

  • Facial pain/pressure
  • Nasal stuffiness
  • Nasal discharge
  • Loss of smell
  • Cough/congestion
  • Fever
  • Bad breath
  • Fatigue
  • Dental pain

Acute sinusitis may be diagnosed when a person has two or more symptoms and/or the presence of thick, green, or yellow nasal discharge.

Treatment for sinusitis depends on the severity. Usually antibiotics are given for 10 to 14 days. In addition, warm moist air may alleviate sinus congestion such as from a vaporizer or inhaling steam from a pan of boiling water (removed from heat). Warm compresses can be used to relieve pain in the nose and sinuses. Saline nose drops are also safe for home use. Use of nonprescription decongestants or nasal sprays might be effective in controlling symptoms; however, they should not be used beyond their recommended use. Injectable or oral steroids may also be prescribed.

If you think you may have a sinus infection, give us a call. At Poinsett Family Practice it is our desire to provide you with the best possible care.