Sinus Infection Causes
Acute sinusitis usually follows a viral infection in the upper respiratory tract, but allergy-causing substances (allergens) or pollutants may also trigger acute sinusitis. Viral infection damages the cells of the sinus lining, leading to inflammation. The lining thickens, obstructing the nasal passage. This passage connects to the sinuses. The obstruction disrupts the process that removes bacteria normally present in the nasal passages, and the bacteria begin to multiply and invade the lining of the sinus. This causes the symptoms of sinus infection. Allergens and pollutants produce a similar effect.
Sinus Infection Treatment
Home care can help open the sinuses and alleviate their dryness.
1. Promote drainage
2. Drink plenty of water and hydrating beverages such as hot tea.
3. Inhale steam two to four times per day by leaning over a bowl of hot water (not while the water is on the stove) or using a steam vaporizer. Inhale the steam for about 10 minutes. Taking a hot, steamy shower may also work. Mentholated preparations, such as Vicks Vapo-Rub, can be added to the water or vaporizer to aid in opening the passageways.
4. Thin the mucus: Expectorants are drugs that help expel mucus from the lungs and respiratory passages. They help t thin mucous secretions, enhancing drainage from the sinuses. The most common is guaifenesin (contained in Robitussin and Mucinex, for example). Over-the-counter (OTC) liquid cough medications or prescription tablets can also combine decongestants and cough suppressants to reduce symptoms as well as to eliminate the need for the use of many medications. Read label ingredients to find the right combination of ingredients or ask the pharmacist for help.
5. Relieve pain: Pain medication such as ibuprofen (Motrin and Advil are examples), aspirin, and naproxen (Aleve) can reduce pain and inflammation. These medications help to open the airways by reducing swelling. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be used for pain and fever but does not help with the inflammation.
6. Bacteria that normally cause acute sinusitis are Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Moraxella catarrhalis. These microorganisms, along with Staphylococcus aureus and some anaerobes (bacteria that live without oxygen), are involved in chronic sinusitis.
When to Seek Medical Care
Call a doctor when experiencing pain or pressure in the upper face accompanied by nasal congestion or discharge, postnasal drip, or ongoing bad breath unrelated to dental problems.
Fever can be a symptom of a sinus infection or a cold. Simple congestion with a low-grade fever probably indicates a cold and may not call for medications or antibiotics. Those also experiencing facial pain or headaches may have a sinus infection.
A doctor often can treat simple sinusitis. If left undiagnosed and untreated complications of sinusitis can occur that may lead to severe medical problems and possibly death. The following complications are medical emergencies and require immediate treatment in a hospital’s emergency department:
1. Headache, fever, and soft tissue swelling over the frontal sinus may indicate an infection of the frontal bone, called Pott’s puffy tumor or osteomyelitis. Usually, this complication is limited to children.
2. Infection of the eye socket may result from ethmoid sinusitis. The eyelid may swell and become droopy. Fever and severe illness are usually present. A person with this infection may lose the ability to move the eye, and permanent– blindness may result.
3. Ethmoid or frontal sinusitis may also cause the formation of a blood clot in the sinus area around the front and top of the face. Symptoms may be similar to those of eye socket infection with the addition of a fixed and dilated pupil. This condition usually affects both sides of the face.
4. If a person experiences mild personality changes, headache, neck stiffness, high fever, altered consciousness, visual problems, or seizures, infection may have spread to the brain. Coma and even death may follow.