You feel that telltale tickle in the back of your throat – that oh so familiar sign that winter is coming (and your glands know it, too). But do you know what’s worse than getting a common cold? Being infected by sinusitis, a more serious condition, which causes swelling and inflammation, making it hard to breathe.
So what do you do when a full-on cold isn’t your common sniffles? How can you tell if it’s sinusitis rearing its ugly head instead? Let’s find out what sinusitis is and the different ways you can keep your cold symptoms under wraps and avoid being infected in the future.
What is sinusitis?
Sinusitis is a condition where there is inflammation of a sinus. Your sinuses are small air-filled spaces situated within the bones of your face, in your forehead and cheekbones. They’re lined with a mucous lining and are connected to the nose. When the sinuses become swollen and inflamed, they can block the openings that lead to the nose, and begin to accumulate fluid. This can be really painful and make you feel completely blocked up and congested.
What causes sinusitis?
Most cases of sinusitis are caused by viral infections following a cold or flu. Rarely, sinusitis can be caused by a bacteria (2 in 100 cases), however this will give symptoms of severe pain, possible bloody nasal discharge and make you feel very unwell (1). Other causes of sinusitis include hay fever, growths known as nasal polyps, facial injury or surgery, objects pushed into the nose (especially in children, such as peas or plastic beads), cystic fibrosis and smoking.
Symptoms of sinusitis
Other symptoms include nasal discharge of green/yellow mucous, a feeling of mucous in the back of your nose or throat, high temperature, feeling tired and unwell, bad breath (known as halitosis), and a reduced sense of taste and smell.
What are the different types of sinusitis?
• Acute sinusitis
With acute sinusitis, the infection develops quickly and usually lasts a short time. Most cases of sinusitis take about 7 days worth of time to go away but it’s not unusual to last 2-3 weeks. However it should resolve completely within 12 weeks.
• Chronic sinusitis
Chronic sinusitis means that the condition becomes persistent and lasts for longer than 12 weeks. Chronic sinusitis is uncommon.
Acute sinusitis treatment home remedies
1. Saline rinse
Making a saline rinse at home is one of the easiest and most practical ways to help flush out any nasties and germs in your nasal passages and help improve congestion naturally. Salt is a pure cleanser that can help promote faster healing, so mix away with some water to create your own homemade version.
If you think you need something a little stronger, head to the pharmacy and get advice on which saline rinse or nasal drops are right for you.
2. Warm facecloth
One of the most uncomfortable aspects of dealing with sinusitis is having pain and swelling all over the face. Some people like to place warm face packs or heated flannels around their sinuses to help relieve any pain.
3. Hydrate with plenty of fluids
Keeping hydrated and getting good quality sleep are two very important factors in speeding up the treatment of sinus infections. When your body is out of whack, it fights even harder to rebalance, so making sure you stick to a calm, relaxing routine is best – overexerting yourself will only make you feel even more fatigued, congested and blocked up.
4. Nasal decongestant
If your nose is completely blocked, head to a pharmacy to buy a nasal decongestant. Your Doctor or pharmacist can advise you as to which product is right for you. Most nasal decongestants should only be used for a short period of time – 5-7 days. If they are used longer than this, they may cause rebound congestion in the nose.
5. Painkillers and antibiotics
An initial trial phase using painkillers and anti-inflammatories like Paracetamol and Ibuprofen can be helpful in easing pain and discomfort caused by a sinus infection. They can also help to relieve any fever or temperature you may have or be developing.
Most people can safely take these medicines, however it’s advisable to check with your Doctor as there are certain conditions like asthma where taking certain pills should be avoided. Speak with your Doctor as soon as possible to avoid getting further reoccurring infection and to help with choosing the right products and medicines for you.
Does steam inhalation work to get rid of sinusitis?
Many people claim that using steam to unblock sinuses is one of the best home remedies out there. The temporary relief from having a hot bath, for example, can help you feel a lot better for a short period of time.
However, there is little scientific evidence to support the benefits of steam inhalation to help fight a cold, flu, congestion or blocked nasal passages. And, many practitioners and Doctors do not advise this traditional remedy anymore due to more and more reports of people accidentally burning themselves.
When to see a Doctor for sinusitis, sinus infection
If symptoms become severe or do not ease within one week (however as mentioned, it is common to take 2-3 weeks for symptoms to completely resolve) see your Doctor. Watch out for signs like swelling in the face, a bloody nose, severe pain, or if you have recurring bouts of sinusitis, as this may indicate an underlying problem.
With these tips to help you get rid of a sinus infection, we hope you’re ready to face the colder months ahead.