What is a sinus infection?

Sinus infections can be treated with medications and self-care measures.
Sinus infections can be treated with medications and self-care measures.

Sinuses are air-filled cavities that are present in the facial bones and drain into the nose. They are present in the forehead, cheeks, and near the eyes.

A sinus infection occurs when the sinus gets blocked and mucus gets trapped in it. This causes viruses, bacteria, or, rarely, fungi to grow easily due to the moist and stagnant environment. A sinus infection is also called acute sinusitis.

There are several ways to treat a sinus infection and relieve symptoms at home with the help of home remedies and over-the-counter medications such as nasal sprays, painkillers, and antihistamines. It can take about 7 to 10 days to get rid of a sinus infection.

9 signs and symptoms of a sinus infection

Symptoms of a sinus infection include

  1. Nasal obstruction 
  2. Postnasal drip (dripping of mucus from the nose into the throat causing irritation and coughing while lying down)
  3. Headache
  4. Facial pain
  5. Cough
  6. Fever 
  7. Fatigue 
  8. Halitosis (bad breath)
  9. Pain over the upper teeth  

How is a sinus infection treated?

Medical treatment

  • Over-the-counter medications: OTC medication like paracetamol or ibuprofen can help relieve symptoms such as pain and fever
  • Nasal decongestant sprays: Nasal decongestant sprays like oxymetazoline can reduce swelling and congestion, relieving the nasal obstruction. But, they should not be used for too long as long-term use of these sprays can damage the nasal mucosa. Hence, should be used after consulting with a doctor.
  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics may be prescribed by a doctor to get rid of the infection faster and prevent complications.

Supportive treatment

People may be able to treat a sinus infection at home by relieving painful symptoms and taking steps to allow the immune system to fight off the infection.

  • Humidifiers: A humidifier adds moisture to the air which reduces dryness and softens dried mucus, helping the mucus clear out easily.
  • Nasal irrigation: Nasal irrigation with saline using products like a neti pot, a small container with a spout, is used to irrigate the nose. If saline is not readily available, a mixture of one-half teaspoon of salt and one-half teaspoon of baking soda mixed with two cups of sterile water can be prepared. Nasal irrigation can flush out excess mucus, bacteria, and crusts, reducing nasal congestion.
  • Steam inhalation: Steam inhalation can moisten dried mucus and crusts, reducing nasal congestion. Excessive steam inhalation or keeping the face too close to the steamer should be avoided as it could cause dryness.
  • Rest: Getting adequate rest can help the body recover faster.  
  • Hydration: Drinking plenty of clear fluids will help you remain hydrated. Staying hydrated can also help moisten and loosen mucus and clear congestion.
  • Warm compresses: Applying a warm compress over the face can help reduce pain and nasal congestion.

SLIDESHOW

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What are the complications of a sinus infection?

Though most cases of acute sinusitis do not have any complications, if not treated, the following rare complications can occur

  • Chronic sinusitis: Acute sinusitis that is not treated properly can lead to chronic sinusitis with multiple flare-ups of acute infection.
  • Meningitis: Sinus infection can cause inflammation of the tissues and fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
  • Osteomyelitis and cellulitis: Infection can spread to the bones (osteomyelitis) or skin (cellulitis).
  • Eye complications: The infection spreads to the eyes causing redness of the eyes, watering of the eyes, protrusion of the eyeball, decreased vision, or blindness.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/27/2021
References
Medscape Medical Reference