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Acute sinus infections are one of the most common illnesses that affect adults. The sinuses are a group of hollow spaces that are found within the nose. Symptoms of sinusitis include sinus pain, sinus pressure, nasal/sinus congestion, and postnasal drainage. These types of infections can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi. A viral sinus infection has symptoms similar to a bacterial infection, but symptoms typically improve over 10 days. Bacterial sinus infections last longer than 10 days with symptoms that progressively worsen. Fungal sinus infections are rarer and typically occur in individuals with a suppressed immune system.
Most of the time your body will clear a sinus infection on its own in about ten days. There are lots of at-home, natural remedies you should start with to help things out. At the first sign of a sinus infection, it is important to begin flushing your nose. Nasal saline kits (such as the Neti Pot®) work best for this purpose. When mixing up the saline, it is important to remember to use lukewarm, distilled water. Hot showers and humidifiers can help to open up your nasal passages and help drainage. Make sure you stay well-hydrated. A healthy level of hydration will help thin your mucous (11.5 cups per day for women, 15.5 cups of water per day for men). Consuming a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables will increase the number of key antioxidants, such a vitamin C. These natural chemicals can help your body fight off infection quicker and more effectively.
If your nose needs a little extra help, try some over-the-counter medications. An OTC nasal decongestant spray (such as Afrin®) may be needed in order to help unblock congestion and treat inflammation. Make sure you read the directions of the decongestant spray you choose carefully – these types of sprays should NOT be used for longer than three days. Allergy sprays, such as Flonase, Rhinocort, and Nasacort, can be used for longer periods of time, but take longer to work. Oral decongestants may also help, but again is not a medication that should be taken long-term. Tylenol and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (e.g. ibuprofen, naproxen) can be used to relieve any headache/facial pressure that may accompany your sinus infection.
Nothing Working? See an ENT
Oftentimes, no matter how hard you try to clear the infection on your own, your symptoms may not resolve. As a general rule of thumb, check with your doctor if your sinus infection symptoms last for 10 days or longer. During the visit with your doctor, they will determine whether you’re dealing with a bacterial or viral infection. Most of the time, antibiotics such as amoxicillin, Augmentin, cefdinir, or doxycycline are used to help your body get rid of the infection. Typical courses of antibiotics last anywhere from 5 to 21 days.
If after all of the above treatments your symptoms still persist, it is advisable to see a specialist. The physicians at Capital Otolaryngology have several tools at their disposal to get you on the road to recovery. We use an in-office CT scan and endoscopy to further evaluate and target the problem in your nose and sinuses. Our physicians always focus on fixing our patients with minimally invasive techniques so that you can get back to living a normal and healthy life as quickly as possible.