Sinusitis again? Recognize and relieve it
Hammering facial pain and pressure. Fatigue. Fever and chills. Nasal obstruction. Diminished sense of smell. Coughing. Do you recognize these symptoms? All are a signs that you are probably suffering from sinusitis.
Sinusitis occurs when your sinus membrane lining becomes inflamed, making tissues swell and preventing mucus from draining properly through your small sinus channels.
Acute sinusitis is often marked by a thick, green or yellow nasal discharge and can last up to four weeks or more. It responds well to antibiotics and decongestants. Its big brother, chronic sinusitis, is defined as at least four recurrences of acute sinusitis.
See your doctor if you have sinusitis symptoms. He or she may suggest a thorough exam by an ear, nose and throat specialist (an otolaryngologist), especially if you have chronic sinusitis. You may also need diagnostic tests, such as a mucous culture, X-rays, allergy testing or a CT scan of the sinuses. Then, your doctor will probably recommend one of these routes
- Homespun relief. If your sinusitis isn’t persistent, you may be able to keep an occasional bout in check. Warm, moist air from a vaporizer or steam from a pan of boiled water (removed from the stove) can help ease sinus congestion. (Use a humidifier only if the filter is kept clean, so you’re not recirculating bacteria into the air.) Warm compresses can also help.
While saline nose drops moisturize and are safe for continuous use, do not use nonprescription, medicated nasal sprays for extended periods of time. They can cause a “rebound” effect, making your condition worse.
If you smoke, it’s important to refrain when sinusitis flares up. Reduce alcohol consumption and drink extra fluids (especially soup or tea) to loosen impacted mucus. Aspirin, ibuprofen or antihistamines may also help, but check with your doctor first.
- Rx help. Acute sinusitis is generally treated with antibiotics for 10 to 14 days to fight the bacterial infection and clear up the symptoms. Your doctor may also prescribe an oral or topical decongestant.
- Surgical solution. If you suffer from severe sinus pain and antibiotics aren’t helping, you may be a candidate for functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS), a minimally invasive procedure. The surgeon inserts an endoscope through the nose into the sinuses to clean and drain them and remove any obstructive growths, such as a polyp or cyst. He or she will also look for structural abnormalities. The surgery enlarges the natural openings of the sinuses and can often restore the normal flow of mucus. Afterward, you should be able to resume normal activities within four days; full recovery takes about four weeks.