Sinus infections bring pain, pressure and overall discomfort, which can leave you with your head under a pillow for days. Whether you’re suffering through your first sinus infection, or you treat them year after year, Katherine Alatorre, DO, UnityPoint Health, covers five sinus infection treatment options, including sinus rinses and other remedies, to help you get relief fast.
Sinus Infection Symptoms
Dr. Alatorre sees more sinus complaints in the fall and spring, usually coinciding with increased viral illnesses. But, the color of your sinus drainage doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to end up with an infection.
“Most feel if they have sinus drainage that isn’t clear, it’s a sinus infection – but that’s not the case,” Dr. Alatorre says. “Most common cold viruses can also cause yellow or green coloring to the drainage as well.”
She lists the following as sinus infection symptoms:
Discolored nasal drainage (yellow or green)
Runny or stuffy nose
“Sinus infections caused by bacteria can last for 10 days or more, don’t improve with time and can cause fevers of 102 degrees or higher. Viral infections see improvement by day six or so, with a fever only in the first one to three days,” Dr. Alatorre says.
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Sinus Infection Treatment Options & Natural Remedies
Think you have a sinus infection? Here are the treatment options Dr. Alatorre says are worth a try:
1. Over-the-Counter (OTC) Remedies
Any OTC remedies typically used for colds can also help treat sinus infections, as greater than 80 percent of symptoms are caused by viruses. Tylenol or ibuprofen work well for fever, muscle aches, headache and sore throat symptoms. Throat sprays or cough drops can help with the post nasal drainage symptoms. But, if you’re having trouble sleeping, try a combination cold and sinus sleep medication, like Nyquil.
2. Antihistamine Medications
Along the same lines as OTC options, antihistamine medications, such as Sudafed, Claritin, Zyrtec or Benadryl, can also offer sinus infection symptom relief. While these medications specifically target allergy symptoms, sinus infection symptoms can be similar, making antihistamine options worth a try.
3. Neti Pots & Sinus Rinses
Neti Pots and sinus rinses can be used for any nasal congestion, including from allergies, colds or sinus infections. They help clear sinus drainage from the nose to make it easier to breathe, so you feel less stuffy. They also thin the mucus and allow the natural defenses in your nose to clear the drainage, washing away possible allergens or other irritants.
“If you use a Neti Pot, once daily is usually enough, but it can be used three to four times for more severe symptoms, as long as you’re not experiencing any discomfort with use. If you have allergies or chronic issues, you can use it three times per week to help prevent symptoms,” Dr. Alatorre says.
Neti Pots and saline rinses require sterile water, which can be boiled or bought (container will say distilled or sterile). Keep the Neti Pot clean between uses to avoid introducing bacteria to the nasal passages. Side effects from the Neti Pot include nasal dryness and, at times, bloody noses, which can be relieved by using it less often or making sure you’re using a saline solution.
Using home aromatherapy with eucalyptus, peppermint or other scents can possibly help open up the respiratory tract. These can be put into some home humidifiers, which will diffuse the scent.
Many patients seek treatment sooner rather than later because symptoms of sinus congestion from cold, virus or bacteria are all equally uncomfortable. But, since most sinus infections are caused by viruses, it’s usually preferred to not use antibiotics for treatment, unless there are more concerning symptoms lasting longer than 10 days with a fever greater than 102 degrees.
“Sinus infections can become chronic, and there can be rare complications, such as abscesses (collections of pus) in the nasal passages. These are uncommon and are usually related to the anatomy of the sinus passages than putting off treatment. I would recommend if anyone is concerned about their symptoms to go in and be evaluated. Your doctor will prescribe further treatment, if needed,” Dr. Alatorre says.
With antibiotic resistance rates climbing, it’s important to use antibiotics for sinus infection treatment only when necessary.
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