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Sinusitis: When To See a Doctor

We’ve all been there. First, there is the pressure behind your eyes. A headache begins to form as the pressure builds, and soon, your sinuses are completely blocked. A sinus infection, or sinusitis, can be a miserable experience.

Sinusitis: When To See a Doctor

Many people believe that sinusitis is caused by an infection and is therefore contagious. However, sinus infections are caused by inflammation in the sinuses, which traps fluid and breeds germs. This condition is not contagious and won’t spread through families or classrooms.

There are many causes of sinusitis including:

  • Allergens – Pollen, cigarette or cigar smoke, dust mites, mold, and pet dander are the most common allergens that people encounter every day. According to Healthline, getting help to quit smoking can make a big difference in the fight against sinusitis.
  • Air Pollution – A study conducted at Johns Hopkins suggests that regular exposure to air pollution causes chronic sinusitis.
  • Viral Infection – Many cases of sinusitis are caused by viruses that cannot be treated with antibiotics.
  • Structural problems – Certain abnormalities that can cause inflammation include enlarged adenoids, tumors, or a deviated septum.
  • A weakened immune system – A previous respiratory tract infection, pregnancy, aging, and certain drugs can cause a weakened immune system and make people more susceptible to viruses and sinusitis.
  • Odontogenic infection – The presence of Periodontal disease or an abscess in the tooth can lead to sinusitis. Tearing of the maxillary sinus during tooth extraction and complications during a dental implant can also be a cause.
  • Fungus – Fungi are present naturally in the environment. An allergic reaction may occur, leading to sinusitis with sticky mucus.

What Treatments are Available?

For cases of sinusitis that have lasted for less than seven days, the recommended course of treatment is usually rest so the body can work to heal itself and hydration to make the mucus thinner. There are many over the counter options for the relief of symptoms like nasal sprays and irrigation, which may help remove mucus and relieve pressure. Antihistamines and allergy medicines like Claritin may reduce symptoms, as well. New Jersey sinus doctor, Dr. Samuel Becker suggests the following over the counter products:

  • Mucinex
  • Sudafed
  • Tylenol Cold & Sinus
  • Robitussin DM
  • Advil Cold & Sinus

Make sure to check with your sinus doctor before taking any medication, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking other prescription medications. Certain over the counter medicines can interact with your other prescriptions, cause blood pressure to rise or interact with other health problems like glaucoma.

When Should You Seek Treatment?

Most cases of sinusitis clear up without intervention in one to two weeks. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, you should seek treatment if the symptoms:

  • Last for more than ten days.
  • Are accompanied by a high fever.
  • Include nasal discharge that is bright yellow or green and is accompanied by pain and/or a fever.
  • Affect children under two months old with a fever or difficulty breathing or nursing. You should seek medical treatment right away in this case.

The elderly and patients with compromised immune systems should not take any chances. Don’t wait ten days to seek medical treatment. Most sinus doctors leave appointments open every day so that they can treat patients who fall ill. Contact your doctor and make an appointment. It is better not to take a chance with your health if you are in a compromised state.

From Bad to Worse

Sometimes a patient will experience something called “double-worsening,” which is common among patients with sinusitis caused by a bacterial infection. According to the Harvard Health Blog, “double-worsening” occurs when your symptoms begin to improve then get suddenly worse again. Regardless of whether or not it’s been ten days since the outset of symptoms, your doctor may need to prescribe antibiotics.

If a bacterial infection or Odontogenic infection caused your sinusitis, your doctor would likely prescribe antibiotics. Bacterial infections are contagious, so make sure to wash your hands regularly to minimize the exposure to others.

If your condition does not improve within 3 to 5 days, contact your doctor. Leaving a bacterial infection untreated can lead to severe problems and in rare cases, it can cause infections and brain abscesses.

Chronic sinusitis can be miserable to suffer through. It can last three or four months at a time and can make normal activities challenging to complete. Symptoms can include facial pain, congestion, dental pain, fatigue, and headache.

There is hope. Many treatments exist that will help control the symptoms of regular and chronic sinusitis. Depending on the cause of the inflammation, there may be a procedure that can help. Turbinates surgery, Septoplasty or Balloon Sinuplasty may be explored with your doctor or a sinus expert and may offer long-lasting relief.

Regardless of whether the sinusitis is short-lived or chronic, there is no need to suffer through it without help. Know the signs and symptoms and don’t be afraid to consult with your primary care physician or an ear, nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist to ask about your options.

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