A sinus infection initially starts off as common cold. Within a week or so later, the cold symptoms wear off and other symptoms develop. So, how can you differentiate the cold symptoms and the symptoms of sinus infection in adults and kids? And what are the symptoms of sinus infection (sinusitis)? Keep reading for more details.
In this guide;
Sinuses are hollow air filled cavities found in the forehead (frontal), behind the cheeks (maxillary), between the eye (ethmoid) and deep behind the eyes (sphenoid). The sinuses are lined with cells that produce mucus while others are part of the body’s immunity system.
- When you breathe in, the sinuses humidify and warm the air
- They also filter the air
- Insulate adjacent organs such as the eyes and nerves
- Increases voice resonance
- In case you are hit on the face, the sinuses act as a buffer against trauma
- The sinuses also make the skull lighter
- As mentioned earlier, many a sinus infection start-off with a cold which result from a virus.
- If you are allergic to pet dander, dust, dust mites, cold, smoke, fungi, perfumes, other chemicals etc., the allergies inflame nasal passages and may lead to sinus infections
- Whereas Bacteria may not cause as sinus infection, it causes other complications that compound the infection.
- You may also find that the cause may be nasal polyps that have grown in your nasal passage or sinuses resulting in nasal passage blockage.
- As much as you love to swim or dive, note that spending a lot of time in chlorinated pool may trigger attacks. Sinuses may also be irritated when water is pushed in while diving
- Reduced air pressure during take-off and landing when flying may present challenges to you if are prone to sinus infections
- Are you suffering from a disease that has weakened your immune system? Then, fungi may cause the infection.
- Could you have overused nasal decongestants? Remember, the sprays is to be used for four days or less.
- If you smoke, you are most likely to inflame the nasal passages and make them prone to an infection
- Dry air may thicken mucus and cause or worsen the infection. Get a humidifier to moisten the air and assist to loosen the mucus. Click here to get to know how a humidifier helps you prevent and mange a sinus infection.
- Could you possibly have a congenital nasal deformity such as narrow passages, cleft palate, deviated nasal septum (wall between the nose)? You could also have tumors that may be blocking the nasal passages.
- Do you suffer from other chronic conditions such as asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or a dental infection?
- Could you be undergoing treatment for a head injury or where you have tube inserted in your nose?
Most sinus infections start as common colds. When you have a cold, you will experience a viral infection affecting the upper respiratory tract (URT) and nasal passages resulting in a runny nose and/or cough.
However, the sinus infection will be accompanied by other symptoms discussed here-below which persist even after the URT infection symptoms have cleared.
The cold infection takes about a week to heal whereas a sinus infection takes longer to clear.
As already mentioned, the sinus infection most often starts off as a cold. When you have a cold, you may of course spread the virus but not the sinus infection.
The virus will be spread through the air or by passing it from hand to mouth, nose or eyes. It is thus important to wash your hands with soap and water and avoid close contact with those with colds or flu.
If you are the one with the cold/flu, cover the mouth and nose as well and properly dispose the discharge.
If the sinus infection is as a result of a bacteria complication, you cannot spread it.
According to American Academy of Otolaryngology (source), a sinuses infection can be;
Acute—lasts for less than four weeks and more often than not part of a cold.
Chronic—lasts more than 12 weeks and caused by prolonged inflammation rather than an infection that lasts for long. The sinus infection that keeps recurring is also chronic.
The symptoms vary from one individual to another. You may experience some of the symptoms and not necessarily all at the same time. Visit your doctor if you experience the following signs;
Symptoms of sinus infection (sinusitis) that affect the eyes
As observed above, some sinuses are located between the eyes. When they get inflamed, you may experience;
- Swelling of infected eye/ eyelid
- The white portion may swell
- The eye/eyelid becomes red
- You may experience pain when moving the infected eye
- The eyeball of infected eye may protrude
- You may find that you are unable to move the affected eyeball
- Pus may drain from infected eye
- The affected eye vision functionality is diminished or is blurry
Signs and Symptoms of sinus infection (sinusitis) that affect the forehead
When both or one of the frontal sinuses located in the forehead are inflamed, the infection may spread into the adjacent bones resulting in;
- forehead swelling
- Pain in forehead.
Though rare, this complication is serious.
Signs and Symptoms of sinus infection (sinusitis) that affect the Nervous System
With the sinuses being close to the brain, the infection may also affect the central nervous system resulting in mild or serious complications. Are your answers to the following questions positive?
- Are you having a headache that gets worse in the morning due to the mucus build up at night. Does the headache start when there is a sudden change in the barometric pressure of your environment? This pain results from the persistently raised pressure on the nerves.
- Could you be you experiencing a fever as the body gets into fighting infection mode?
- Do you have a stiff neck?
- Are you experiencing extreme drowsiness and or confusion?
- Any vomiting?
- Have you observed some level of inattention?
- Are you fatigued?
- What about demotivation or apathy?
- Are your emotional responses just unlike YOU?
- Have you observed any seizures?
- Do you experience pain if you move the head or lean forward as the infection throws off the perceived balance sense in the head?
Signs and Symptoms of sinus infection (sinusitis) that affect the upper respiratory tract
Infected sinuses produce excess mucus in an effort to clear out the germs, allergens etc. This drainage may drain back to the throat. Is your answer to these questions positive?
- Do you have itch in the throat?
- Is the throat sore?
- Do you have cough that gets worse at night or when you wake up?
- Is your voice hoarse?
Signs and Symptoms of sinus infection (sinusitis) that affect the Nasal passages
Typically, a clogged nose is also one of the classic symptoms of sinus infection. The infection by the bacteria or virus elicits an inflammatory response by your body. Blood rushes to your nose, bringing the inflammatory cells to combat the infection, and the increased blood flow causes your nose tissues to swell.
When the sinuses are irritated, they produce mucus which drains into the nasal passages. Is your answer to these questions positive?
- Do you have the urge to often blow the nose?
- Is the discharge thick, cloudy, green or yellow?
- Are you having difficulties breathing due to the swollen passages and excess mucus (congestion)? The swollen passages are due to the excess blood supply as body fights the infection.
- Do you notice that your sense of smell is not as normal?
Signs and Symptoms of sinus infection (sinusitis) that affect the mouth, teeth and jaws
- Is your sense of taste dull?
- Do you have dental pain? Unlike the normal shrieking specific tooth pain, the pain is on both sides of the face caused by pressure on surrounding nerve.
- What about pain in the jaw caused by pressure on surrounding nerves?
- Are your cheeks aching?
- Is there a bad odor (halitosis) emanating from your mouth? This is due to the sinus and nose discharge dripping into the back of the throat and mixing with the infection odor.
Signs and Symptoms of sinus infection (sinusitis) that affect the ear
You may experience ear ache.
- Sleeping in an upright or elevated position to manage the cough
- Take a lot of fluids but not caffeinated or alcoholic drinks. Water, Ginger/ honey tea and chicken broth will be of great help as you recover.
- Give your body time to fight off the infection and recuperate. Have enough rest.
- Keep the air passages clear. Get the best humidifier or take a steam with a few drops of eucalyptus or peppermint oil to help loosen the discharge and thus make it easy to expel.
- Take spicy foods such as garlic, ginger, horseradish, onions as they open the nasal passages.
- Garlic is nature’s best antibiotic.
- Take Vitamin C rich foods to boost immune system and boost recovery
- Avoid sugars, dairy products, refined flour and grains, too much salt,
- Make use of a warm compress
- Another one of sinus infection home remedies is keeping your home allergen free. Get rid of dust mites by installing an air filter. Reduce your contact with pet dander by keeping pets out of the bedroom while making use of allergen-barrier bedding.
- Use of home-made saline solution. The American Academy of Otolaryngology recommends you make the solution as under.
- 1 quart (4 cups) boiled or distilled water
- One teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon non-iodized salt
Resist the temptation to use over the counter medicines (OTC) to treat sinus infections. Consult your doctor when you experience the above symptoms especially if you are diabetic or have a weak immune system. Some of the treatments may include the ones listed below or others depending on the cause and severity of the infection.
- Antihistamines assist in blocking allergic reactions that result in swelling.
- According to the American college of allergies and asthma (source) sinusitis caused by bacteria is treated with antibiotics. The duration of the medication depends on the type of bacteria and severity of the infection.
- Nasal decongestant sprays are also helpful to reduce swellings in nasal passages. You are not to use the spray for more than four days to avoid dependency.
- The doctor may perform nasal rinses to clear thick nasal discharge.
- To prevent and reverse nasal and sinus inflammation, topical nasal corticosteroids may be prescribed. Use the spray as prescribed and unlike the nasal decongestants, the corticosteroids can be used for longer durations
- For that chronic sinusitis which does not respond to antibiotics, consult an otolaryngologist for surgery to correct defects and enlarge nasal passages to allow for easier breathing.
- Get a flu vaccination,
- Keep away from close contact with those with an active cold or flu. Wash/disinfect your hands if you do come into contact with an infected person.
- If you are the one who is sick, cover your nose and mouth
- Avoid allergic triggers such as pet dander, dust, dust mites, pollen, mold, smoke, cockroaches etc.
- Get an air purifier to clean the air you are breathing
- In you are prone to sinus infections, take less time in chlorinated pools
- Take care when diving to prevent pushing water into sinuses
- Keep your decongestants/inhalers close-by when taking flights
- Practice a healthy lifestyle and maintain strong immunity by eating a balanced diet, exercising, and getting enough rest.
Sinus infections may start off as a cold but they persist for longer. When you observe the symptoms of sinus infection (sinusitis) discussed above, consult your doctor for treatment. You may follow the home remedies listed above for quicker recovery. And, take preventive measure to stop recurrence.
Have a sinus free day!