What is sinusitis?
Sinusitis, also known as a sinus infection – or, if we’re using the correct medical terminology, rhinosinusitis – is an inflammation of the mucus membrane that lines the sinuses, resulting in symptoms such as thick nasal mucus, a plugged nose, and facial pain, especially around the eye area. If that isn’t enough, other signs and symptoms may include fever, headaches, poor sense of smell, sore throat and a cough. Often, sinusitis can be mistaken for a bad cold, especially in children. But left untreated and you’ll be bed- bound in no-time.
What causes sinusitis?
The sinuses are small, empty spaces behind your cheekbones and forehead that connect to the inside of the nose. Healthy sinuses are filled with air, but when they become blocked and filled with fluid, germs grow and cause infection. Sinusitis causes the lining of the sinuses to swell up, which stops mucus draining into your nose and throat properly, making you feel blocked up and poorly.
What is the difference between acute and chronic sinusitis?
To make diagnosis even more confusing, there are two types of sinusitis – acute and chronic, depending on the sinus cavity that is inflamed. Acute sinusitis is mainly felt around your head and eye area. On bending down, coughing or sneezing, this pain is amplified. You may also be suffering from a high fever. Chronic sinusitis, as the name suggests, is a worse case of acute sinusitis but with added symptoms such as restricted sense of taste and smell and swelling of your face, too. Either way, it’s not pleasant.
Are Sinusitis And Chest Congestion Related?
Yes. Just as with a head cold that moves into the chest, sinusitis and chest congestion often occur together. This is because the respiratory system of the chest and sinuses are connected to each other, so your body will get a double blow of illness, making recovery even harder to beat.
How do you treat it?
- Take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen to ease the pain, lower temperature and control facial swelling.
- If you’re struggling to breathe comfortably, try using a decongestant nasal spray if your nose is very blocked. This is especially effective before bedtime. For a natural home remedy, try rinsing your nose with salt water (trickier than it sounds).
- Place a warm pack or flannel on your face to help relieve any facial discomfort.
- Steer clear from places that will inflame your sinuses such as high-polluted areas or around cigarette smoke.
- Use a humidifier. Cool mist can make you less stuffy, but make sure you keep the water clean. Empty the tank every day and wash it out before you refill it. Once a week you'll need to clean it with diluted bleach or vinegar to keep mould and bacteria away.
- As ever, drink plenty of fluids and get lots of shut-eye.
- If all else fails, see your GP who may prescribe you with antibiotics as a last resort.
Can I prevent catching sinusitis?
The good news is sinusitis itself is not contagious, but other conditions that have caused the infection can be. Dirty tissues and unwashed hands may contain organisms that can infect other people, so best to keep a hand sanitizer at close range to avoid catching germs.
Anything else to know…
- Dehydration, disease, drying medications, and lack of humidity in the air can all cause sinusitis.
- If you suffer with asthma or bronchitis, you will be especially prone.
- Don’t fly with sinusitis. The aeroplane’s air pressure will make you feel like your head is going to explode!
- If you’re a regular swimmer, don’t hurry back to the pool – chlorine can irritate the nasal passageways.
- Sinusitis can cause dizziness. Don’t be tempted to rush to your spin class or lift weights to try and ‘sweat out’ the illness. You’re more likely to fall than make your illness miraculously disappear.