Don’t let your sinuses sideline you this summer.
Dr. Mas Takashima, associate professor at Baylor College of Medicine, offers the following ten tips to help prevent a sinus infection.
- Frequently wash your hands.
- Keep the nose moist with nasal saline sprays (the cilia inside the nose work more effectively in a moist environment).
- Keep your allergies managed well.
- Avoid nasal irritants such as pollution, smoke.
- Irrigate your sinuses on a regular basis (from once a day to once a week for some) with a saline sinus wash.
- Take oral probiotics especially after taking antibiotics in efforts to replenish the natural biome of the sinuses.
- Try to avoid taking antibiotics or steroids if possible as both will affect the natural good bacteria (biome) that lives in the sinuses and allows bad bacteria to proliferate.
- Persistent nasal congestion can decrease airflow to the sinuses and may also block the outflow track of the sinuses. If you have a badly deviated septum or a hole in your septum, getting that repaired will be beneficial.
- Swim in salt water pools as they are less irritating to the nasal and sinus mucosa and produce much less inflammation when compared to chlorinated pools.
- Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle and maintain a strong immune system as other illnesses such as a viral cold or flu can cause a sinus infection to occur.
Are you looking for sinus relief? Schedule an appointment at the Baylor Sinus Center.
Headaches? They could be caused by sinus pressure.
Our expert has tips to soothe your sinus infection symptoms.
- Stop a Cold in Just 12 Hours
- How do I know if I have a sinus infection or a cold?
- What factors contribute to winter sinusitis and colds?
- Treating winter sinusitis
- Don’t let winter sinusitis problems ruin your holiday season
- Outlook (Prognosis)
- Possible Complications
- When to Contact a Medical Professional
Stop a Cold in Just 12 Hours
Mugs of tea, a bottle of ibuprofen, and a truckload of tissues won’t get you through every case of the sniffles. Too often, the common cold turns into something more serious, zeroing in on your personal weak point to become a sinus infection, a sore throat, a nonstop cough, an attack of bronchitis, or an ear infection. And if you’re prone to a particular complication — thanks, perhaps, to an anatomical quirk (such as sinus obstructions), an underlying medical problem (early asthma, for example), or a history of a particular illness (childhood ear infections) — your odds of getting sicker, faster, can skyrocket.
But complications aren’t inevitable, new research shows. “With the right strategies, you can cut your risk significantly,” says Gailen D. Marshall, Ph.D., M.D., director of the division of clinical immunology and allergy at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
The trick: Act quickly. “The problem isn’t the virus replicating in your respiratory tract. The congestion and thick, trapped mucus that lead to complications are caused by the immune system’s response to the infection,” says pioneering cold researcher Jack M. Gwaltney, M.D., professor emeritus in the department of internal medicine at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. “It all begins within 10 to 12 hours after infection starts. You should take action the minute you feel the first symptoms of a cold — the scratchy throat, runny nose, and sneezing.”
Find out what to do if you are prone to…
- Sinus Infections
- Acute Bronchitis
- Ear Infections
If You’re Prone to Sinus Infections
Once a cold virus latches on to cells in your respiratory tract, immune system responders cause blood vessels in your nasal passages to swell and leak fluid. They also boost mucus production and slow down cilia — the microscopic hairs that normally sweep secretions out of your sinuses, ears, and lungs. “This sets the stage for a sinus infection, because viruses and, to a lesser extent, bacteria thrive in trapped mucus,” says Dr. Marshall. The best approach is to keep your nose open. “I preach to my patients all the time: If you can breathe through your nose, the likelihood of developing secondary complications will be much, much lower.” Here’s how.
- Use a decongestant. Sprays containing phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine) or oxymetazoline (Afrin) shrink swollen blood vessels in the lining of your nose, allowing mucus to drain. “Sprays work almost instantaneously,” says Dr. Marshall, “but you can’t use them long-term. After three to five days, they can cause rebound congestion — stuffiness returns just a few hours after each dose, tempting you to use the spray more and more frequently.” To avoid this, spray for no more than two or three days, then take two to three days off, he advises. “You’ll be able to use it safely for another two to three days if necessary.”
- Try a pill. If you hate sprays, decongestant tablets can also clear your stuffiness, a recent Australian review of cold-remedy research has found. And they can work fast, reports a British study of 238 women and men with stuffy noses: Those who took 60 milligrams of pseudoephedrine (brand name: Sudafed) reported a 30 percent drop in congestion after just one dose. The downside is that decongestant pills make some people very jittery and they can keep you awake, so you shouldn’t take them late in the day. (Sprays don’t have these side effects because they’re topical — only a little is absorbed into the body.) Ask for pseudoephedrine at the counter: Because its ingredients can be used to make the street drug methamphetamine, federal law requires stores to keep pseudoephedrine-containing products behind the counter or locked in a cabinet. Choose one that’s just a decongestant to make sure you get the recommended 60-milligram dose — combination remedies may contain too little decongestant for maximum benefit.
- Consider an antihistamine. In recent studies, antihistamines (the old-fashioned kind, like Chlor-Trimeton, not the new non-drowsy formulas) reduced nasal secretions by about 50 percent, says Dr. Gwaltney. The less gunk in your nose, the less there is to become trapped in your sinuses. He suggests taking antihistamines for up to a week; if these make you sleepy, be careful about driving and similar activities.
- Thin that mucus. As a cold progresses, nasal secretions grow thicker and thicker because they are carrying away viral particles and sloughed-off respiratory and immune cells. To keep things moving, try an over-the-counter mucus thinner that contains guaifenesin (such as Mucinex), Dr. Marshall advises. “You’ll know within 48 to 72 hours whether it’s helping you,” he says. “Your mucus will be thinner, and it’ll be easier for you to blow your nose.” It’s OK to take one along with a decongestant.
- Honk with finesse. Vigorous nose blowing propels nasal fluids up into your sinuses, which can actually cause an infection, Dr. Gwaltney’s studies have found. Hard blowing also triggers “reflex nasal congestion” — more nasal-passage swelling. It sounds silly, but “fewer than half the people we see know how to blow their noses the right way,” says Dr. Marshall. Here’s how: With a tissue over your nose, close one nostril and gently blow the other side for three to five seconds. Switch sides. “It may take several blows, but it works.”
- Sip chicken soup. In one lab study from the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, researcher Stephen Rennard, M.D., discovered that his grandmother-in-law’s chicken soup recipe might help relieve some of the inflammation behind cold symptoms. In the test tube, the soup inhibited movement of white blood cells called neutrophils by 75 percent; researchers suspect that in your upper respiratory tract, this curtailed movement could translate into a reduction in cold symptoms.
- Warm your sinuses. Placing a comfortably hot washcloth on your cheeks or drinking a cup of hot tea — or doing both — feels good if sinus pressure is building. Warmth may also nudge cilia, which become sluggish when you have a cold, so they sweep back and forth more briskly to whisk mucus along. Inhaling steam in a warm shower also helps, or drape a towel over your head and a basin of very hot water and breathe deeply.
- Try andrographis paniculata. This herb is less well-known than other botanicals purported to fight colds, but in one Chilean study of 158 cold sufferers, nasal secretions dried up significantly for those who took 1,200 milligrams of andrographis extract daily for five days. It’s available at natural foods stores; if you try it, follow package dosing directions.
- Call the doctor if you have a fever; your face or the area around your eyes is red, swollen, or painful; you have a severe headache or neck pain; or your symptoms (sinus pain, pressure, yellowish discharge) haven’t improved after a week’s time.
Next: What to do if you’re prone to acute bronchitis or ear infections
If You’re Prone to Acute Bronchitis
A few days after cold symptoms appear, you may notice trouble brewing in your lungs. “Upper respiratory tract infections develop in the — no surprise — upper airways and then spread to the lower,” notes Ron Eccles, Ph.D., director of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University in Wales. That’s why you start coughing two or three days after a cold begins — a sign your windpipe and the tiny tubes in your lungs are becoming inflamed. These steps can help protect against infection.
- Steer clear of cigarettes. Smoking and inhaling secondhand smoke weaken your ability to fight off viruses and bacteria. At the same time, dozens of nasty chemicals in tobacco smoke may cause inflammation in your airways, further slowing the cilia. The result: more coughing, as you try to clear globs of mucus.
- Don’t curl up in front of the fire. Breathing in the tiny particles in wood smoke can be especially irritating to airways when you have a cold, says Melvin Pratter, M.D., head of pulmonary and critical-care medicine at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, NJ. One report estimates that emissions from wood fires (as well as coal-fired power plants, cars, and other sources) cause 20,000 cases of acute bronchitis a year. If you use a wood stove for heat, be sure it burns efficiently; best is one certified by the Environmental Protection Agency.
- Skip spray cleaners. Aerosol and pump-bottle products contain chemicals that can irritate lungs, says Dr. Pratter. “When you have a respiratory infection, take a brief holiday from cleaning.”
- Try ivy-leaf extract. In a German study of 1,350 children and adults with chronic bronchitis, more than 85 percent of those who took this botanical remedy had less pain, coughing, and mucus production. Several varieties of the extract are sold in natural foods stores.
- Call the doctor if you have a fever, shortness of breath, or a severe cough; you have asthma, emphysema, or COPD; or you get bronchitis often.
If You’re Prone to Ear Infections
They’re not just kid stuff: About a third of adults with colds wind up with negative air pressure in the middle ear caused by swelling or congestion of the eustachian tubes. These tubes normally let air into the middle ear and, if necessary, drain fluid from it. A blockage or swelling can create a vacuum so that when the tube opens up again it may suck in virus-packed secretions from your nose — and lead to an infection. To prevent it:
- Start decongestants — stat! Sprays and pills that shrink swollen nasal passages can help keep your eustachian tubes open, says Dr. Marshall. Don’t waste any time: Those tiny tubes can become blocked quickly — within two to three days after a cold begins.
- Don’t pop your ears. Taking a big breath, then forcing the air back into your ears while you close your mouth and hold your nose is a good trick to try when your ears need clearing on an airplane. But it’s best not to use that technique when you have a cold — you may push infected mucus into the ears.
- Avoid smoke. In laboratory studies, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that repeated exposure to tobacco smoke (cigarettes, pipes, cigars) slowed down cilia in the eustachian tubes. “That’s not helpful if you’re trying to move mucus down the tubes and away from your middle ear,” says Birgit Winther, M.D., of the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville.
- Call the doctor if you have a fever, severe headache, dizziness, worsening pain or hearing, or there’s swelling around your ear.
Next: At-home treatments to help your body heal
Help Your Body Heal
Give in to sleep. When you have a cold, high levels of immune system chemicals called cytokines make you sleepier than usual. Don’t fight it: Shorting your sleep for even one night blunts the body’s immune response. If a cough is keeping you up, try Advil, Aleve, or another NSAID, says Dr. Gwaltney. These block prostaglandins, which experts suspect trigger the cough reflex.
Avoid intense workouts. They can make symptoms worse. But moderate activity like a 30- to 45-minute walk won’t hurt — and, by boosting immune function, could help you fend off your next cold.
Eat lightly. Your immune system dials back appetite during a cold, presumably to conserve energy and body heat for the big fight against viral invaders. Just be sure to drink plenty of fluids — they help thin mucus.
Relax. In a study of 55 people experimentally exposed to a flu virus, those who reported more stress developed more severe symptoms and released more of the immune system chemicals that cause inflammation. The same happens with cold viruses, say the researchers.
At-home Rx: Sinus Trouble: The Saline Solution
A daily saline rinse may reduce sinus symptoms by as much as 72 percent and even cut the number of infections for those with chronic sinus problems, researchers from England’s Royal National Throat, Nose, and Ear Hospital concluded after reviewing a series of studies. This ancient remedy softens and removes crusty mucus, thins nasal secretions, and helps wash away viral particles, bacteria, and irritating immune system compounds. You can purchase a sinus-rinsing tool called a neti pot at a natural foods store, get a special attachment for electric water-jet irrigators (like Water Pik), use a squeeze-bottle sinus rinse (such as NeilMed rinse), or simply cup your hand to deliver the saline solution to your nose.
- The recipe: Mix 1/2 teaspoon non-iodized salt, plus 1 pinch baking soda, with 8 ounces warm water.
- Rinsing directions: Lean over the sink with your head down (some neti-pot instructions advise tilting your head to the side slightly). Gently squirt the saline into each nostril (or inhale, one nostril at a time, from your palm). Breathing through your mouth at the same time will help keep the solution from entering your mouth. (If it does get in, spit it out.) Gently blow your nose. Repeat until you’ve used the 8 ounces of salt water.
Reprinted with Permission of Hearst Communications, Inc. Originally Published: Stop a Cold in Just 12 Hours
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What Is Sinusitis?
Sinuses are moist air spaces within the bones of the face around the nose. When they get infected and swell or become irritated, this is called sinusitis (or a sinus infection).
These infections usually follow colds or bouts with allergies. Sinusitis is common and easy to treat.
What Causes Sinusitis?
The sinuses are four sets of hollow spaces located in the cheekbones, forehead, between the eyes, and behind the eyes and nasal passages. Sinuses are lined with the same mucous membranes that line the nose and mouth.
When someone has a cold or allergies and the nasal passages become swollen and make more mucus, so do the sinus tissues. If they can’t drain, the sinuses can get blocked and mucus can become trapped in them. Germs can grow there and lead to sinusitis.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Sinusitis?
Sinusitis can cause different symptoms.
Younger kids often have:
- cold-like symptoms, including a stuffy or runny nose
- slight fever
If your child develops a fever 5–7 days after cold symptoms begin, it could signal sinusitis or another infection (like bronchitis, pneumonia, or an ear infection), so call your doctor. Cold-related headaches in young kids usually aren’t sinus infections. That’s because the sinuses in the forehead don’t start developing until kids are 9 or 12 years old and aren’t formed enough to get infected until the early teen years.
In older kids and teens, the most common sinusitis symptoms are:
- a cough that doesn’t improve after the first 7 days of cold symptoms
- worsening congestion
- bad breath
- dental pain
- ear pain
- tenderness in the face
Sometimes, teens also have upset stomachs, nausea, headaches, and pain behind the eyes.
Can Sinusitis Be Prevented?
Simple changes in your lifestyle or home environment can help lower the risk of sinusitis. For example, during the winter, use a humidifier to keep home humidity at 45%–50%. This will stop dry air from irritating the sinuses and make them less of a target for infection. Clean your humidifier often to prevent mold growth.
Is Sinusitis Contagious?
Sinusitis itself is not contagious. But it often follows a cold, which can spread easily among family and friends. To prevent spreading germs, teach your family to wash their hands well and often, particularly when they’re sick.
How Is Sinusitis Treated?
Doctors may prescribe oral antibiotics to treat sinusitis caused by
. Some doctors may recommend decongestants and antihistamines to help ease symptoms.
Sinusitis caused by a
usually goes away without medical treatment. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and/or warm compresses can help reduce any pain. Over-the-counter saline solution (saltwater) is safe and helps wash the nose and relieve many symptoms caused by allergies, viruses, and bacteria.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
Call the doctor whenever your child has:
- a cold that lasts for more than 7–10 days without improvement
- a cold that seems to be getting worse after 7 days of symptoms
- symptoms of allergies that don’t clear with the usual allergy medicine
Also call if your child shows any other signs of worsening sinusitis, such as:
- pain or pressure in the cheeks or around the eyes
- swelling around the eye(s)
- a cold that seems worse than usual and is not clearing up
Reviewed by: Patricia Solo-Josephson, MD Date reviewed: May 2018
While winter may tempt us with cozy sweaters and eggnog, it also increases our chances of winter sinusitis issues. If you have allergies, recurrent sinus issues, and often start asking questions like, “How do I know if I have a sinus infection or a cold?” or “Why are my sinuses so bad in the winter?” when winter rolls around, you may be more vulnerable than average to winter sinusitis during this chilly season.
The good news? You’re not alone. And if you take some preemptive steps, you may even be able to ward off your winter sinusitis with common household remedies. Learn more about what causes winter sinusitis, how to identify its onset, and the available treatments for both acute and chronic winter sinusitis.
How do I know if I have a sinus infection or a cold?
Not sure whether you’re struggling with winter sinusitis or a cold? With the two illnesses sharing so many symptoms, it’s natural to be confused — but there are still some notable differences.
Before we get into how to differentiate between winter sinusitis and a cold, however, we should note that there are two types of sinusitis: acute and chronic. Acute sinusitis is a sinus infection that lasts around 10 days. Chronic sinusitis occurs when symptoms persist for more than 6 weeks.
Colds, too, tend to last around 10 days. So while it’s easy to tell the difference between a cold and chronic sinusitis simply by the duration of your illness, you must look to your symptoms in order to tell the difference between a cold and acute sinusitis.
As stated before, colds and sinusitis share many symptoms. But some symptoms are more likely to be present in one than the other.
For winter sinusitis, these include sinus pressure, pain, thick, yellow or green discharge, diminished ability to smell, headache, sinusitis nausea, and pain in your teeth and jaw.
For cold (and even flu), these include a sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, and a cough.
What factors contribute to winter sinusitis and colds?
While we are more likely to get sick during cold weather, the change in temperature may not be the sole cause of sinus problems in winter seasons. There is a range of factors, from both indoor and outdoor environments to holiday-specific fragrances.
Whether you’re escaping the chilly weather and hanging out inside, or enjoying the winter festivities, your sinuses may be susceptible to a variety of allergens. Cold and damp environments increase the likelihood of mold (both indoors and outside) which can’t be killed as easily as pollens with a sudden temperature drop.
And while many people assume their safe from winter sinusitis-inducing elements when they head indoors, the use of fireplaces can dry out the air as well produce smoke and debris, all of which can irritate the lining of your sinuses. Finally, pulling out warm rugs, blankets, and sweaters from the back of closets often leads to more dust in your home’s air, which may also trigger allergy symptoms.
Candles! Room sprays! Christmas trees! All of these festive items and even some of the ingredients in seasonal desserts and delicacies may expose you to allergens which you may not encounter for the rest of the year.
As much as we love our furry friends, animal dander can also lead to cold weather sinus pain and winter sinusitis — especially when your animals are spending more time indoors. Additionally, depending on the breed of your animal, you may notice increased shedding as your animal makes room for its winter coat and prepares for the colder months.
Whether you love the holiday season or not, all of us can agree on one thing: it’s a busy time of year. Whether you’re running from place to place for holiday shopping, wrapping up work before heading home for a break, shuttling your kids from one holiday party to another, or actively avoiding any and all time spent with annoying relatives, the holidays can wear you down both physically and mentally. And can stress make sinusitis worse? Unfortunately, yes When we’re worn out, our immune system isn’t functioning at full capacity, and we become more susceptible to sinus issues — colds, the flu, and winter sinusitis alike.
Treating winter sinusitis
As you prepare for the winter ahead, you can also take precautions in your day-to-day life to lower your chance of sinus problems. Good proactive strategies include: managing humidity levels indoors, grooming your pets, treating mold as soon as possible, and clean frequently.
Should you get sick, the treatment for sinusitis that your ENT recommends will depend on the severity, duration, and underlying cause of your winter sinusitis symptoms. Some patients experience symptom relief through the use of decongestants, oral steroids, antihistamines, or nasal steroid sprays. Others may need to be prescribed antibiotics.
Patients with severe, chronic sinusitis may want to explore more intensive treatment options. Balloon sinuplasty, a minimally-invasive, in-office procure that can be completed in less than 21 minutes and requires little-to-no recovery time, is an increasingly popular option for those considering sinus surgery.
Don’t let winter sinusitis problems ruin your holiday season
Sinusitis at any time of year can be a frustrating, sometimes debilitating issue — but winter sinusitis has the added burden of keeping you from celebrating the season with your family and If you’re looking for long-term relief from your sinus symptoms and problems, balloon sinuplasty may be able to provide you with the relief you need.
Dr. Kaplan of Kaplan Sinus Relief is one of the most preeminent providers of balloon sinuplasty in the nation. He and his staff are dedicated to giving their patients the sinus relief they deserve.
Ready to enjoy this winter? Take a moment to review the balloon sinuplasty recovery, hear how our patients have found relief within our balloon sinuplasty reviews, and call Kaplan Sinus Relief at 713-766-1818 to schedule a consultation today.
Other Helpful Articles by Kaplan Sinus Relief:
- Where Does Sinus Drainage Go?
- Autumn Allergies in America
- Nasal Swelling Causes
- Have a Stuffy Nose and Can’t Breathe?
- What to Do When Your Sinus Headache Won’t Go Away
Many of us deal with a stuffy nose, stopped up ears and post-nasal drip throughout the year, but for some, sinus problems get worse in colder months. Let’s discuss why your symptoms may be flaring up so you can get relief.
Causes of Winter Sinus Problems
There are several reasons why annoying sinus issues are more prominent in colder temperatures.
More time with fluffy friends. Your pets don’t like freezing any more than you do, so the fact that you’re both indoors more often exposes you to more dander which can irritate your sinuses.
Dry air. The outdoor air you breathe in winter has a fraction of the humidity that other seasons do, while the air inside your home is super dry from being heated with a furnace. All that dry air can wreak havoc in your nasal cavities.
Dust. Since we’re letting less fresh air in, dust is settling in the carpet, furniture and bedding which attracts dust mites. This pesky allergen can trigger sinusitis and even asthma.
More viruses. Winter is notorious for spreading more viruses. When viruses settle into our sinuses they can often cause infection.
How to Improve Your Symptoms
Here are some ways to reduce some of the causes of winter sinus problems.
Add moisture to your indoor air. There’s nothing you can do about the dry air outside, but you can use a humidifier in your home to make it easier on your sinuses.
Vacuum and clean more often. To reduce pet dander, vacuum frequently with a HEPA filtered vacuum and sweep and mop your floors. Also wash bedding in hot water to eliminate dust mites.
Wash your hands more often. The best way to keep viruses and bacteria from settling into your sinuses is to keep them out, so wash your hands with soap and hot water whenever you can.
Sound Health Offers Treatments for Winter Sinus Problems
Whether you have chronic allergy problems in cold weather or you’re dealing with a full-blown infection, our ENT doctors can help. We offer sinusitis treatments and allergy remedies that will help you enjoy a more comfortable winter. Give us a call at (314) 729-0077.
Other treatments for sinusitis include:
- Allergy shots (immunotherapy) to help prevent the disease from returning
- Avoiding allergy triggers
- Nasal corticosteroid sprays and antihistamines to decrease swelling, especially if there are nasal polyps or allergies
Surgery to enlarge the sinus opening and drain the sinuses may also be needed. You may consider this procedure if:
- Your symptoms do not go away after 3 months of treatment.
- You have more than 2 or 3 episodes of acute sinusitis each year.
Most fungal sinus infections need surgery. Surgery to repair a deviated septum or nasal polyps may prevent the condition from returning.
Most sinus infections can be cured with self-care measures and medical treatment. If you are having repeated attacks, you should be checked for causes such as nasal polyps or other problems, such as allergies.
Although very rare, complications may include:
- Bone infection (osteomyelitis)
- Skin infection around the eye (orbital cellulitis)
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if:
- Your symptoms last longer than 10 to 14 days or you have a cold that gets worse after 7 days.
- You have a severe headache that is not relieved by over-the-counter pain medicine.
- You have a fever.
- You still have symptoms after taking all of your antibiotics properly.
- You have any changes in your vision during a sinus infection.
A green or yellow discharge does not mean that you definitely have a sinus infection or need antibiotics.
The best way to prevent sinusitis is to avoid colds and flu or treat problems quickly.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are rich in antioxidants and other chemicals that could boost your immune system and help your body resist infection.
- Get an influenza vaccine each year.
- Reduce stress.
- Wash your hands often, particularly after shaking hands with others.
Other tips for preventing sinusitis:
- Avoid smoke and pollutants.
- Drink plenty of fluids to increase moisture in your body.
- Take decongestants during an upper respiratory infection.
- Treat allergies quickly and appropriately.
- Use a humidifier to increase moisture in your nose and sinuses.