a Seasonal Downer
A. Melville, HealthScoutNews
most of us, autumn means carving pumpkins and raking colorful
leaves, but for family doctors and allergists, it means another
annual ritual of treating sinus infections.
to the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology (AAAAI),
more than 18 million sinusitis sufferers participate in that "'ritual,"
showing up at doctors' offices each year with excessively runny
noses, sinus headaches and other symptoms.
are just the people with serious enough symptoms to feel they
require treatment. All told, the AAAAI estimates, 31 million Americans
suffer a bout of sinusitis each year.
specifically involves an inflammation of the lining of the nasal
sinuses, which are hollow cavities that lie behind the nose, around
the eyes and even within the cheekbones. The inflammation is usually
caused by a bacterial or viral infection.
the infection is fleeting enough to be mistaken for an allergy
or common cold. And in fact, the AAAAI reports, 60 to 70 percent
of sinus infections do go away on their own.
But for many,
the lingering symptoms may prompt the need for antibiotics before
Dr. John Costa,
the medical director of Clinical Allergy at Boston's Brigham &
Women's Hospital, says there are a number of symptoms that indicate
a real case of sinusitis, and not just a cold.
a sinus infection, you might have pain in the cheekbones, forehead
or bridge of the nose, and there is tenderness, headache, sometimes
fever, and even sometimes aching of teeth and upper jaw,"
many patients will come to the doctor having been to the dentist
first, only to have had them say, 'Your teeth are fine, but I
can see on your X-ray that your sinuses have fluid,' " he
or mucus coming from the nose, is perhaps the most tell-tale evidence
of a sinus infection. Unlike allergies, which cause a clear mucus,
sinus infections produce a thick yellow or greenish nasal drainage
-- and plenty of it.
it's sometimes hard to distinguish a sinus infection from a cold
is because in most cases it's the cold that prompts the sinus
infection in the first place, by swelling up the nasal passages
that keep the sinuses clear, explains Costa.
an upper respiratory tract infection (or common cold) causes the
tissue in the nose and sinuses to become swollen, you have an
accumulation of mucus up in the sinuses. When that's unable to
drain, it serves as a beautiful place to grow bacteria."
-- you've got a sinus infection.
passages clear is a crucial factor in fending off, as well as
treating, sinus infections, Costa says.
appears to have a sinus infection, it will be treated with an
antibiotic," he adds. "But just as important is the
use of something to help make sure that the nose opens so the
sinuses can drain, because the point is to help make sure the
sinus drainage pathways are open so that the actual infected material
has a way to get out."
can do that, but Costa warns that nasal sprays can quickly become
addictive in the sense that after just a few days of usage, the
spray can become necessary to decongest the nose. He advises taking
decongestants like Sudafed in pill form instead, which doesn't
have the addictive effect.
impeding the treatment of many a sinus infection is the prescribed
antibiotic treatment itself, adds Dr. Charles Feldman, a member
of the AAAAI public education committee.
a problem in doctors often not prescribing an antibiotic for a
long-enough period to end the infection," he says.
doctor might put a patient on something for seven days, and when
the patient shows up and says, 'I'm no better,' the doctor tries
another antibiotic for another seven days. And they might do this
three times and still not have the right treatment. Meanwhile,
the patient is suffering needlessly," he adds.
treatment with an antibiotic usually requires taking the drug
over a course of 14 to 20 days, Feldman says, along with the decongestant
that's necessary to keep the nasal passages clear.
As if one
or two sinus infections annually aren't bad enough, some people
endure chronic sinus infections, suffering through them multiple
times per year.
in those cases, saline cleansing kits sold at many drug stores
can work wonders against infection.
simple act of doing a saline cleansing on a daily basis can dramatically
reduce the incidence of sinus infection, because you're cleansing
away the debris that accumulates and you're keeping the drainage
as you keep those passages open, you have a good chance of clearing
the infection without needing the antibiotics," he adds.
Do: Read more about sinusitis at the
American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology.
infections accompany the flu. For more information about prevention
and control of the flu, visit the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Reference Source 101