Sinus infections occur when there is swelling or inflammation of the tissues lining the paranasal sinuses. Paranasal sinuses are cavities within the facial bones surrounding the nose. Known as sinusitis, this condition occurs when there the sinuses are blocked and is filled with mucous (fluid from the nose and sinuses). Sinusitis can be caused by allergies, the common cold or flu, anatomical problems in the nose and poor immunity.
If you have sinusitis, you may experience symptoms like facial pressure, thick or coloured mucous, loss of sense of smell and thick green or yellow phlegm. Most sinus infections can be managed by a general practitioner. However, if they are severe or keep returning, you may want to see an ENT specialist in Singapore for proper treatment.
Before you visit a doctor, below are five methods that may help you ease the discomfort and get rid of sinus infections.
1. Neti-pots and sinus rinses
Using Neti-pots and other types of sinus rinses to flush the nose and sinuses with saline solutions frequently will help to bring relief to your sinus infection. This method of nasal irrigation will also help to shorten the duration of the sinus infection. They help to clear sinus drainage from the nose so you will feel less stuffy and find it easier to breathe. The mucus is also thinned out, making it easier for you to expel the discharge along with other possible allergens or other irritants. Use distilled or cooled boiled water and do it once or twice a day.
Certain essential oils, such as Eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil and peppermint oil, can be helpful to relieve symptoms of congestion caused by allergies, inflammation and the common cold. You can inhale it directly, do steam inhalation using a bowl or diffusers to disperse the essential oils throughout the air. You can also add a few drops of the oil into your bathwater for an aromatherapy bath to soothe your sinus congestion.
In a hot country like Singapore, majority of us sleep or work in an air-conditioned environment. Air-conditioned rooms can result in dryer air which may cause some irritation in the nose and sinuses. Use a humidifier to add back moisture to the air. This can help to reduce congestion, by making your mucus thin out and get it flowing again. Dry and thick mucus in your nose can form crusts that hinder sinus drainage. Dry air, air pollutants and tobacco smoke can irritate the mucus membranes in your nose, causing a sinus infection.
4. Warm compresses and steam inhalation
Place a warm, wet towel on your face to help ease sinus pain, particularly around the nose, cheeks and eyes to alleviate facial pain or pressure. You can also breathe in steam from a bowl of warm water or take a hot shower to help open your nasal passages and loosen secretions. Place it for a few minutes and alternate with a cold compress for 30 seconds. You can do this several times a day.
5. Over the counter (OTC) medication
There are various OTC (over the counter) medications including oral decongestants, nasal decongestants, and mucolytics. The decongestants help open up your nasal passages and reduce blood flow to the nasal membranes, reducing swelling and congestion. This can also bring relief to the pain and pressure in your sinuses and head. Nasal sprays can shrink the swollen nasal membranes to allow you to breathe more freely. Do however note that OTC oral or nasal decongestants are not meant to be used for a prolonged period of time (not longer than 1 week) as these can cause serious side effects and cause more problems in the nose. For young children, nasal suction is recommended to keep the mucus loose and nasal passages clear.
Seeking medical help
Drink plenty of fluids and make sure that you have adequate rest and sleep. If your symptoms are not responding to the above-mentioned methods, you should visit a doctor early. If you have frequent or troublesome sinus infections, a visit to an ENT specialist for an assessment to determine the root cause of your problem (e.g. nasal allergies, swollen turbinates, deviated nasal septum, nasal polyps etc) is recommended.