Any time you get a cold, you are at risk of developing sinusitis. This condition is characterized by an inflammation of the tissues inside the sinus passages. Even if a virus triggers the inflammation, working with an allergist can help get the swelling and discomfort under control.
Early Winter is the Worst
Winter is the prime season for sinusitis. Even if you struggle with seasonal allergies and the constant nose drip and scratchy throat of autumn, colds tend to break out in the late fall as children go back to school and families gather for the holidays. If your clan spreads a simple cold over Thanksgiving, sinusitis may be an unpleasant addition to December.
Other conditions that occur in winter to make sinusitis more unpleasant include
- cold air on your face and in your nose when you go out
- dry air both inside and outside your home
- dust build-up due to keeping your home closed up tight
Finally, a bad sinusitis flare-up can set the stage for serious infections. Swollen sinus tissues will not drain properly. The mucus trapped inside this inflamed tissue is an ideal host for bacteria to flourish.
How to Know When a Cold Turns Into a Sinus Infection
The first stages of a cold may include a stuffy head and drippy nose. However, after 10 days, the low-grade fever, cough and nasal challenges should be passed. If you develop a sinus infection at the tail end of a cold, your symptoms will change.
You may experience
- facial pain, from your top teeth to your forehead
- a headache behind the eyes that gets worse if you bend forward
- discharge from yellow to green
Many who suffer from sinus infections also suffer digestive distress from the drainage. Exhaustion and bad breath or a bitter taste in the mouth, and a low-grade fever complete the misery.
When a Sinus Infection Becomes Chronic Sinusitis
It’s important to note that you can get rid of a sinus infection and still suffer from chronic sinusitis. If you have had symptoms of sinus pressure, pain and inflammation for more than 12 weeks, you are suffering from chronic sinusitis whether you have an infection or not.
One of the big challenges for those who suffer from constant sinus inflammation is that they may develop recurrent sinus infections. However, many who suffer from chronic sinusitis also have
- chronic allergies
- anatomical challenges inside the nose
If you have an infection, getting that cleared up can reduce the inflammation level of your sinus lining. However, if allergies or a polyp in the nasal passage are getting in the way of getting the inflammation down, working with an allergy specialist and a sinus surgeon may be necessary to get permanent relief from the condition.
There are many home remedies that can lessen the pain and pressure of sinusitis and reduce the tissue inflammation. A simple first step is to use a Neti pot to rinse the sinus cavities with sterile saline solution. You will need
- 1/4 teaspoon non-iodized salt
- 1 pinch teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup distilled or previously boiled water, cooled to a soothing warm temperature
Over a sink, simply insert the spout of the pot into one nostril. Tilt your head so the liquid runs out the other nostril. Practice blocking your nasal breathing passage and breathing just through your mouth before you start using a Neti pot.
Mouth breathing is easy if you practice snoring while awake. Becoming a successful mouth breather will keep the liquid from the Neti pot from running down your throat instead of flushing through your sinuses.
While these remedies may not be as fast as a dose of steroids, they do allow you some control of the situation in the early stages of a flare-up. Should you notice your breathing becoming congested in the middle of the day, a nasal irrigation can flush out the allergen or toxin immediately.
Sinusitis Concerns During the Rest of the Year
Of course, sinus flare-ups can happen in other seasons as well. While air dryness may not be a problem in the spring, pollen can certainly be a challenge for those with allergies. It’s also a good idea to review your living situation and look for areas where water may pool around your home, as mold can grow in the damp and trigger allergic inflammation.
Summer fun can also contribute to sinusitis. If you love to camp, stay upwind of the campfire. Swimmers will want to use nose-plugs, especially when swimming in chlorinated pools. The air on airplanes is notoriously dry; stay hydrated and consider carrying a nasal spray.
Autumn is the season when we all come back together. Things going to seed in your garden may contribute to sinus inflammation, as can dust settle in your home as windows get closed up and the AC unit gets shut down. This may be a good time to consider a HEPA filter unit for your bedside.
Guard Your Environment
In every season, be vigilant about protecting your sinuses. If you smoke, get the help you need to stop. If someone in your home smokes, designate a smoking area for them and consider adding an external air fan to reduce the spread of these particles.
Make sure you also pay attention to your triggers. If you have a co-worker who wears a cologne or perfume that irritates your throat, chances are good that they’re also irritating your sinuses. Politely request that they switch, or do what you can to stay away from them.
Finally, focus on your water intake. Treat yourself to refillable water bottles and consider investing in a filter for the freshest tasting water. Get in the habit of filling bottles before bed so you can refrigerate them and enjoy cool water each morning. Avoid beverages that thicken mucus, such as dairy, beer or red wine.
Sinusitis can be a miserable condition that limits your joy in life. Because it can often start with a cold, early winter is the time to monitor your sinuses with the most care. However, noting when your personal triggers lead to inflammation is also extremely important to avoid flare-ups at other points in the year.