Sinuses are air-spaces in your skull lined with mucous membranes.  The purpose if the sinuses are not completely understood.  Scientists suggest our early ancestors sinuses may have been lined with odor receptors which would have improved their ability to smell and potentially impacted survival.  Now, their job seems to be to humidify and warm the air we breathe and make our head a little lighter. Sometimes sinus infections can happen and may need to be treated.

What exactly is sinusitis which is commonly called a sinus infection?

Sinusitis, technically called rhino-sinusitis, is simply inflammation or swelling of the lining of the sinuses. Healthy sinuses are filled with air. But when they become blocked and filled with fluid, germs can grow and cause an infection.  Conditions that can cause sinus blockage include the common cold, allergic rhinitis, nasal polyps, or a deviated septum.  This is a common condition, affecting 30 million Americans annually.

What’s the deal with sinusitis and antibiotics and what do the experts say?

Over 90% of sinusitis cases are caused by a virus and do not need antibiotics. The American Society of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery defines viral rhino-sinusitis symptoms or signs of acute rhino-sinusitis  present for less than 10 days that are not still worsening by day 10.  

When do you need antibiotics?

Antibiotics are indicated for the treatment of acute bacterial rhino-sinusitis which the experts diagnose when symptoms or signs of acute rhino-sinusitis fail to improve within 10 days or more beyond the onset of upper respiratory symptoms, or, symptoms or signs of acute rhino-sinusitis worsen within 10 days after an initial improvement.  The experts really don’t think we should be using antibiotics too quickly!

So, when you feel miserable, have sinus congestion and your face hurts what do you do?

The bad news is, on average, it takes 7 days to improve with complete resolution occurring in most people by day 15.  With the number of cases a year in the US noted above, there are a lot of people running around with acute sinusitis!

When you feel symptoms of acute rhino-sinusitis (sinus infection) start using nasal saline irrigation (such as the Neilmed sinus rinse) 1-2 times a day, take tylenol or motrin for pain, and use decongestant nasal sprays (such as Afrin) which should be used for no more than three days.  

There are downsides to using antibiotics, including rash, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, allergic reactions, tendon problems, and they cause resistant germs, which is why we physicians are increasingly cautious about prescribing them unless absolutely necessary.  

If you have tried the above, aren’t improving, or, have improved and you are now worsening again, give us a call at (719) 522-2727 or visit our clinic and we may be able to help you get over most common sinus infections.