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What is acute sinusitis?

Acute sinusitis generally occurs as a consequence of the common cold. It is very common and leads to mucus buildup in the nose and sinuses, which further interferes with sinus drainage. If left untreated, it can eventually lead to difficulty breathing through the nose. Most patients recover from acute sinusitis within 7-10 days unless they develop a bacterial infection. If it lasts for more than 12 weeks without relief, it should be considered chronic sinusitis and should be treated accordingly.

Types of disease

Causes

  • Common cold
  • Bacterial nasal/sinus infections
  • Fungal infection of the sinuses
  • Allergies

Symptoms

  • Thick mucus drainage from the nose and down the throat (runny nose and postnasal drainage)
  • Nasal congestion
  • Pain and inflammation around the eyes, cheeks, nose, and forehead
  • Ear pressure
  • Coughing/sneezing
  • Altered sense of smell
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Teeth pain

Symptoms

Your ENT specialist will start the examination with your medical and illness history. Then they will palpate the facial areas to look for signs of pain and tenderness. Diagnostic tests for acute sinusitis include:

  • Imaging tests: Imaging tests like CT scans help pinpoint the exact cause of the infection, like nasal obstructions, fungi, etc. They are normally not recommended for patients of acute sinusitis, but if the patient exhibits severe symptoms or abnormalities, they may need imaging tests.
  • Nasal endoscopy: An endoscopy helps see the inside of the nasal passages and sinuses clearly to see the extent and cause of the infection.
  • Allergy test: Skin allergy tests help identify whether the patient’s symptoms are a result of allergies or infections. The test also helps prevent future allergy flare-ups for the patient.
  • Nasal and sinus cultures: Normally, tissue cultures are not recommended for acute sinusitis patients. However, if the patient is not responding to the current antibiotics/treatment strategy, lab analysis helps customize the treatment to make it more effective.

Risks & Complications

  • Nasal allergies like hay fever
  • Common cold affecting the sinuses
  • Deviated nasal septum
  • Immune system disorders like cystic fibrosis, HIV/AIDS
  • Exposure to smoke

  • Prevention

    You can prevent acute sinusitis infection/recurrence by following the given tips:

    • Stay away from people with upper respiratory infections like the common cold, fungal/bacterial infections, etc. Wear a face mask as much as possible and carry a sanitizer with you as much as possible.
    • Manage your allergies and avoid your allergens. 
    • Avoid cigarette smoke and heavily polluted areas. They can inflame the air passages in the nose and lungs and make sinusitis more likely.
    • Use a humidifier to add moisture to your surroundings.

When to consult a doctor ?

You should consult an ENT specialist for treatment of acute sinusitis if you exhibit the following:

  • symptoms that last for over a week
  • no relief from traditional/home remedies
  • a persistent/high fever
  • history of chronic/recurring sinusitis
  • pain, redness, or swelling around the eyes
  • vision abnormalities

Treatment options & cost

Most people with acute sinusitis get better on their own via home remedies. Some home remedies that you can use for acute sinusitis relief are:

  • Drink plenty of water to help flush out the viruses from the body.
  • Consume foods like garlic, ginger, honey ginger tea, and onions with antioxidant, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.
  • Use a humidifier, especially at night. Inhale steam from boiling water to hydrate your sinuses.
  • Apply eucalyptus oil to temples and chest, or inhale it via a diffuser or boiling water steam.
  • Rinse your sinuses and nasal passages via a saline solution and a neti pot.
  • Apply warm damp towels over your nose, cheeks, and eyes to ease your pain.
  • Get over-the-counter medications like NSAIDs, decongestants, etc.
  • Rest well to allow your body to heal.