It sounds kind of gross, but there are “air-filled pockets” in the face. These are your sinuses. If you’ve got a stuffy nose that never seems to get better, that might be sinusitis; also known as a sinus infection. It occurs when fluid gets into the sinuses and lets germs grow. It’s usually a viral infection but sometimes can be caused by bacteria.

If you’ve previously had a cold or suffer from seasonal allergies, your chances of getting a sinus infection increases. The same goes for regular smokers or those exposed to secondhand smoke. A weakened immune system or problems with the sinuses can also contribute.

Symptoms of a sinus infection include:

  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy nose
  • Facial pain or pressure
  • Headache
  • Mucus dripping down the throat (post-nasal drip)
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Bad breath

Sinus infections usually clear up on their own without the need of antibiotics. However, you should still go see a doctor if:

  • You have severe symptoms (i.e. severe headache/face pain)
  • The symptoms get worse after initially improving
  • Your symptoms last more than 10 days with no improvement
  • You have a fever lasting more than 3 days
  • You’ve had multiple sinus infection in the past year

Whether your doctor decides that antibiotics are helpful or not, there are a few other ways to help relieve your symptoms. A warm compress over the nose and forehead can help relieve the sinus pressure and pain. Decongestants or saline nasal spray can help irrigate your sinuses and flush them out. Sometimes, all it takes is breathing in some steam from some hot water or a hot shower. You can also take over-the-counter pain relievers and cough/cold medicine to address some of your symptoms, but please read the instructions for each carefully as some are harmful to children. If you are unsure at all, please contact your doctor before taking or giving any over-the-counter medication.

Info: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/community/for-patients/common-illnesses/sinus-infection.html

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