It’s winter cold season, and lately everyone seems to have a case of the sniffles. A cold is no fun, but it’s even worse when it turns into a sinus infection. Help yourself boot the sniffles early by learning what causes a sinus infection, and how you can help your body prevent one.
Colds and allergies increase the risk of sinus infections because of how they affect the nasal passages. One of the main symptoms of winter colds and allergies is a stuffy nose, which comes from swollen nasal passages. When sinuses become swollen or inflamed, they cannot drain properly, and mucus builds up. This excess mucus becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, increasing the risk of a sinus infection setting in.
Sinus infections bring along a variety of unpleasant symptoms: pain and tenderness in sinus areas, fever, headaches, sore throat, etc. An acute sinusitis attack generally lasts around three weeks, and chronic sinusitis can last from three to eight weeks or longer.
So what can you do to prevent sinus infections before they start?
- Manage indoor allergies which cause nasal congestion. Allergy-proof your home to alleviate symptoms, or talk to your doctor about allergy medications.
- Help your body avoid colds by getting plenty of rest, drinking a lot of water, and eating healthfully. Nutritious and steamy chicken soup was your grandma’s cure for a reason!
If you’re already suffering from allergies or a cold, you will need to take some special precautions to care for yourself. Here are four tips:
- Using an oral or nasal decongestant for a short time can help; however, it’s not recommended that you use a nasal decongestant for more than a few days, as it can reactively make nasal congestion and swelling worse.
- You can also try rinsing nasal passages with a saline solution (this practice is called nasal irrigation). Nasal irrigation relieves congestion, improves nasal drainage, and helps reduce swelling in the sinuses.
- Drink lots of fluids, which will help keep nasal discharge thin as well as improving the body’s immune defenses.
- Frequently blow your nose gently to help keep your nasal passages as clear as possible.
Taking the time to beat a cold may be hard to do during this busy season, but it’s better than being socked by a sinus infection. Give your body the care and rest it needs, and you just might be able to sidestep a sinus infection instead.