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How to Prevent Sinus Infections

November Blog illness

Days of sneezing, coughing, and nasal congestion from a cold can make anyone miserable. But are your symptoms from a bad cold, or has it turned into something else?

Cold and sinus infection (sinusitis) symptoms are often the same (stuffy nose, headache, cough, sore throat, and so on). Like colds, many sinus infections are viral – or at least they start out that way. When your nasal passages are blocked, material deep inside your nasal cavity and sinuses can cause bacterial overgrowth. This can lead to yellow or green nasal discharge, facial pain, fullness in the ears, and loss of smell and taste.

During the fall and winter, your chances of getting a sinus infection are high due to colder weather, drier air, and an increase in viruses going around. However, by following the below steps, you can increase your chances of preventing a cold or other illness from progressing into a sinus infection.

Keep your nasal passages clear

The best way to reduce your chances of developing a sinus infection is to keep your nasal passages clear so they can drain properly.

Most of the time, the bacteria throughout your nose are harmless, even if they creep into the air-filled cavities of your sinuses. Healthy sinuses are lined with a thin layer of mucus that traps dust, germs – and yes, even bacteria – and safely sweeps them to the back of your throat. However, clogged nasal passages bring this flow of mucus to a halt, allowing bacteria to grow out of control and sinus infection symptoms to begin.

It’s important to do everything you can to help your sinuses drain, especially if you already have a cold.

How to drain your sinuses

  • Stay hydrated: When your body doesn’t get enough water, congestion is one of many issues that can develop. Drinking plenty of fluids helps thin and loosen mucus, allowing it to drain from your sinuses more easily.
  • Use a humidifier: The cold, dry air can irritate your sinuses and slow down the flow of mucus. Using a humidifier may help relieve nasal congestion if the air inside your home is too dry. Inhaling steam is another alternative – for example, taking a hot shower can help open your nasal passages and loosen mucus.
  • Nasal irrigation (saline rinse): Nasal irrigation is when you move a saline solution through your nasal passages to clear out mucus. Whether you use a neti pot, rubber bulb, or saline spray, nasal irrigation pushes the saline solution through one nostril and out the other. Nasal irrigation also moistens nasal passages and removes allergens such as dust and pollen.
  • Apply a warm compress: A warm compress can help ease swelling and open your sinus passages, relieving congestion, and pain. Lie down and place a warm, wet washcloth over your forehead and the bridge of your nose. You can do this as many times throughout the day as you wish.

Should I go to urgent care for a sinus infection?

Yes! An urgent care clinician can evaluate your symptoms, make a diagnosis, and provide a treatment plan. Since a cold or viral sinus infection can easily become a bacterial infection, it’s important to seek care.

Antibiotics are not used for viral sinus infections and will only be prescribed if it’s determined that you have a bacterial infection. Bacterial sinusitis often follows viral infections like a cold or the flu, especially when mucus is already trapped by swollen nasal passages.

The symptoms of bacterial sinusitis (such as thick yellow or green nasal discharge and pressure and pain around your nose, forehead, cheeks, or eyes) tend to occur when the initial infection begins clearing up. It’s common to start feeling better, then quickly take a turn for the worse.

Since sinus cavities are close to your brain, a bacterial infection that spreads to your brain can be life-threatening. If your mental state is altered in any way or you experience a sudden high fever, headache, facial swelling, stiff neck, vision changes, vomiting, or seizures, seek care immediately.

Stay healthy with vybe

All vybe urgent care centers are staffed by licensed medical professionals with a wide range of healthcare knowledge. Walk in or schedule an appointment to have your sinus infection symptoms evaluated and receive treatment if necessary.

With convenient locations across Greater Philadelphia, it’s easy to find a vybe near you. We’re ready to help you stay healthy during cold and flu season and all year long.