Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Are sinus infections more common in winter?"
It seems like I'm much more prone to getting sinus infections in the winter, especially when it's really cold. Is this a real correlation, and if so - why? Is there a good way to fight this effect?
It is common for upper respiratory infections (URIs) to occur in the winter, mostly because of the fact that people choose to stay indoors more and are thus interacting more closely with each other on a regular basis. Whenever this happens, viruses are transmitted more readily from person to person which can increase the secretions from the upper airway. These secretions can then become secondarily infected with the normal bacteria that are constantly living in the nose and mouth, which can then become a bacterial sinus infection. Additionally, cold air can thin the mucosa of the upper airway and decrease the moisture level that normally protects the intranasal membranes. The best way to fight these infections is by taking care of the things that doctors are always telling you to do: wash your hands (the most important thing), don't touch your face with your hands, eat a healthy and well balanced diet, get plenty of rest, and stay home when you're sick so that you don't pass on the virus to the next person. For those who are really trying to stay ahead of the curve, nasal irrigation with lukewarm saline (salt water, such as is used with the Netti Pot) can help to clean out the sinuses and improve flow of normal secretions. Antibiotics only become an option when you've had other symptoms (such as a fever) or have had normal sinus symptoms for more than about 10 days, since most URIs are viral and improve spontaneously with time.
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