Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Why do the sinuses get infected?"
I have seen these things that are little filters that go in your nostrils. Could they help?
Sinus infections fall into two broad categories: acute sinusitis and chronic sinusitis. Acute sinusitis is much more common, and consists of short bouts of sinus pain, discharge, congestion and occasionally pain for roughly one to two weeks. These can be recurrent, often happening several times a year. They occasionally happen in the settings of colds (upper respiratory tract infections). The vast majority of acute sinusitis are caused by viruses - the same viruses that cause upper respiratory tract infections. The best way to avoid these is by limiting contact with people who have colds, frequent hand washing, and getting your flu shot every year. Unfortunately, we have no good anti-viral medications for these infections, so treatment is symptomatic: sinus decongestants, pain relievers, etc. A minority of acute sinusitis is caused by bacteria, however, this usually presents with lots of thick, green/yellow sputum or discharge from the nose, fever and severe pain over the sinuses. For this your physician can consider using antibiotics. Chronic sinusitis is a long-standing (several months to years) irritation of the sinuses that can be caused by recurrent infections. It is usually treated by sinus surgery. Other than the above treatments, no treatments (including plugs in the nostrils) have been shown to prevent or help sinusitis, as the viruses get through most filters and the bacteria already live in the mouth and nostrils anyway. You should see a primary care physician, who can start to evaluate your symptoms to determine what type of sinusitis you most likely have. S/he will then give you the appropriate treatment, and refer you to an Ear Nose & Throat specialist if necessary.
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