Along with warmer weather and longer days, spring brings allergies and colds – often the cause of sinusitis, commonly known as a sinus infection.
Sinuses are air-filled cavities near the nasal passage that can become infected in the setting of an upper respiratory infection, cold, or allergic inflammation. This is called sinusitis. Each of these conditions can lead to an obstruction or inflammation in the openings of the sinuses, blocking the normal flow of nasal secretions and allowing bacteria to grow and cause infection.
“It’s important to pay attention to any symptoms you may be experiencing and seek treatment,” says Brigham and Women’s ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist Dr. Anthony A. Prince. “Sinusitis may be the result of an underlying condition and can become chronic.”
Understand the symptoms and treatment
Symptoms of sinusitis vary from person to person. You may have sinusitis if you have a runny nose or cold symptoms that last longer than 12 weeks, difficulty breathing through the nose, loss of smell, dripping in the throat from the nose, headaches, facial discomfort, bad breath, cough, fever, or sore throat. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor.
If you do have sinusitis, your treatment may include nasal spray, decongestants, antihistamines (that can help prevent sinusitis if the underlying cause is allergic inflammation), antibiotics, and – only if other treatments have failed – surgery.
When is it time for you to see an ENT specialist?
If you have symptoms lasting longer than 7 to 10 days that do not respond to a course of antibiotics, or you have recurrent episodes of sinusitis, you might need the services of an ENT specialist.
Often there can be structural and anatomical abnormalities that may predispose one to prolonged or recurrent episodes of sinusitis. An ENT specialist can identify and treat these issues either medically or surgically to decrease the recurrence of future episodes.
“ENT specialists are experts at both the medical and surgical management of sinus disease and nasal obstruction, and can provide in-office evaluation, treatment, and also outpatient procedures if required,” says Dr. Prince. “We also work in a multidisciplinary manner with our colleagues in the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology to help evaluate and address underlying allergic inflammation.”