Sinus Problems

Your sinuses are behind your cheekbones and forehead, and around your eyes. Healthy sinuses drain almost a quart of mucus every day. They keep the air you breathe wet. Your sinuses can’t drain right if they are infected and swollen. Your chances of getting a sinus infection increases if you:

  • Have hay fever.
  • Smoke.
  • Have a nasal deformity or sinuses that don’t drain well.
  • Have an abscess in an upper tooth.
  • Sneeze hard with your mouth closed or blow your nose too much when you have a cold.

Symptoms of a sinus infection are:

  • Head congestion.
  • Nasal congestion and discharge (usually yellowish green).
  • Pain and tenderness over the facial sinuses.
  • Pain in the upper jaw.
  • Recurrent headache that changes with head position and disappears shortly after getting out of bed.
  • Fever.

Sinus complications can be serious. Your doctor can tell if you have a sinus infection with a physical exam, a laboratory study of a sample of your nasal discharge and X-rays of the sinuses. You may need prescriptions for an antibiotic, a decongestant as well as a nasal spray and/or nose drops. These work to clear the infection and reduce congestion. (Severe cases may require surgery to drain the sinuses).

Self-Care Tips

A cool-mist humidifier can help. Wet air helps make mucus thin. You can put a warm washcloth or compress on your face, too. This can help with the pain. Here are some more tips:

  • Drink plenty of water and other liquids.
  • Take aspirin or acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen sodium for pain. [Note: Do not give aspirin or any medication containing salicylates to anyone 19 years of age or younger, unless directed by a physician, due to its association with Reye’s Syndrome, a potentially fatal condition.]
  • Take an over-the-counter decongestant pill, or an over-the-counter pill for pain that also has a decongestant such as Tylenol Sinus. [Note: Older men should check with their doctor before taking decongestants. Decongestants that have ephedrine can give older men urinary problems.]
  • Use nose drops only for the number of days prescribed. Repeated use of them creates a dependency. Your nasal passages “forget” how to work on their own and you have to continue using drops to keep nasal passages clear. To avoid picking up germs, never borrow nose drops from others. Don’t let anyone else use yours, either. Throw the drops away after treatment.

Questions to Ask

Do you have two or more of the following?

  • A fever over 101oF
  • Greenish-yellow or bloody colored nasal discharge
  • Severe headache which doesn’t get better when you take aspirin or acetaminophen or that is worse in the morning or when bending forward
  • Pain between the nose and lower eyelid
  • A feeling of pressure inside the head
  • Eye pain, blurred vision or changes in vision
  • Cheek or upper jaw pain
  • Swelling around the eyes, nose, cheeks and forehead

Yes: See Doctor
Provide Self-Care

Healthy Self: The Guide to Self-Care and Wise Consumerism

© American Institute for Preventive Medicine

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021