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It’s that time of year again – allergy season.
As I go about my morning routine I notice the red-nosed horde of stuffy people sniffling all around me. I feel a brief sense of relief at how easily I can breathe. That relief balloons into satisfaction as I reflect on how much healthier I try to be than the Average Joe. In a moment I would pay dearly for my hubris.
A headache I try to attribute to the early commute buzzes to the forefront of my attention, followed by a sniff. Then I feel it. The unyielding compulsion to sneeze. Suddenly I have the same tragedy playing out across my face as those around me. Pride does always come before the fall. I don’t have allergies but I feel like my head is submerged and chained to the sea floor. What’s happening to me?
Sinuses, everybody has them. Throughout your life you’ve felt them one way or another. Whether it’s the dreaded cold, torment of a runny nose or the barking of a cough it’s a safe bet to assume you’ll be dealing with them again. What happens when your face is in pain and how do you fix it?
Surprisingly, few people know what sinuses really are. Behind your forehead, cheeks, nose and eyes are cavities called sinuses. They’re filled with air and open into your nose. They’re what’s responsible for your never-ending supply of mucus. More importantly they ensure the air in your lungs has the right temperature and moisture.
If you’re sick, these passages are inflamed and you’ve got some congestion on your hands… or sleeve, or tissue. Sometimes though, you’ll feel painful pressure, terrible headaches and even toothache! At this point, you may be one of many suffering a sinus infection. You’re not alone, the CDC has recorded that up to 28.5 million people per year have sinusitis.
Typically infections of the sinuses are cause by a virus, bacteria or fungus. After the growth blocks the sinus, things start to get really downhill. These messy little burdens can come in several flavours:
• Acute Sinusitis – Comes on quickly and can last a little under 4 weeks. Has the signature runny, stuffy nose and face pain.
• Subacute Sinusitis – This inflammation can last from a month to 2 months.
• Chronic Sinusitis – A full-blown condition dragging out longer than 2 months.
• Recurrent Sinusitis – Repeated attacks throughout the year.
It’s clear this is more than soup and a box of Kleenex can handle. On the bright side they aren’t generally contagious. All of the above are perfectly treatable and most remedies are over the counter.
Not taking care of a sinus infection can have some pretty serious consequences. There can be lasting issues that arise from what is otherwise an easily treatable situation. Lighter symptoms include fever, sore throat and cough. If the reason for infection is bacterial you can expect to make antibiotics your best friend for a while. In the rare instance that it is fungal, you’re headed to the hospital right away.
Complications can develop because of the proximity of the sinuses to the brain. Meningitis, brain abscesses and bone infection can all happen because of careless neglect. Clear-cut proof that you shouldn’t shrug off the pain.
There are plenty of ways you can develop a sinus infection. The folks over at WebMD point out some of the reasons why:
• Common colds that block sinus drainage
• Allergies (i.e. hay fever)
• Nasal Polyps
• A deviated septum (an anatomical problem).
Health guru Katy Bowman recommends a few neat tricks to try keeping the sinuses healthy. Trapping particles in the nostrils with lip balm and rinsing your nose out with a neti pot only get you so far though. Sometimes Tylenol, decongestants and mucolytics will help. Not everything can be solved on your own however.
The reason for your symptoms can be more than just the sticky hand fate has dealt you. If you’re normally healthy and you suddenly have fever or facial pain, there may be more at work than you’d like to think. An expert might be exactly what you need to avoid long-term complications.
It’s worth every second of your time to make sure you confront and solve the problem. Don’t take a chance and try to outlast the pain or shrug it off as allergies.