How can I prevent frequent sinus infections?
I get sinus infection very frequently, about once every 1-2 months. What can I do to prevent the frequent sinus infections, and what kind of specialist should I look for for further checks?
We see so many patients at our clinic with the same set of symptoms just like yours!
They typically suffer from:
- a blocked and runny nose
- yellowish nasal discharge
- headaches and facial pain, and can be rather unwell with fever too
If you come down with a sinus infection, you will very likely need to be prescribed a course of strong antibiotics to prevent it from spreading further, as sinus infections have the potential to involve the eye or even the brain, although these events are fortunately rare.
Sinus infections are commonly triggered by having had a bad flu or cold and then the cold or flu “bug” spreads to infect the sinuses, leading to swelling and inflammation of the soft tissue inside the nose and sinuses.
Healthy sinuses should normally be filled with air but inflamed and infected sinuses will often be clogged up with infected thick secretions or pus.
The easiest way to try to keep your sinuses healthy and clean is to use a simple alkaline sea salt douche to wash out your nose once or twice daily. This may be bought at any pharmacy.
My patients also swear that their sinuses improve by taking Sinupret supplements which are made from flowers (I have absolutely no affiliation with the company by the way 😊).
Sounds like you need to have your nose thoroughly checked out by your friendly ENT doctor with a special nasal endoscope/camera! This is to make sure that your recurrent sinus issues aren’t caused by underlying problems like nasal polyps (growths), scar tissue or other abnormal changes in the structures of your nose.
Breathe well and live well, hope you get better soon!
It must be tough having so many of these infections. Sinus infections are most often due to a viral infection.
Keeping good general health like with sufficient rest, exercise and clean diet; proper washing of hands, not touching your nose and mouth, avoiding places where many are sick would be important.
Some supplements like Vitamin C, Echinacea seem to be helpful at the very start of the infection episodes. When it becomes a bacteria infection however, your doctor may have to add antibiotics to the usual medications to reduce congestion and nasal discharge.
If the infections are so recurrent, you may have to do a simple blood test to see if your body is lacking in any disease fighting elements.
You should also be seen by an ENT doctor (Ear Nose Throat) who will perform a flexible nasoendoscopy in the clinic to exclude crooked nose bone internally, polyps, tumors, sinus air cells anomalies or large turbinate tissues - all these may predispose you to recurrent sinus infections.
The nasoendoscopy is simple, and can be done with you awake in less than 5 minutes. It is not uncomfortable, and you can continue with your day normally after that.
In certain cases, I may need do an allergy test in clinic to see if you may be having sensitivity to common inhalants like dust mites, mold or pollen or food sensitivities.
Once you know what you are allergic too, controlling for those allergens may reduce your sinusitis episodes too. If you are looking to do an allergy test, do avoid cold/ allergy/ cough medications, Vitamin C or TCM medications for 5 days before the consult so that we can get an accurate test for you.
Dr Lynne Lim
I am sorry to hear that you are experiencing sinus infection (medically known as sinusitis) every 1-2 months. It is important to determine if the "sinus infections" are indeed sinusitis. Common symptoms of a sinus infection includes:
- Blocked nose
- Facial congestion or pain
- Coloured nasal discharge/mucous (yellow, brown, green or even blood stained)
- Postnasal drip
- Reduced sense of smell
A sinus infection usually last longer than 10 days or continues to worsen on day 5 of your illness. If your symptoms are less than these, you may be experiencing a cold/flu (described medically as a viral upper respiratory tract infection or URTI). It is important to differentiate between a cold/flu and sinus infection because one needs a course or oral antibiotics while the other don't. Sinus infections are caused by bacteria and a course of antibiotics will be required, while a cold/flu is caused by viruses and do not need to be treated with antibiotics.
There are certain risk factors that predisposes a person to getting more frequent sinus infections. These include nasal allergies (Allergic Rhinitis), deviated nasal septum, narrow sinus drainage pathways, smoking and genetic predisposition. Many of my patients with frequent sinus infections do have uncontrolled or poorly controlled nasal allergies. Keeping your nasal allergies under control may prevent frequent sinus infections.
I also have a number of patients who think that they have a sinus infection but in actual fact, they are suffering from Rhinitis (sensitive nose), which can be allergic or non-allergic. Common symptoms of Rhinitis include:
- Blocked nose
- Clear runny nose
- Itchy nose
- Postnasal drip
As you can see, some of the symptoms between sinusitis, rhinitis and the common cold do overlap and it can be confusing for patients. Sometimes it is also difficult for doctors to differentiate between the 3 conditions. You should see an ENT Specialist to get an assessment as often, with a detailed clinical history and a nasoendoscopy (scope through the nose in the clinic), a correct diagnosis can be achieved.
Prevention of frequent sinus infections depends on the underlying cause and sometimes a CT scan (special series of X-rays) of the sinuses may be required to assess any anatomical abnormalities that resulted in a blocked sinus or narrow sinus drainage pathway. If these are present, endoscopic sinus surgery to widen the drainage pathway of the sinuses while preserving its physiological function may be required.
Hope this helps and all the best!