How to Treat Sinus Infections Fast: Prevention is Key

A patient from Healthap asked about a chronic sinus infection:
“3 wk sore throat, sinus probs, prob due to post nasal drip. tried medrol dose pk, helped temporarily, but what more can i do? not bacterial.”

Here was my quick reply, but there is detailed information below.

If this is a chronic sinus issue: have had many times: a blood work up is needed. If this is a rare event or first time issue, it is likely a virus which can last wks-months: try humidifier, neti pot irrigation, increased VitD dosing, plenty of liquids; Cold-Eeze helps prevent infection before it starts: may be too late now but for next time. has more info. 

Key points:

Viruses are super frustrating as we still do not have a great cure to stop them right away and it can take weeks-months to improve. 

Bacterial infections are more dangerous though, as they can spread to the brain and cause a meningitis and death. Luckily, anti-biotics help prevent this, but still it can take weeks-months to improve and scar tissue can be left behind which can make you more susceptible to a future infection.  

1. For a history of Chronic Sinus Infections be sure to check the following:
a. Immune system function: baseline CBC, Vitamin D level, ANCA if strong concern for Wegener’s which is a rare dangerous condition. I have only seen 3 patients who have had this in my career. 
b. See rest noted below in #2

2. For Acute Sinus Infections:
a. Get plenty of rest
b. 64 oz water intake daily
c. Vitamin D increase or be in sun more with sunglasses. 
d. Cold Eeze-Zinc lozenges helps prevent virus invasion in most cases if you take it at your first sign of a sore throat: down side is…too much zinc can cause temporary or permanent (rare) loss of smell.
e. Decongestants
f. Neti pot irrigation

Key for both Bacterial & Virus Sinus Infection:
Prevention is key!
Wash your hands.
Don’t touch your nose or face without having washed your hands.
Take Cold-Eeze exactly as it says on the box to help shorten the course of the illness. I have tried this multiple times & have been spared even a flu (which is not what Cold-Eeze is meant for, but now after multiple uses, I know it has worked for me to prevent a full blown influenza).

More good information. 
From WebMD:

Sinusitis Treatment

The good news is that, regardless of the type of sinusitis, treatments can help. The key is to figure out what’s really causing the underlying problem. For instance, if your case of sinusitis is caused by allergies,decongestants alone will probably not help much.
If you have sinusitis symptoms for more than a couple of days, check in with your doctor. With a good exam — and sometimes imaging tests, like X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs — you may be able to figure out exactly what’s causing the problem.
Often, the best sinusitis treatment is a combination of different approaches — typically medication combined with self-care.

Medical Treatments for Sinusitis

  • Antibiotics. If your doctor thinks that the cause of your sinusitis is a bacterial infection, he or she may prescribeantibiotics. For acute sinusitis, many people get a course of 10-14 days. For chronic sinusitis, a longer-term antibiotic might be necessary. However, remember that antibiotics only help with bacterial infections; they will not help with sinusitis caused by viruses or other problems. Some studies suggest that very few cases of sinusitis are actually caused by bacteria and that antibiotics are widely overused.
  • Painkillers. Many people with sinusitis take over-the-counter (OTC) pain medicines, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to reduce discomfort. However, make sure to follow the instructions on the label, and don’t take them for more than 10 days.
  • Decongestants. OTC decongestants can help reduce the amount of mucus in the sinuses. Some are available as nasal sprays — like Afrin and Dristan — and others as pills — like Contac andSudafed. However, if you use nasal sprays for more than three days, they may actually start increasing your congestion. Oraldecongestants shouldn’t be used for more than a week.
  • Allergy medicines. Many cases of sinusitis are the result of uncontrolled allergies. If you’ve never been diagnosed with allergies, it might be worth doing some allergy testing to see if you have them. If you do have allergies, medication (like antihistamines) and better environmental control might help. Another option is to get allergy shots, a long-term treatment that gradually reduces your sensitivity to an allergen.
  • Steroids. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe inhaled steroidsto bring down the swelling in the sinus membranes. For tough cases of chronic sinusitis, oral steroids are also a possibility.
  • Surgery. Occasionally, with chronic sinusitis or acute sinusitis that keeps coming back, surgery is the best choice. The surgeon can remove blockages and enlarge the sinus passages, making it easier for them to drain.

Home Remedies: Treating and Preventing Sinusitis

While medicines can help, many cases of sinusitis — perhaps as many as two out of three — resolve on their own without any medical treatment. Here are some things that you can do on your own to relieve your discomfort. If you’re prone to sinusitis, many of these same approaches will help you prevent it, too.

                     Sinus Pain and Pressure

If you’re one of the millions of Americans dealing with sinus problems, you know how miserable facial pain and clogged nasal passages can be. In their search for relief, manysinus sufferers have turned to nasal saline irrigation, a therapy that uses a salt and water solution to flush out the nasal passages.
Although several methods of nasal irrigation exist, one of the most popular is the Neti pot — a ceramic or plastic pot that looks like a cross between a small teapot and Aladdin’s magic lamp. Although nasal irrigation using the Neti pot has been around for centuries, its use is on the rise in the U.S. The Neti pot originally comes from the Ayurvedic/ yogamedical tradition.

Does the Neti Pot Really Work?

Ear, nose, and throat surgeons recommend nasal irrigation with a Neti pot or other method for their patients who’ve undergone sinus surgery, to clear away crusting in the nasal passages. Many people with sinus symptoms from allergies and environmental irritants also have begun to regularly use the Neti pot or other nasal irrigation devices, claiming that these devices alleviate congestion, and facial pain and pressure. Research backs up these claims, finding that nasal irrigation can be an effective way to relieve sinus symptoms when used along with standard sinus treatments. For some people, nasal irrigation may bring relief of sinus symptoms without the use of medications.
The basic explanation of how the Neti pot works is that it thins mucus and helps flush it out of the nasal passages.
A more biological explanation for how the Neti pot works has to do with tiny, hair-like structures called cilia that line the inside of the nasal and sinus cavities. These cilia wave back and forth to push mucus either to the back of the throat where it can be swallowed, or to the nose to be blown out. Saline solution can help increase the speed and improve coordination of the cilia so that they may more effectively remove the allergens and other irritants that cause sinus problems.

How Do You Use the Neti Pot?

There aren’t any official medical guidelines, but Neti pots usually come with an insert that explains how to use them. You might also want to ask your family doctor or an ear, nose, and throat specialist to talk you through the process so you can get comfortable with the Neti pot before trying it on your own.
Typically, to use the Neti pot or other nasal irrigation device you would mix about 16 ounces (1 pint) of lukewarm water (distilled, sterile, or previously boiled) with 1 teaspoon of salt. Some people add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to buffer the solution and make it gentler on the nose, but there isn’t any real proof that this improves the experience. Be sure to use distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water to make up the irrigation solution.
Once you’ve filled the Neti pot, tilt your head over the sink at about a 45-degree angle. Place the spout into your top nostril, and gently pour the saline solution into that nostril.
The fluid will flow through your nasal cavity and out the other nostril. It may also run into your throat. If this occurs, just spit it out. Blow your nose to get rid of any remaining liquid, then refill the Neti pot and repeat the process on the other side. It’s important to rinse the irrigation device after each use and leave open to air dry.

How Often Do You Need to Use the Neti Pot?

In studies, people suffering from daily sinus symptoms found relief from using the Neti pot or other nasal irrigation system daily. Three times a week was often enough once symptoms subsided.

Is the Neti Pot Safe?

Research has found that the Neti pot is generally safe. About 10% of regular users experience mild side effects, such as nasal irritation and stinging. Nosebleeds can also occur, but they are rare. Reducing the amount of salt in the solution, adjusting the frequency of Neti pot use, and changing the temperature of the water appear to reduce side effects.
To prevent infection, always use distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water. Also, it’s important to properly care for your nasal irrigation device. Either wash the device thoroughly by hand, or put it in the dishwasher if it’s dishwasher-safe. Follow by drying the device completely after each use.

Where Can I Find a Neti Pot?

Neti pots are available over-the-counter at many drug stores, health food stores, and online retailers. They usually cost between $10 and $20.
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