A woman with brown curly hair sneezes into a tissue.

The dreaded sinus infection. What begins as a simple seasonal cold could descend into mucus blockage and misery. However, there is hope for achieving relief. EVMS allergy and sinus expert, Dr. Kent Lam, offers easy tips for dealing with this unwelcome cold weather guest. 

How is a sinus infection different from a cold? Sinus infections often start after the common cold or nasal allergies cause the tissue lining of nasal cavities to become swollen and obstruct the sinus passageways. When these spaces in the forehead, between the eyes and behind your cheeks, which are usually filled with air in the healthy state, become blocked and filled with thick mucus, bacteria can infect the area. This leaves patients with nasal congestion, discolored drainage, facial pain, smell loss and cough as common symptoms that last for more than 5-7 days.

Kent Lam MD, Associate Professor of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, says there are some people who have a higher risk of developing sinus infections including those with recurrent viral illnesses, nasal allergies or smoke exposure. Anatomic obstructions of the sinuses such as nasal polyps or a deviated nasal septum can contribute to the initial blockage of the sinus passageways. People with weakened immune systems are also at a higher risk.

Fortunately, there are ways to help make this season of sinus infections more bearable. The symptoms associated with routine sinus infections can be treated with:

  • nasal saline sprays or rinses
  • oral or nasal decongestants
  • nasal steroid sprays

Dr. Lam also recommends good amounts of rest and hydration. “This is important for the immune system to fight off the infection during the initial phases. Antibiotics tend to be helpful if the symptoms last longer than seven days without improvements.”

If, after seven days of symptoms you are still suffering, it may be time to visit your healthcare provider. Severe sinus infections require medical attention. There are cases in which infections may spread to the nearby eyes and brain, but such complications are rare.   

To learn more or make an appointment with Dr. Lam, contact EVMS Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeons.