A sinus infection is one of the most common and painful conditions that cold or allergy sufferers can experience. Think severe headache with throbbing pressure and off-the-charts pain around the nose, eyes, cheekbones and teeth, along with fever, stuffy nose, severe cough and other unpleasant discomforts.
I have managed to stay clear of sinus infections for more than three years. That’s a big accomplishment for someone who used to have the misfortune of enduring up to four a year. I had to dust off my knowledge of the dreaded infections recently, not for myself, but for my adult daughter who experienced her first sinus infection.
Deciding if you have a sinus infection is your first step. One of the signs is a cold that just won’t go away no matter how much you rest and take care of yourself. In fact, you develop new symptoms, including intense facial, nasal and sometimes tooth/jaw pain. Other indications are glassy, glazed-over eyes peering back at you in the mirror and dizziness when you come up after bending over. You may have ear and neck pain, nausea from the headaches, swelling of the eyelids, extreme tiredness, and loss of smell and taste.
My daughter had all of these symptoms. It was time to see the doctor. Antibiotics are your best bet at this point to clear up the infection. “Antibiotics are miracle drugs,” she said after just a few days of taking them and feeling better. The doctor also may prescribe a nasal spray and recommend saline nasal washes. Apply warm compresses to the forehead and face to reduce pain, inhale steam and drink lots of liquids, including tea and soup.
Cleansing the sinuses with warm saline solution can help speed your recovery and prevent future sinus infections. Try a Neti Pot, a sort of teapot that you use to pour warm saline solution into each nostril to cleanse the sinuses. I attribute staying sinus infection-free to regular use of a Neti Pot.
Sinus infections are caused by an inflammation in the sinuses or cavities near the nose from allergies or colds. Air and mucus become blocked inside the inflamed sinuses creating a vacuum which puts pressure on the sinus walls, producing severe pain. Pouring warm saline solution through the sinuses cleans out mucus and other crud, and reduces swelling and inflammation.
My daughter also ate lots of Tom Yum, a hot and sour Thai soup that is being studied by scientists because it appears to have immune-boosting power as a natural remedy for colds and flu viruses. We purchased Tom Yum at a local Thai restaurant but you can make your own following the recipe below.
Tom Yum Soup (Hot and Sour Thai Soup)
•2 quarts chicken broth
•2 stalks fresh lemongrass, sliced on a bias in two-inch pieces
•4 kaffir lime leaves
•1-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced
•2 red chilies, sliced
•2 tablespoons fish sauce
•1 ½ teaspoons sugar
•1 cup mushrooms, rinsed and halved
•1 pound shrimp, peeled
•Juice of 2 limes
•2 green onions, sliced
•1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
Bring the stock to a boil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the lemongrass, kaffir leaves, ginger and chilies. Lower the head to medium-low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Uncover and add the fish sauce, sugar and mushrooms. Simmer for 5 minutes. Toss in the shrimp and cook for about 8 minutes until the shrimp turn pink. Remove the soup from the heat and add the lime juice, green onions and cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste. Note: Don’t eat the lemongrass and lime leaves which are added for flavor.