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A Blow to Your Nose

by Julia McCartney on May 2, 2012

If you suffer from sinus infections or allergies, you should be aware that many of the popular treatment methods for these ailments are ineffective. Seeking an effective treatment that will work in the long term is important. Understanding sinus infections and allergies is the first step to finding a treatment that isn’t just a placebo.

Sinus Infections

What is a Sinus Infection?

Sinuses are hollow cavities that are located along the nose, in the upper part of the cheek and in the lower part of the forehead. These cavities are designed to use a layer of mucus to help drain harmful materials out of the nose, but it is possible for mucus buildup to linger in the sinuses. A buildup of mucus can lead to an infection of the sinus cavities.

A sinus infection is often identified by a feeling of pressure in the sinuses that may be accompanied by pain. Depending on the severity of the infection, sore throat, fever and coughing may also be experienced by those suffering from an infection.

Sinus Infection Treatments

The most important part of treating sinus infections is finding a way to get the mucus to drain from the cavities. This can be done by increasing intake of fluids. Some doctors recommend a saline flush, but this treatment option should not be used without first consulting a doctor.

Bacterial infections are generally treated with an antibiotic. However, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes, not all sinus infections are caused by bacteria. Viral sinusitis generally clears up without medical treatment.

A study referenced by MinnPost found that antibiotics are actually no more effective for treating sinus infections than a placebo. This statistic is especially significant because 20 percent of all the antibiotic prescriptions written in the United States are for sinus infections. Overuse of antibiotics can lead to resistant bacteria and a decreased effectiveness of antibiotics when a person actually has a bacterial infection that could be cured through the use of antibiotics. It is common for sinus infections to be the result of a viral infection. Antibiotics do not have any effect when an infection is caused by a virus. It is best to treat the symptoms of sinusitis and allow time for the infection to clear on its own before seeking prescription medication.

Allergies

What Is an Allergy?

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology explains that allergic reactions are set off by triggers. An allergist may be needed to figure out what kind of allergies a person has. There are tests available to help people who suffer from regular allergic reactions pinpoint the exact source of the problem.

Predicting Allergies

CNN reports that allergies are likely a biological response that is intended to keep harmful materials out of the body. Unfortunately, some people’s bodies react adversely to materials that are not inherently harmful. Examples include pollen, tree mold and food allergies. People with a family history of allergies are more susceptible to developing allergies. Some doctors believe that young children may develop certain food allergies if they are exposed to foods associated with allergies too early in life.

Preventing Allergies

Preventing allergies starts with finding out what kind of allergies a person has. Allergies that are triggered by plants can often be kept under control by staying indoors with the windows closed as much as possible. Clean air filters can be used to keep the indoor air free of pollen and other allergy triggers. Many of the allergy medications available do not work for all allergy sufferers. It may be necessary for a person to try a variety of medications before deciding which medication best relieves their symptoms.

One long term solution to allergies is a series of shots. The purpose of these shots is to increase a person’s tolerance to their allergy triggers over time. The amount of treatments depends on how severe the allergies are and how many different kinds of allergies a person has. Typically, the patient will visit an immunologist every two to four weeks. This series of shots will take between two to five years to complete. Many people are unwilling to commit to the length of an allergy shot treatment. Insurance often does not cover this type of treatment. Because staying indoors during allergy season is often not reasonable, those suffering from severe seasonal allergies may benefit from researching their allergy triggers and choosing a new climate based on these triggers.

Increased Prevalence of Allergies

The National Wildlife Federation has linked global warming to an increased instance of seasonal allergies and asthma. Warmer weather arrives earlier in the year and lasts longer than it has in the past. This allows plants to bloom earlier and release more pollen into the atmosphere. Ozone pollution that has been associated with global warming tends to be a problem for asthmatics. It is estimated that 25 million Americans are suffering from allergies that last longer and are more severe as a direct result of global warming.

Differences Between Sinus Infections and Allergies

Although sinus infections and allergies are not the same, there are symptoms that the two have in common. Excess mucus and coughing may be associated with both ailments. It is possible for the mucus buildup that is associated with a severe case of allergies to lead to a sinus infection. It is important to avoid unnecessary treatments when suffering from allergies or sinus infections. Studies have shown that many sinus infections can be cleared up with patience instead of antibiotics. The best advice regarding the treatment of sinus infections and allergies can be obtained from a medical professional.

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