DIY Diagnosis of a Sinus Infection
Anyone who’s had a sinus infections will attest to the misery they suffer during allergy season. So it should come as no surprise that those who are hardest hit want—even need—relief now and thus they call their doctor complaining of the pain. Yet the nation’s ear, nose and throat doctors say that is not a good idea for most cases.
Most people who get sinusitis feel better within a week–your doctor will assure you of this–because many of those infections are caused by viruses. So even if you did get antibiotics, they are not going to help. Truth be told, this is how it is. You can only blow to your heart’s content and resist antibiotics for a typical sinus infection.
But should you be more sure about whether you’ve got a viral or bacterial sinus infection? Today, ENTs (Ear, Nose and Throat specialist) are becoming more and more involved with patients on figuring out what’s causing the infection, partly because patients should learn how antibiotics don’t work and can even harm the patient. And part of getting the patients to understand this is by their self-diagnosing the infection.
“For the first time we’ve really made it crystal clear how to self-diagnose your own bacterial sinus infections without going to the doctor, with a high degree of accuracy,” says Dr. Richard Rosenfeld, lead author of the practice guidelines published Wednesday by the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation.
How can you tell if it’s bacterial or viral?
It’s rather simple: If you’ve been ill for fewer than 10 days and your symptoms remain the same, it’s most likely viral. If your symptom become worse within 10 days or if they get worse in that 10 days after having improved a bit, bacteria could be to blame. The premise here for waiting it out in the DIY approach is that it’s OK to wait and see what happens, rather than rushing off for antibiotics.
Even if it is bacterial, antibiotics help very little Rossefeld says, and adds that “most of what’s going on is your body fighting off the infection yourself with maybe a little boost from antibiotics.”
So what can I do for some relief?
ENTs highly approve of nasal saline washes, as well as over-the-counter pain medications. The saline washes out mucus and reduces stuffiness, and refreshes and –re-invigorates the membranes, Rosenfeld says.
Steroid nose sprays may help with inflammation, the guidelines say, especially for people with chronic sinusitis, which lasts more than three months.
Chronic sinusitis shouldn’t be diagnosed just on symptoms, the guidelines say. A doctor needs to document inflammation of the nose and sinuses, which is usually done by inspecting the nose with special scopes.
You can diagnose acute sinusitis from the comfort of your home remember, but not chronic sinusitis. For that you need a doctor.