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It’s a Cold! It’s a Flu! No, it’s Sinusitis.


August 31, 2017 | Published by

How many people do you know that always seem to be sniffling, clearing their nose or throat, or have a handkerchief up to their nose? Your first instinct may be oh no the cold (ugh!) or the flu (gasp!), but don’t put yourself in that bubble just yet. Sinusitis, also known as post-nasal drip, may be the cause of this annoying condition.

What Are The Sinuses?

The sinuses are hollow spaces in your head that are lined with mucus membranes and mainly full of air. There are 4 sinus spaces: above the eyes in the forehead (the frontal sinuses); either side of the nose behind your cheekbones (the maxillary sinuses); behind the bridge of your nose and behind the eyes (sphenoid sinuses); and the bridge of the nose, between the eyes (the ethmoid sinuses).
When a case has been ongoing and is chronic (longer than three weeks), it can eventually involve all the sinus cavities. Pressure increases in these small spaces, because drainage holes becomes clogged and the small spaces simply can’t handle the sheer amount of mucus produced. This is where the pain and pressure in your face comes from. Anybody who has had recurrent sinusitis will tell you the pain can be debilitating.

Sinusitis Signs And Symptoms

Here are some of the typical signs and symptoms of sinusitis:

Catarrh  Catarrh is the excessive secretion of mucus from the membranes of the nose, the throat, sinuses and the upper respiratory tract. Repeated episodes of catarrh can often lead to that annoying post-nasal drip, which itself can lead to a chronic and annoying cough.

Cough – Post nasal drip can occur, particularly at night or early in the morning, causing the person to cough.

Fever – Sinusitis-related fevers are generally low grade, but with a severe case of acute bacterial sinusitis the fever can be very high.

Headache – Typically, any sort of facial pressure leads to a headache.

Impaired Hearing – Because the drainage holes from the sinuses are narrow, they block up easily. A sensation of partial deafness or blockage in the ear may also occur, particularly with younger kids.

Nasal Congestion  Those affected may have a blocked nostril, which becomes particularly worse when they lie down at night. The sense of smell is often affected.

Facial Pain – Facial pain is a more common symptom. Sometimes a nerve in the face can be affected, and swelling may cause compression of the facial nerve leading to pain like a toothache. Many people think they actually have a toothache or a tension headache, when in fact it is the sinuses which are inflamed causing the headache. If you put mild pressure just over the eyes, around the cheekbones, or around the bridge of your nose and it causes pain, your sinuses are generally affected.

Pressure – A sensation of pressure in the head or around the face can occur. This will be particularly present with the congestion and infection of the deeper sinus cavity of the sphenoid sinus, especially if the eyes hurt or feel they are under pressure. The person may also have photophobia (sensitivity to sunlight).

Sleeping Problems – Some patients with chronic sinusitis have problems when they lie down, which creates difficulty breathing, snoring and loss of sleep. Pressure in the head can occur with a positional change in the head, and this relates to a problem again with the drainage of the sinuses.

Acute and Chronic Sinusitis

Acute Sinusitis

This type of sinusitis usually refers to a sudden, severe inflammation of one or more of the para-nasal sinuses with symptom duration of less than three weeks. The sinuses share a common passageway for drainage and ventilation, so any blockage in this area can result in significant and persistent infection of the larger sinuses. In most cases, the maxillary sinuses (the cheek region) are the site of infection of an acute sinus attack. Acute sinusitis can make you feel quite ill indeed; you may have a high temperature, headache, and facial pain, loss of sense of smell and/or taste. There may also be a discharge of yellow or green mucus coming from your nose or throat.

Chronic Sinusitis

With symptoms lasting longer than three to four weeks, chronic sinusitis can significantly interfere with the quality of your daily life. Studies have confirmed that chronic sinus people suffer from facial pain, a decline in general health, poor vitality, and decreased social functioning when compared with healthy persons. Allergic Fungal Sinusitis (also known as AFS) is a form of chronic sinusitis caused by allergic reactions to detrimental fungi that have invaded the sinuses. In fact, an astounding 93% to 97% of chronic sinusitis patients are found to have AFR! There are many types of fungi, bacteria and other nasty micro-organisms which can invade the dark, warm and moist regions of you sinus cavities.

The Main Causes of Sinusitis

Food allergies or intolerances

Healthcare practitioners find themselves treating many cases of sinusitis in the spring, because allergic reactions are at their most common when allergy-producing pollens are at their most abundant. A food allergy, intolerance or sensitivity to a chemical in the person’s environment can also be the cause of sinusitis. Allergies can happen at any time in response to a wide variety of things, including dietary allergies, house dust, molds, fungus, and even animals like cats, dogs or horses.

Salicylate sensitivity

Salicylates are chemicals that occur naturally in many plants, acting as preservatives to delay rotting and as protectants against harmful bacteria and fungi. These natural chemicals can affect some adults considerably, and can particularly affect younger children. Nasal polyps and sinusitis are both problems stemming from salicylates and aspirin intolerances in up to one third of people suffering from these annoying complaints. The highest containing salicylate foods are most berries, citrus, capsicum, champignon mushroom, chicory, endive, gherkin, radish, tomato products, zucchini, green olive, red chili, almonds, honey, licorice, peppermints, any confectionery containing mint, peppermint tea, liqueurs, port, rum and wines.

Dental trauma

I have found that root canal therapy, particularly in the upper jaw, can lead to sinus infection. Since many patients with sinus problems of dental origin typically do not have any complaints of tooth or mouth pain, the correct diagnosis is generally overlooked by an unsuspecting clinician. I always ask patients with sinusitis these questions: “When did you see a dentist last? Have you had any root canal therapy or have any known dental problems, particularly in the upper jaw?” It is amazing how many people actually confirm they have one or more root canals, and then some on the same side of the face they actually have the problems!

Using Antibiotics for Sinusitis

Generally, sinusitis is treated with an antibiotic, which is deemed to “cure” the patient by” killing” the infection. Because the penetration of antibiotics inside the sinus cavities is poor, an extended period of treatment will often be deemed necessary. Some American studies have shown that antibiotics are only really effective for clearing the very most acute maxillary sinusitis cases, but are pretty useless once they get to the chronic (often fungal) stages. This is because antibiotics rarely penetrate well into bone tissue, and many detrimental bacteria, or fungi particularly, in sinusitis patients are located inside the actual bone tissue.
Studies show that the majority of people with colds show evidence of sinusitis on sinus CAT scans, and that their immune systems cure sinusitis all be themselves without any antibiotics within one to two weeks. Even when bacteria do invade the sinus cavities, the sensitivity of bacteria to specific antibiotics and the response of the person to those same antibiotics generally don’t always match up. You will sometimes hear the doctor say “well, let’s try this one.” You have probably been given a drug which didn’t match the bugs it was designed to kill. But kill it will, if not the bad bacteria, usually your good bacteria. Repeated antibiotic dosing may lead to a fungal overgrowth (candida) and down your immune health goes, resulting in a merry-go-round of drugs, sinus symptoms and continual health problems.
Image Credit: Statue with headache by Flickr user threephin
dr-eric-bakker-150x150About the Author: Eric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 27 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida, psoriasis, as well as adrenal fatigue, thyroid and digestive disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. He has also written what may well be the most comprehensive Natural Psoriasis Treatment Program available. You can find more articles by Dr. Bakker on his blog at

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