Blocked Nose & Sinuses

Blocked Nose & Sinuses

Your head is pounding, your nose is stuffed, and you just feel truly awful– you’ve got sinusitis.

It’s one of the most common ailments that patients present with at CarePlus Pharmacies and can strike at any time of the year. Luckily there’s a whole host of medications that can be bought over the counter to help ease the feeling of a foggy, stuffed head –but it’s important to understand what type of sinusitis you’re suffering from.

Read below to learn what causes sinusitis, what can be done to treat sinusitis, and what medications are available over the counter to treat a bothersome blocked nose.

The sinuses

You have four pairs of sinuses in your head. There are pairs of sinuses:

  • Behind your forehead
  • Either side of the bridge of your nose
  • Behind your eyes
  • Behind your cheekbones

Your sinuses open up into the cavity of your nose and help control the temperature and water content of the air reaching your lungs.

The mucus that's naturally produced by your sinuses usually drains into your nose through small channels. These channels can become blocked when the sinuses are infected and inflamed.

The sinuses behind the cheekbones (the largest ones) are most commonly affected.

What is sinusitis?

Your sinuses are air-filled spaces in the skull and facial area that make up part of the upper respiratory tract. These air-filled spaces can become infected or irritated and cause sinusitis and a blocked nose. The mucus that's naturally produced by your sinuses usually drains into your nose through small channels.

Sinusitis occurs when this draining system in the nasal passage becomes blocked, due to inflammation or swelling of the lining of the sinuses, which is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection.

Sinusitis is a common condition that can affect people of any age and up to 90% of people will have had a sinus infection at some stage in their lives.

The main symptoms of sinusitis

  • A blocked or runny nose that last for longer than a week
  • Facial pain and tenderness
  • A high temperature (fever) of 38°C (100.4°F) or more
  • A sinus headache
  • Post nasal drip that is yellow or green in colour
  • Bad breath caused by infection

How can I treat sinusitis?

Around two-thirds of people with sinusitis don't need to see their GP. In most cases, it is caused by a viral infection and it clears up by itself – without the need for antibiotics. Sinusitis can take about ten days to clear up (longer than a cold). If you have mild sinusitis, over-the-counter painkillers and decongestants will help relieve your symptoms.

See your GP if your symptoms don't improve after seven days, if they're getting worse, or if your sinusitis keeps coming back. In such cases, antibiotics or a steroid spray or drops may be prescribed.

In cases of very severe sinusitis, surgery may be needed to improve the drainage and function of your sinuses. However, surgery will usually only be recommended if all other treatment options have failed.

Your CarePlus pharmacist can offer advice and treatment options if you suspect that you are suffering from sinusitis. Click here to find your nearest CarePlus store.

Medications available over the counter in Ireland for sinusitis include tablets and sprays containing:

  • Pseudoephedrine
  • Phenylephrine
  • Xylometazoline

All these ingredients are contra-indicated in persons who are pregnant or suffering from certain health conditions, so be sure to tell your CarePlus pharmacist if you are expecting a baby or have an ongoing health condition. If you are looking for a more natural approach to treating Sinusitis, you can try boosting your immune system with preparations containing Zinc and Vitamin C. You can also use a saline rinse to find relief or oils such as Olbas Oil.

If you want further information about any of these products or have any questions regarding sinusitis please call into your local CarePlus Pharmacy

What causes sinusitis?

A viral infection is the most common cause of sinusitis. It's usually the result of a cold or flu virus that spreads to the sinuses from the upper airways.

Following a cold or flu, a secondary bacterial infection can sometimes develop, causing the membranes that line the inside of the sinuses to become inflamed.

An infected tooth can also sometimes cause the sinuses to become infected.

Diagnosing sinusitis

Your GP will usually be able to diagnose sinusitis from your symptoms (a blocked or runny nose with facial pain).

If you have severe or recurring sinusitis, your GP may refer you to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist who will try to determine the underlying cause.

The specialist may use a piece of equipment called a nasal endoscope to examine the lining of your nose and sinus openings.

An imaging test, such as a computerised tomography (CT) scan, may also be used to find out what's causing your sinusitis.

Complications of sinusitis

Complications of sinusitis are fairly uncommon, but when they occur they tend to affect children more than adults.

If your child has had sinusitis and their eyelid or cheekbone is swollen, they may have a bacterial skin or tissue infection (cellulitis).

Take your child to see your GP if you notice these symptoms. Your child may be referred to an ENT specialist.

In severe cases of sinusitis, antibiotics are often used to control the spread of infection to nearby bone.

Types of sinusitis

Sinusitis can sometimes develop quickly (over a period of a few days). It can develop after a cold or the flu. This type of sinusitis usually clears up within 12 weeks.

Sinusitis that lasts for more than 12 weeks is known as chronic sinusitis. It's less common but can sometimes last for many months.

Visit your local CarePlus Pharmacy for more advice.