A sinus infection, also known as sinusitis, is caused due to inflammation of the sinuses. This condition is mostly triggered by common cold virus, bacterial attack on upper respiratory tract or an allergen attack. The sinuses produce mucus to trap dirt or pathogens that enter through the nasal passage. When these foreign invaders irritate the sinus lining, it increases the production of mucus to eliminate maximum number of germs or allergens.
In this condition, the sinus cavities get blocked and normal mucus drainage gets affected, which results in nasal congestion. This moist environment is an ideal condition for growth of harmful germs that aggravate the infection further. If a sinus infection is left undiagnosed for some time, then it often leads to an ear infection.
How does Sinusitis Trigger Ear Infection?
The infection of the sinus cavities easily spreads into the ear canal mainly because of their close proximity. There is a thin tube called Eustachian tube that connects the inner part of the ear with the back of the nasal passage. Spreading of the sinus infection becomes much easier because of the presence of Eustachian tube in this area.
As you sneeze, cough or blow your nose, the fluid from the nasal passage tends to escape into the ear canal. Normally, when any fluid substance enters the ear, it is drained out through the Eustachian tube into the nose, which later flows down the throat. Due to sinus infection, the Eustachian tube gets blocked by mucus and it cannot drain out the fluid and it gets trapped inside the ear. This fluid build up promotes bacterial growth and leads to an ear infection.
In case of sinus ear infections, you can obviously observe symptoms of both sinus infection as well as ear infection. Some typical symptoms are as follows -
- Severe nasal congestion
- Thick nasal discharge, which is often greenish or yellow in color
- Pain and tenderness in the facial area around the eyes and nose
- Fluid discharge from ear
- Difficulty in hearing
- Ringing in the ears
- Fever and chills
This infection has to be resolved under the guidance of an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) specialist. Different options of treatment are available for sinus and ear infections. Corticosteroid nasal sprays are widely used for bringing down the inflammation of the nasal passage and sinus lining. As the inflammation goes down, the excess amount of mucus production will stop and one can get relief from nasal congestion and other sinusitis symptoms.
The nasal decongestants are often accompanied by suitable oral antibiotics. These medicines can destroy the bacteria and treat the infection. You have to take the medicines for 10-14 days as per the instructions provided by the doctor. If it is found that allergic reaction played a role in the sinus infection, then doctors prescribe antihistamine medicines, which control the effects of histamines released by the body and thus reduce the inflammation of healthy cells of the sinus lining.
Then comes the treatment for the ear infection. Antibiotic ear drops are prescribed, which have to be administered directly into the ears. The components of these ear drops kill the bacteria that causes irritation and inflammation in the ear. Your doctor will advice you to use these drops along with the oral antibiotic medicines discussed above. A severe ear infection has to be treated with pain relieving medicines. Such medicines work for sinus pain as well.
Warm compression is highly effective for treating the pain caused by ear and sinus infection. Soak a washcloth in hot water and squeeze out the water from it. Now, place this warm and moist cloth on the painful parts like the cheeks, nose and ear. The heat released from the damp cloth brings relief from the pain and helps you to relax.
Lastly, I would like to tell you that ear and sinus infection is not contagious but it causes a lot of discomfort as both the ears and nose get blocked and you experience a congested feeling all the time. Therefore, once it is successfully treated, you will never want it to come back all over again. The recurrence of this condition can be prevented if a sinus infection is not neglected and is treated promptly as soon as its early signs are observed.