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The Medical Treatment For Sinus Infection

Jul 23, 2008
Blood cells and lining cells of the mucosa in the sinuses can normally fight off foreign invaders. However, when overwhelmed by viruses and bacteria, coupled with a depressed immune system or over-reactivity to allergens, the result is the inflammation associated with sinusitis.

With appropriate therapy, a short-lived infection can be treated effectively. Because foreign substances trigger numerous reactions, many treatments are available that can treat the symptoms of inflammation.

Decongestants help reduce airway obstruction and are important in the initial treatment to alleviate symptoms.

OTC nasal sprays [pseudophedrine (Afrin), phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine), naphazoline (Naphcon) chlorzoxazone (Forte), Otrivin, for example) work the fastest within one to three minutes. These agents should not be used for more than three days because they become less effective and more frequent applications become necessary to attain the same clarity in breathing.

This "rebound" phenomenon can be reduced by alternating between nostrils and using the medicine less frequently. Some people over-treat their nasal congestion with nasal spray and become dependent on it in order to breathe more easily (a disorder called Rhinitis Medicamentosum). Overcoming the dependency requires a difficult withdrawal program involving oral decongestants, saline, steroid nasal sprays, systemic steroids, or a combination thereof.

OTC oral decongestants (in tablet or liquid form) contain the active ingredients pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine. Most drug stores offer a wide variety of oral decongestants, all offering similar results. Brand name medications are more expensive but release the drug more slowly, so they can be taken less frequently.

Generic medications are less expensive and are taken every four to six hours or as needed. They work much slower than nasal sprays do. Usually, oral decongestants achieve their effect within 30-60 minutes.

As with the nasal preparations, oral decongestants may become less effective with prolonged use. The rebound phenomenon exists but is not as severe as with spray preparations. Preparations containing pseudoephedrine are now kept behind the counter at the pharmacy but are still available without a prescription.

Both nasal and oral decongestants have side effects, including general stimulation causing increased heart rate and blood pressure, insomnia, nervousness, anxiety, tremor, dry mouth, blurry vision, and headache.

They may also cause an inability to urinate. Therefore, persons with a history of cardiac disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, or urinary problems (especially prostate disorders) should consult a physician before using decongestants. In addition, combining decongestants with other over-the-counter or prescribed medicines with similar side effects may cause dangerous complications.
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