Sinus infections or sinusitis is a common condition among truck drivers. This is due to the fact many drivers are exposed to dust, chemicals and other harmful substances on a daily basis.
The definition of sinusitis is simply an inflammation of the sinuses and nasal passages. As you probably remember from science class, the human skull contains four major pairs of hollow air-filled cavities called sinuses. These cavities are connected to the nasal passages. The sinuses have several different functions which include insulating the skull, reducing its weight and allowing the voice to resonate within them.
Sinusitis occurs when something such as a chemical, allergen or pollutant causes an irritation of the mucus lining inside a sinus cavity.
This irritation leads to inflammation or swelling of the mucus lining which in turn obstructs the normal process that removes bacteria and viruses from the sinuses. As a result, the bacteria or virus will multiply and invade the surrounding tissue within the sinuses causing the symptoms associated with sinusitis.
The signs and symptoms of sinusitis depend largely on which sinuses are affected. However, there are common symptoms which are usually present with most infections which include nasal congestion, headache, pain and pressure in the face and skull (which is worse when coughing or sneezing) and fever. Other symptoms which are specific to the location of the sinuses include tender, red or swollen skin above the sinuses, eye pain, double vision and occasionally sore throat.
It is important to seek medical help when experiencing pain or pressure in the upper face which is accompanied by nasal discharge, congestion or persistent bad breath. Although fever can be a common symptom of both sinus infections and colds, it is recommended that you see your doctor if you are also experiencing facial pain or headaches.
In most cases, your doctor will be able to treat sinusitis relatively easily. However, if left untreated, it can lead to serious medical complications and possibly death.
The diagnosis of sinus infections is most often made based on a medical history and physical examination.
If further diagnostic testing is needed then your doctor will probably send you for a CT scan as it will be able to clearly visualize all of the sinuses and nasal passages.
Another possible diagnostic test is an ultrasound. This procedure is fast and reliable however, it provides less detail than a CT scan.
If you are diagnosed with sinusitis, your doctor will prescribe medications which are designed to reduce the swelling or inflammation in the nasal passages and sinuses, eliminate the infection and promote drainage from the sinuses.
There are also a few things that you can do at home to help open up the sinuses and relieve their dryness. First of all, drink plenty of water to help stay hydrated. You could also try to inhale steam a few times per day by leaning over a bowl of hot water or taking a hot shower.
As I always say, the best treat- ment is prevention. Here are a few simple hints on how to prevent sinus infections: Avoid getting colds and upper respiratory track infections by maintaining proper hygiene.
Next, avoid exposure to harmful and irritating chemicals and pollutants such as cigarette smoke and chlorine from swimming pools.
Seasonal allergy sufferers should plan their activities accordingly to minimize their exposure to allergens such as pollen and grass. Finally, stay well hydrated by drinking water and other fluids as this will keep the nasal secretions thin and viscous. Although these suggestions may seem trivial, they will greatly reduce your chances of developing a sinus infection.
Until next month, drive safely! •
-Dr. Chris Singh, B. Kin., D. C., runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont.
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