Sinus Infection Relief

Find out how to spot sinus infection symptoms and ease the pain—or even stop your next sinus infection before it gets started

Sinus Surgery Was Harder Than I Expected

Pamela Bullock, 38, is a substitute elementary school teacher living in Media, Pa. For years she had as many as five sinus infections a year. Allergy shots, over-the-counter allergy medications, and other treatments were little help. She was frustrated; she’d tried every alternative until surgery seemed like the only chance for relief. Bullock finally had surgery in September 2008 to open up her sinuses and correct a deviated septum. The recovery was much tougher than she’d expected, but she’s glad she had the operation.

"The first two days after the surgery were the worst."
I work as an elementary school substitute teacher, and Im with kids all the time. So it's not too surprising that I'm surrounded by sick children. But four or five times a year I was coming down with something I knew wasn't just a cold. I would get a sore throat that didn't seem to go away, pressure around my eyes, and sometimes a mild headache. The symptoms seemed to last for days; I'd get nasal congestion, then postnasal drip, and I'd know I was in trouble—yet another sinus infection.

Typically I'd go to see my doctor and he would put me on antibiotics. Or I'd wait to see if the symptoms would just go away. I tried a humidifier at night to alleviate the stuffiness, along with nasal sprays. This would help a little, but it was very tiresome to feel like I constantly had a cold. I was rundown and felt miserable at times; I was frustrated that nothing seemed to fix the problem. I tried allergy medications such as Allegra, but they didn't really help either.

I know teachers are prone to sinus trouble because they're exposed to more cold viruses than people in the general population, and sinus infections can start with a cold. However, my doctor told me that people with allergies are at greater risk of sinus infections too; basically, anything that causes tissue in the sinuses to swell can start the process.

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I decided to get checked for allergies. They tested me for dozens of different things, but the only test that came back positive was for a dust mite allergy. I started having regular shots to treat the dust mite allergy about two years ago, and I still have them every four weeks. Unfortunately, they didn't solve my sinus trouble.

I decided to go back to my ear, nose, and throat doctor because I wanted to see if I was having any physical problems beyond the allergies. To help open the nasal passages, he recommended a nasal spray to ease the congestion, along with a mild steroid. This treatment made things a little better, but it wasnt enough. After two or three months, during which I had congestion and a runny nose almost constantly, we discussed sinus surgery. My doctor obviously didnt want to perform the surgery unless it was the only alternative; he didnt push it. During the procedure, he said, he could open up the sinuses around my eyes and along the cheek area by inserting instruments through the nose and carefully cutting away tiny bits of tissue and bone. My septum, which is the cartilage that separates the nostrils from one another, was also too far over on one side, making it very hard to breathe out of one of my nostrils. The plan was to fix this deviated septum and fix my sinuses at the same time.

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Last Updated: January 15, 2009

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