Sinus Report

Before Christmas, I got a cold. First the aching, then the sore throat, then the upper respiratory fun that always follows. I toughed it out with echinacea teas and extra rest when I could swing it. But I got worried when, two weeks later, I was still having intermittent coughing fits…and of course the multi-shaded mucous that this produced.

I mentioned my weariness of the cold to my sister who had had it. She said, “I’m over that, but now Aidan (my nephew) and I both have sinus infections.”

A few days later, I was still battling. The cough was exhausting, and seemed worse at night, and in the mornings. In fact, I realized, it was bad every I changed position, from upright to lateral and back, as if the mucous was shifting in the back of my throat.

A friend from Tallahassee called. “How are you?”
“Good, except for the cold that never ends.”
“Oh yeah, I’ve had a sinus infection forever. I took antibiotics but it’s still not right.”
Wow, I thought. My cold sucks, but I guess I’m lucky I’ve never had a sinus infection.

Then yesterday, in the wee hours, I woke with a sore throat. Oh no, was the cold taking a new turn? I started to panic. Maybe it was some new killer virus I would never be rid of. How could I possibly share a house with other students at Sundance in three days? I sat up and immediately started coughing. Suddenly it dawned on me…maybe “I” have a sinus infection!

I dove for the laptop and started researching. It hadn’t occured to me because I have suffered the headaches or “pressure” that you see in the commercials, but it all made sense. The fluid wasn’t in my lungs, it was dripping down my throat, irritating it and making me cough. I had a sinus infection!

Reading more about it, I felt better, then worse, but ultimately better. First, while a cold should run its course in a week. Sinus infections regularly last as much as a month. At first this didn’t seem great, because of course a week is shorter than a month. But since this had already lasted more than a week, better a sinus infection than worrying that one’s three-week-old cold is now walking pneumonia. Finally, my sinus infection might be gross, but it is not contagious. I could travel guilt-free.

The next question was, how should I treat my sinus infection. I had already been researching the “what does green mean” question in regards to cold mucous. How did this apply to a sinus infection. It seemed like a fairly localized thing. It’s been five years since I’ve taken antibiotics, and that’s a track record I’m proud of, after overusing for many years. But just going to the health center and getting that great feeling of relief you sometimes get from antibiotics seemed tempting. I decided that if the advice pointed in that direction, I would do it.

But this articles from the New York Times stayed my hand from picking up the phone. Apparently, even if the infection is bacterial, antibiotics are not as helpful as some of the people on the discussion boards exhorting one to “go take care of it immediately” would have me believe.

I did some follow-up research, and as the sun hit the window panes, I walked to the CVS and bought a neti pot.

As I stood over my sink contemplating the act of pouring salt water in one nostril and letting it come out the other, I had some trepidation.

“Won’t you drown?” asked Paul.

The answer is no. A little trick is to make your throat like you are about to make a “k” sound. It’s really not to bad, and I think of it like gargling-standard operating procedure for a sore throat-only for my sinuses.

I followed up last night by pulling out the humidifier.

How do I feel this morning? Still a little snotty. But my irritated throat is much improved, and my hopes are high.

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