Pregnancy has its own set of symptoms. Some days you may feel physically and emotionally well, and other days you may feel ill. Many women experience morning sickness, tiredness, and back pain throughout their three trimesters.
Getting sick with a sinus infection while having these pregnancy symptoms can take a toll on the body.
Here’s how to prevent and treat a sinus infection.
Sinusitis can develop at any point during the first, second, or third trimester of pregnancy. This is an infection and inflammation in the lining of your sinuses. The sinuses are air-filled pockets located around the face and nose.
A sinus infection can cause different symptoms, including:
- mucus drainage
- stuffy nose
- pain and pressure around the face
- sore throat
The symptoms can be worrisome, but there are ways to treat and prevent a sinus infection during pregnancy.
Symptoms of a sinus infection can mimic other conditions like allergies and the common cold. An acute infection can last up to four weeks. Chronic infections can last more than 12 weeks. Sinusitis during pregnancy can be triggered by a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection.
In some cases, a sinus infection is a complication of the common cold. You’re also at higher risk for a sinus infection if you have allergies. In both conditions, mucus can block the sinus cavities and result in swelling and inflammation. This can lead to an infection.
A sinus infection causes unpleasant symptoms. Although it can make you feel worse while pregnant, relief is available.
You may be concerned about taking medication for a sinus infection while pregnant. Your concerns are valid. The good news is that there are over-the-counter (OTC) medications that are safe to take while pregnant.
For example, you can relieve a sinus headache and sore throat with acetaminophen (Tylenol). Make sure you take the pain reliever as directed.
Other medications might be safe to take during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor before you take:
- cough suppressants
Aspirin (Bayer) isn’t recommended during pregnancy. Likewise, avoid ibuprofen (Advil) unless you’re under a doctor’s supervision. Ibuprofen has been linked to pregnancy complications, such as reduced amniotic fluid and miscarriage.
Consult your doctor if you have questions about safe medications to take while treating a sinus infection during pregnancy.
Medications like cough suppressants, pain relievers, and decongestants can relieve symptoms of an infection. But if you want to avoid using medications during pregnancy, you can treat your symptoms with home remedies.
Increasing your fluid intake can ease a sore throat, loosen mucus drainage, and clear a stuffy nose. Ideal fluids include:
- citrus juices
- decaf teas
Here are some other home remedies to relieve your sinus infection symptoms:
- Use saline drops from the pharmacy, or make your own drops using 1 cup of warm water, 1/8 teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of baking soda.
- Run a humidifier at night to keep your nasal passage clear and thin mucus.
- Sleep with more than one pillow to elevate your head. This stops mucus from accumulating in your sinuses at night.
- Use steam to help loosen the mucus.
- Gargle with warm salt water to soothe a sore throat, or suck on throat lozenges.
- Slow down and relax. Rest can strengthen your immune system and help you fight the infection.
If you have facial pain or headaches from sinusitis, relieve pain by placing a hot or cold pack on your forehead, or gently massage your forehead. Taking a warm bath may also provide relief from a sinus headache. Be sure the water isn’t too hot. Hot baths should be avoided in pregnancy.
A sinus infection can resolve itself with home treatment. But there are times when you should see a doctor.
Make an appointment with your doctor if your symptoms don’t improve with OTC medications or home remedies, or if your symptoms worsen.
Contact your doctor if you have a fever higher than 101°F (38°C), or if you start coughing up green or yellow mucus. Also see your doctor if you have recurrent sinus infections.
Leaving a severe sinus infection untreated increases the risk of complications, such as meningitis. Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes in the brain or spinal cord.
An untreated infection can spread to other parts of the body, such as the bones, eyes, and skin. It can also affect your sense of smell.
If you seek medical attention, your doctor may conduct a variety of tests. These include:
- Nasal endoscopy. Your doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube into your nose to examine your sinuses.
- Imaging tests. Your doctor may order a CT scan or an MRI to take pictures of your sinuses to help them confirm a diagnosis.
Depending on your specific case, your doctor may also order a nasal and sinus culture to determine the underlying cause of your sinus infection. You may also undergo allergy testing to see whether allergies are triggering your chronic sinus infections.
Getting a sinus infection while pregnant isn’t fun, but there are ways to prevent and lower your risk.
These infections often develop after the common cold, so try to do everything possible to avoid getting sick with a cold. Limit contact with sick people. Consider wearing a facial mask to protect yourself from germs. It’s also important to wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your mouth and nose.
If you have allergies, ask your doctor about pregnancy-safe antihistamines to manage your symptoms (prescription or OTC). Also avoid situations that can trigger an allergy flare-up. Avoid establishments with heavy scents or cigarette smoke. Stop using fragrances and cleaning products with strong odors.
Dry air prevents the sinuses from draining, so using a humidifier to increase the moisture level in your home can also reduce your risk of a sinus infection.