Updated 22 August 2018

Preventing sinusitis

The more sinus infections you get, the greater the chance you’ll need an operation. Preventing sinusitis is best.

The inflammation of the sinuses is caused by a fungal, viral or bacterial infection, commonly known as sinusitis

While exposure to sinusitis cannot be entirely avoided, there are some measures you can take to reduce your chances of infection. Here are some measures you can take to reduce your chances of sinus infection:

Treat colds and allergies promptly

It is important to treat colds and allergies quickly to avoid a secondary infection developing in the sinuses. Reduce nasal congestion by frequently using a nasal spray. Drink plenty of extra fluids when you have a cold as this keeps mucus draining. 

Avoid pollutants and smoke

Smokers and those exposed to cigarette smoke are more prone to sinus infection. If you are a smoker, quitting may lessen the severity of chronic sinusitis. Other chemicals and pollutants with strong odours can also irritate the sinuses. Avoid prolonged exposure to paint, petrol, industrial-strength cleaning products and other chemicals to reduce irritation and inflammation of the sinuses.

Have an allergy test

If you suffer from frequent sinus problems, you may be suffering from allergic rhinitis. An allergy screening will determine the causes and triggers of any allergy you may have. Allergens such as mould, animal dander, pollen and dust mites can all trigger chronic sinusitis.

Reliable allergy tests are the skin-prick test and the ImmunoCAP IgE test. The ISAC (a type of IgE test), may be of benefit in some instances. The CAST test and the Patch test may occasionally be of benefit. The BEST/Vega and IgG test are worthless and not based on reliable scientific data.

Spend less time in the pool

Swimming can wreak havoc with your sinuses. Diving and swimming underwater can cause water to be forced from the nasal passages into the sinuses. Sinusitis can also be triggered from chlorine irritating the lining of your sinuses.

Up your antioxidants

The best way to prevent sinusitis is to stick to a healthy diet. Increase your daily intake of vegetables and fruits, especially those high in antioxidants. Grapes, berries, nuts, spinach, broccoli and beans are full of antioxidants that will boost your immune system and fight off sinus infection.

Use a decongestant when flying

Air travel can worsen sinus problems for some, due to the changes in air pressure. If you have chronic sinusitis, use nasal drops when flying to reduce discomfort associated with the build-up of pressure in your sinuses.

Read more:
What is sinusitis?

Reviewed by Dr Harris Steinman MBChB. (UCT), D.CH (SA), FAAAAI, D.Av.Med. (SAMS), Private specialist at FACTS (Food & Allergy Consulting & Testing Services), February 2015. Original article compiled by Marinda Louw with the assistance of the Allergy Society of South Africa (ALLSA) and ENT specialists.


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Sinusitis Expert

Dr Gary Kroukamp MBCHB, FCORL(SA) is an ENT Specialist, practising from rooms at Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont, Cape Town. He also has a teaching sessional appointment as an ENT Consultant at the Tygerberg Hospital. He is a member of the ENT Society of South Africa and the South African Cochlear Implantation Group. His interests in the ENT field include sinusitis and sinus surgery, nasal allergy and ENT conditions in children.

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