Monday, June 13, 2016

My Lovely Sinus Infection

For the past 8 or 9 years, I've been developing sinus infections from air travel. With literally billions of people traveling by air every year now, researchers are finally starting to gather and publish more data about the health risks associated with airplane travel. In terms of the common cold, it is now well-accepted that acute respiratory infections are frequently experienced after air travel. Studies have found a high prevalence and wide array of respiratory viruses in people who have recently traveled. 

My sinus problems have ranged from slight dripping in the back of my throat to clogged ears to perforated eardrums.  Trust me, it's no fun when your ear drums burst while your plane is descending.  Sometimes these infections and problems have healed on their own, but most often times I've needed to see my doctor for an antibiotic.  For awhile, I used a nasal rinse to help me avoid sinus problems and it seemed to work.  But then I got lazy and stopped using it.

I recently caught what is undoubtedly the worst sinus infection of my life.  On May 26th, we had flown from Chicago to DC to attend a friend's wedding.  Flew on Thursday night, and by Sunday morning, I was starting to feel the familiar problems:  sniffles, sore throat, dripping sinuses.  Knowing we were flying back to Chicago the following day, I stopped into CVS to get a decongestant to hopefully ward off the congestion.  No such luck.  By the time our plan landed in Chicago on Monday night, both of my ears were completely clogged.  But I decided to tough it out.

I kept taking the decongestant and added a nasal spray to the mix.  By the end of the week, my face was swollen from the sinus infection, my nose was clogged and only one ear had "popped" since landing 5 days prior.  I now needed professional intervention.  

I visited a doctor in my usual physician's practice who prescribed me Azithromycin, or Zpak.  I was given a 5-day Rx, but after Day 3, there were no changes plus my face was in great pain.  I couldn't even touch the skin, it was too sensitive.  So I emailed my doctor who then prescribed a steroid for the pain.  So for about a week or so, I was on Zpak, a Prednisone, an OTC decongestant, Flonase, a nasal rinse, and sat over top of a steaming pot of water with my head covered in a towel every night.  

But this wasn't the worst of it.

The absolute worst part of this whole thing was the fact that I could smell the infection inside my body.  Perhaps because it's in my sinuses, I could actually smell inside myself.  And the smell ain't good - I could only equate the smell to sewer gas.  The smell was constant, but when I sniffled, the smell intensified.  It was unbelievable to me that others could not smell it or that it was not coming out through my breath, but I'd been assured that the odor was completely contained inside my head.


I can handle the drippy nose and the clogged ears.  I can deal with the sore throat and headache.  I'll live with the feeling of nausea from the dripping and the acid reflux from swallowing bile.  I'll work around the sensitive skin and general overall malaise.  And I'll figure out how to handle the chronic constipation caused by taking a combination of antibiotics and steroids.  But constantly smelling the equivalent of an open sewer line is simply unacceptable.  And there's no escaping it.  It's always there - at least until the infection is gone.  Out of the many, many sinus infections I have ever had, this is the first time I can smell it.  And it's way stank.

So today is Day 16 of this endeavor and I am no longer on any medications.  Perhaps the sinus infection is still in there, perhaps it's gone and I now just have allergies, perhaps I'm losing my mind.  Whatever the case, papa ain't happy and I am no fun to live with.  Kevin has been his usual supportive, loving, wonderful self.  And I admit I am not the world's best patient.  So hopefully something clears up before we fly again over the July 4th holiday.

Click here for the continuing story ...

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