Sinusitis (Sinus Infection)

What is it?

Sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses, which can be the after-effect of the common cold, allergies, cigarette smoke, an infected tooth, nasal deformity, or even a foreign object in the nose. Any of these may cause a block in the sinuses in which bacteria may grow, causing the infection.

Sinusitis (Sinus Infection)

Symptoms

The symptoms of a sinus infection vary from patient to patient, but can include a combination of the following:

  • Runny nose, often with yellow or green discharge
  • Irritation, tickling and/or drainage in the throat
  • Swelling and/or tenderness around the eyes
  • Headache
  • Fever

Diagnosis

Sinusitis (Sinus Infection)Because the symptoms of sinusitis can closely mimic other ailments, it’s important to see your physician for an accurate diagnosis. In addition to listening carefully to your symptoms, and asking questions, your physician may perform the following imaging and/or lab tests to make a diagnosis:

  • Physical examination
  • Sinus culture
  • Sinus X-ray or computed tomography (CT) scan

To gain an accurate diagnosis, it is important that you clearly and carefully describe your symptoms to your physician.

Treatments

Once your physician has diagnosed a sinus infection, and determined a cause, he or she will recommend a treatment plan to ease symptoms and address the root issue.

Most treatment plans will include a combination of the following, depending on the root cause of the sinusitis:

  • Antibiotics
  • Analgesics for pain management (DO NOT give aspirin to a child with a fever, as this may cause Reyes syndrome)
  • Smoking cessation (for adults) or avoidance of second-hand smoke (for children)
  • Surgical removal of the adenoids
  • Endoscopic sinus surgery
  • A cool mist humidifier to ease nasal irritation

If your sinusitis is recurring and allergy-related, your physician may recommend treatment by an allergist or immunologist once the current infection is gone.

Helpful Hints

  • Do not take an antihistamine for your sinus infection unless recommended by your physician; if your sinusitis is not allergy-related, an antihistamine will not help.
  • For any antibiotic therapy to be effective, it must be taken as per the physician’s instructions. If these instructions are unclear, please consult your physician.

Pharyngitis (Sore Throat)

What is it?

Pharyngitis is a sore throat, caused by inflammation from bacteria, fungus, virus, parasite and/or cigarette smoke. Most commonly, pharyngitis is caused by a virus or bacteria, which are easily spread from person to person, so most sore throats occur during the cold winter months, because people spend much of their time indoors in close contact with others.

Pharyngitis (Sore Throat)

Symptoms

Pharyngitis can manifest itself in a variety of ways from patient to patient, but most often they include a combination of the following:

  • Irritated, sore, scratchy throat
  • Difficulty or painful swallowing
  • Low-grade fever
  • Redness, drainage and swelling in the throat
  • Loss or decrease of appetite and/or nausea

Diagnosis

Pharyngitis (Sore Throat)Because pharyngitis has so many causes, it is important to see your physician for a diagnosis, so he or she can recommend a, effective treatment plan. To diagnose the cause of the pharyngitis, your physician may perform a combination of the following examinations and tests:

  • A physical examination
  • A throat swab, to check for GABHS (strep throat)

Treatments

Your (or your child’s) treatment plan will vary depending on the cause of the pharyngitis, but will often include a combination of the following:

  • If the cause of the pharyngitis is GABHS or another bacteria, a round of antibiotics will be prescribed. If the cause is viral, your physician will NOT prescribe antibiotics, since they will not help, and may greatly lessen the effects of antibiotics if they’re required for another infection or illness later.
  • Acetaminophen, increased fluids and/or throat lozenges, to ease pain and irritation.

If your symptoms worsen, or do not recede after the full course of antibiotics has been used, please consult your physician again.

Helpful Hints

  • NEVER give a aspirin to a child with a fever, as this may cause Reyes syndrome.
  • An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! To avoid getting sick, wash your hands thoroughly and often, and teach your children to do the same.

Lower Back Pain

What is it?

At one time or another, most Americans will suffer from lower back pain. Most often, it can be prevented or treated by the patient, but it can also be a symptom of a more serious, treatable chronic back problem. Lower back pain can be caused by a variety of factors, such as ageing, arthritis, injury, strain, or simple overuse. Because lower back pain is so common, but so debilitating, self-care and physician care are important.

Lower Back Pain

Symptoms

While symptoms of lower back pain vary from patient to patient, the most common in acute and/or recurring pain and tenderness in the back, sometimes accompanied by numbness or tingling in the legs. The pain can be at a single point, or spread over the entire lower back region.

Diagnosis

Lower Back PainIf you are experiencing lower back pain that does not lessen after two weeks of self-care, or if the pain worsens and/or spreads, please consult your physician for a diagnosis and treatment plan. To diagnose the cause of your lower back pain, your physician will likely ask you detailed questions about your pain and your physical activities. He or she will also perform a physical exam. Lab and imaging tests, such as X-rays and MRIs are often NOT performed, since they do not aid in the diagnosis of muscle-related back pain. They will only be performed if your physician suspects an injury, such as a herniated disc or broken bone.

To gain an accurate diagnosis, it is important that you clearly and carefully describe your symptoms to your physician. It’s a good idea to keep a journal of your lower back pain episodes to share with your physician, to help diagnose your back pain as acute, recurring, and/or chronic.

Treatments

Because often lower back pain is causes by overuse or strain of the muscles of the lower back, most often a treatment plan will consist of a combination of the following elements:

  • Over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medication, taken on a regular schedule
  • Heating pad on the affected area for 15 minutes every 3 hours
  • Physical therapy to strengthen the back muscles. Physical therapy may be performed at home, as part of a self-care fitness regimen, or at a physician’s office. The best exercise for strengthening the muscles of the lower back is simple walking.

If your physician diagnoses a lower back injury, he or she may recommend surgery, but very few patients require surgery to address chronic lower back pain.

Helpful Hints

Because lower back pain is often caused by strain and overuse, prevention is key in avoiding further lower back pain incidents. To prevent lower back pain, your physician may recommend the following:

  • Losing weight, if your weight is an issue
  • Smoking cessation
  • Wearing low-heeled, supportive shoes
  • Using proper lifting technique
  • Get regular exercise, especially those that will strengthen your core muscles

Gastroenteritis

What is it?

Gastroenteritis is caused by an inflammation and/or irritation of the gastrointestinal tract, namely the stomach and intestines, caused by ingesting tainted water or food-borne bacteria, parasites and viruses. It can also be caused by certain prescription and over-the-counter medications, or by ingesting something with dairy, if the patient is lactose intolerant.

Gastroenteritis

Symptoms

Symptoms of gastroenteritis vary from patient to patient, but can include a combination of the following, in varying degrees of severity:

  • Fever
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating and pain
  • Cramping
  • Tenderness and/or swelling in the abdomen
  • Dehydration

Diagnosis

GastroenteritisBecause some of these symptoms may lead to dehydration, especially in infants and the elderly, it is important to seek professional medical attention if the vomiting or diarrhea lasts more than 48 hours, if there is blood in the stool, or if you suspect the person is becoming dehydrated. In addition to listening carefully to your symptoms, and asking questions about medications, dietary changes, and recent travel, your physician will likely perform imaging and/or lab tests to make a diagnosis. These tests may include a combination of the following:

  • Stool analysis, to check for parasites or blood
  • Physical examination of your abdomen

To gain an accurate diagnosis, it is important that you clearly and carefully describe your symptoms to your physician.

Treatments

Depending on the cause of the gastroenteritis, and the severity of it, treatment plans will vary from patient to patient. Because there is such a danger of dehydration, your physician will recommend drinking non-caffeinated, non-dairy liquids, in particular those containing electrolytes.

A treatment plan may include any combination of the following:

  • Rehydration drinks
  • Prescription antibiotics, depending on the type of bacteria detected, if any
  • An over-the-counter emetic, depending on the type of bacteria detected, if any
  • Gradual return to a solid-foods diet, beginning first with the BRAT diet (banana, rice, applesauce, toast)
  • If the gastroenteritis is caused by a food sensitivity or intolerance, or a medication, your physician may recommend a dietary supplement or change, or a different medication

Helpful Hints

  • Because many cases of gastroenteritis are caused by contact with infectious germs, to avoid infection, wash your hands before and after handling food, and always after using the bathroom or handling a diaper.
  • If at any time your symptoms worsen, please consult your physician again.

Ear Infection

What is it?

Inflammation of the middle ear, called otitis media or an “ear infection,” is often related to a pre-occurring sore throat, cold, or respiratory infection. The inflammation causes the eustachian tube (which connects the inner ear to the throat) to malfunction, leading to the painful, irritating build-up of fluid, which can encourage the growth of virus and bacteria and cause acute otitis media.  Though ear infections are most common among children (nearly 80% of all children will have at least one before the age of 3), adults can suffer from them, too.

Ear Infection

Symptoms

Symptoms of an ear infection are similar for adults and children, and vary from patient to patient. They may include a combination of the following:

  • Ear pain
  • Increased ear drainage
  • Hearing loss
  • Loss of balance
  • Fever
  • Congestion

In infants and small children, who cannot verbalize their pain, some symptoms may manifest as irritability, fatigue, tugging at their ears, difficulty sleeping, and/or a decrease in appetite.

Diagnosis

Ear InfectionBecause the symptoms of an ear infection often mimic other serious ailments, and because small children may have difficulty in explaining their symptoms, it is important to consult your physician for a diagnosis. In addition to listening carefully to your symptoms, or your child’s symptoms, your physician will likely perform tests to make a diagnosis. These tests may include a combination of the following:

  • Physician examination with an otoscope, allowing the physician to see the outer and inner ear.
  • Physician examination with a pneumatic otoscope, sending a gentle puff of air into the ear to gauge ear drum movement.
  • Tympanometry, to test the condition and function of the inner ear.
  • Hearing test (often recommended for children or adults who have frequent ear infections).