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Too Sick to Work: Sinus Infection

An acute sinus infection can cause yellow or green nasal discharge, nasal stuffiness, facial pain or pressure, headache, or aching in the upper jaw and teeth.

If you feel too sick to work, stay home. You may have so much throbbing facial pain or headache that you can’t concentrate on your job. Try some self-care.

Use decongestants for a few days, Haynes says. Nasal irrigation with saline solution also helps to cleanse the sinuses. “Some people get tremendous relief that way,” Cummins says.

But if symptoms don’t improve in a few days or get worse, it’s time to see the doctor, who may treat you with antibiotics.

What about flying for business? Neither Haynes nor Cummins counsels patients to absolutely avoid airplanes if they have a sinus infection. But both urge caution because air pressure changes inside the cabin may worsen pain, especially on takeoff and landing.

“If you’re really sick, I wouldn’t travel anyway,” Haynes says. “But if you have a mild sinus infection and you have to travel, take a decongestant and/or antihistamine before you get on the plane.”

In rare cases, flying with a sinus infection could cause a ruptured eardrum, Cummins says. “It’s a very sudden, painful event, often followed by a bit of blood that may come out of the ear.”

“That sounds like a horrible thing,” Haynes says, “but most of the time, it would heal itself.” A ruptured eardrum typically repairs within two months; any hearing loss is usually temporary.

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