You know I knew I had a sinus infection last weekend. I’m not a medical professional but I do know my body pretty well and last weekend, the amount, texture, and colour of the mucous that my sinuses was producing was not normal. Like most of you, I’ve had countless colds where you get that typical stuffy nose. In that situation, you’re not congested 24/7 and you don’t wind up producing litres of mucous per day. Except that’s what was happening to me.
On Monday, I visited a doctor at a walk-in clinic to see if he believed I had a sinus infection. Look, I don’t want to be one of those Internet doctors that believe they know better than a medical professional. They’re the ones with the medical degree, not me. So the doctor listened to my lungs, took my temperature, and tapped his fingers on face where my sinuses where. He decided that I didn’t have a sinus infection and instead suggested I use a neti pot and steamy showers to loosen and clean the mucous from my sinuses. I must admit I was disappointed in his diagnosis but he did say if it got worse to come back. Well, it did get worse, a lot worse.
Over the course of the week, the congestion became much worse and the mucous production was relentless. By the weekend, I had to constantly be drinking water because my body was using so much of it to produce mucous. I also was afflicted with diarrhea the whole week. My guess is that the bacteria from the infection was obviously in the mucous and I was swallowing a lot of it as it dripped in the back of my throat. My digestive system reacted to it like it might if you ate some dodgy potato salad that had been in the sun too long. So safe to say, I was miserable by the time Friday came around, except the worst was still ahead of me.
By Saturday, the congestion was unrelenting. No matter how many steamy showers or whatever position I put my head in, my sinuses were nearly completely blocked and it became impossible to properly breathe through my nose. I literally had to draw every breathe into my lungs through my mouth. Now many of you might not realize this but relying on your mouth to breathe is not natural. As you read this, think about the last few seconds, where did you breathe from? Your nose. Now imagine you can no longer breathe from you nose. As a test, pinch or plug your nose and try to breathe only through your mouth. Doing so is not as automatic as breathing through your nose. You actually have to think about drawing air through you mouth and into your lungs. You also have to actively regulate how frequently you draw breathe as well. Normally, there’s a part of your brain that handles that for you with your nose.
Now you can probably imagine I was in severe discomfort at this point and I began to worry that if I breathed too fast I might hyperventilate and pass out. If I was unconscious, I had no idea if my body would know to switch to mouth breathing if it couldn’t get air through my nose. For the first time in my life, I realized I was probably in a situation where if I did that one thing wrong (breathing too fast through my mouth), there would be some serious medical consequences. As it was Saturday evening, my only recourse was to either go to the emergency department at the local hospital or call 911 and get an ambulance to come get me.
As I sat there manually and purposefully inhaling air so that my body could continue to stay alive, I cursed that first doctor that refused to give me any antibiotics. If I was going to go out this way, I was going to haunt that dude until the end of days.
Before going the ER route. I decided I should probably try to blow out any mucous that might be present. I did that and in the process nearly blew out both my eardrums and both my eyes from their sockets. Sometimes that does nothing to help congestion as the sinuses are so inflamed they just block the airways no matter how much snot you got up there. In my case, I did remove some mucous and but not a whole lot. Luckily, I also managed to find an angle where I could tilt my head that relieved enough pressure that I could partially breathe through my right nostril again. I felt safe enough again that I didn’t think I needed to go the ER at this moment. My condition went from “potentially life-threatening” to “just plain miserable”.
For the rest of the evening, I just concentrated on surviving and breathing. I actually stayed up as long as I could because I was afraid of falling asleep and asphyxiating. By 4am, my right nostril was clear enough that I thought it would be safe to sleep. I slept for about five hours which was the most sleep I’d had since Thursday night. I had to get up early because I was going to see a different doctor.
Before seeing the doctor though, I witnessed an incredible sight. I went at least five hours without clearing my sinuses and in that time my body was making mucous the entire time (actually it’s been making mucous every second of the day since last Friday). I went to blow my nose and a jaw-dropping amount of yellow-brown mucous came out of my right nostril. I’d never seen anything like that before. Most of it came out with the consistency of thick glue. I’d blow my nose and a stream of it would just eject out of my nostril. It just kept coming and coming. Some of it came out in more solid chunks that were mixed in with blood. I was using so many tissues that I decided I should just blow the mucous into the sink. As disgusting as the sight might have been, it was fascinating how much volume there is in your sinuses.
With most of my sinuses clear, I saw another doctor who instantly decided I needed to be antibiotics after I told her about my ordeal. She also prescribed a steroid nasal spray. I immediately filled out the prescriptions and wasted no time in taking the first dose of the antibiotic. The last time I had sinus infection this bad, antibiotics were the only thing that helped.
I’ve had two doses of the antibiotic now and I feel much better compared to just 24 hours ago. I’m still producing a bit of mucous but it’s clear now instead of glue-like. My sinus congestion has abated as well, not completely, but I am now breathing through my nose somewhat comfortably. In an overall scale though, I still feel terrible but that’s probably from not sleeping properly for a few days.
If there’s anything to learn from this is that I feel like all of this could have been avoided if I was given antibiotics on Monday. Unfortunately, it’s a tough situation because most doctors are hesitant to prescribe antibiotics immediately for sinus infections. There has to be some happy medium because as a patient, I shouldn’t have to wait until I’m a life-threatening condition before a doctor relents and decides, yeah ok, you can have your antibiotics.
One interesting little factoid before I go. I have been ill for the entirety of 2017. I have not been healthy on any day of this new year. Wonderful isn’t it?