Sinusitis Risk Factors

Young Children

An undeveloped immune system of a child makes him prone to all types of respiratory infections including sinusitis. He may, for example, catch a cold every month or two. Young children are vulnerable to the cold virus that they may have to endure about 8 to 12 times each year. Smaller sinus and nasal passageways can likewise make them at high risk for upper respiratory tract infections compared to adults and older children. Otitis media or middle ear infection and other certain types of ear infections are also symptoms of sinusitis. When the child reaches the age of 9, his immune system then becomes strong enough to withstand sinus infections.

The Elderly

The weakened state of the immune system of the elderly makes them at high risk for sinusitis. The nasal passageways slowly dry out as one ages. Moreover, because of wear and tear, the cartilage that bears the weight of the nasal passages weakens resulting in changes to airflow. Elderly people also suffer from lessened gag and cough reflexes as well as weakened immune functions that make them especially susceptible for severe respiratory infections compared to younger adults.

Individuals with Allergies or Asthma

This group of people is particularly vulnerable to sinus inflammation even if it’s not of the infectious kind.  Patients with severe asthma are very likely to get sinusitis. The risk for recurrent acute or chronic sinusitis is high in people who have a combination of aspirin sensitivity, asthma and nose polyps (termed triad, ASA or Samter’s).

Hospitalization – When you are in a hospital, you are at high risk to acquire sinusitis especially if you:

Have a poor immune system (if you are immunocompromised)
Breathe using a mechanical ventilator – You are especially vulnerable to developing maxillary sinusitis
Have health problems that entail the insertions of tubes through the nose
Have head injuries

Other Medical Conditions that Affect the Sinuses

Listed below are some medical problems that make you susceptible for chronic sinusitis:

Kartagener’s syndrome – This is a genetic condition that causes the cilia (hair-like structures in the body that functions to convey mucus through the respiratory passageways) to dysfunction.
Cystic fibrosis – Another genetic condition that causes the mucus to abnormally accumulate and thicken
Hypothyroidism or poor thyroid gland function – This condition results in respiratory congestion that resolves upon treatment of the condition
Intravenous or oral steroid treatment
AIDS and certain immune system disorders – These conditions makes the person at risk for sinusitis especially from fungal infections
Septal deviation or nasal polyps
GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease

Other Risk Factors

Air pollutants – These include cigarette smoking. Air pollution generated by tobacco smoke, industrial chemicals or other pollutants can cause the cilia to dysfunction and impairing the movement of mucus through the sinuses although it is still not clear whether air pollution are critical factors causing sinusitis. Tobacco smoke, for example, causes a minor risk in adults for developing sinusitis. Exposure to second-hand smoke can be a risk for acquiring sinusitis among children but has no real effect on the sinuses of adults.

Atmospheric pressure fluctuations – individuals who swim, climb to high altitudes or fly or anyone who experience changes in atmospheric pressure can develop blockages to their sinuses and hence have a high likelihood of getting sinusitis.

Dental problems – Dental problems or even certain dental procedures make a person at risk for anaerobic bacterial infection. About 10% of people with maxillary sinusitis have been infected due to certain dental problems or procedures.

Christina Prieto is an Orlando acupuncturist, a certified Yoga instructor and the founder of Harmony Wellness center in central Florida.

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