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Can Sinus Infection Heal On Its Own

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Determining If Its A Viral Or Bacterial Infection

Ask Dr. Mike: What is a sinus infection and how do I treat it?

Though all sinus infections may feel the same theyre not all caused by the same thing. Sinusitis is either caused by a viral or bacterial infection.

If your infection is caused by a virus, itll typically clear up on its own within two to three weeks. To potentially speed up your recovery time, we suggest patients get plenty of water and rest. If your infection is bacterial, then you may benefit from antibiotics.

Sinus Infections Most Clear Up Without Antibiotics

ROCHESTER, Minn. Sinus congestion and the common cold go hand in hand. Usually, congestion goes away within a week or so as the body fights off the illness. But sinus congestion and a feeling of sickness can linger and worsen, which may indicate a bacterial infection.

The October issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter covers sinus problems, including symptoms of a bacterial infection and when antibiotic treatment may help clear out the stuffiness.

Sinus inflammation often begins with a cold, caused by a virus. When the sinuses become irritated and inflamed, sinus tissues swell. Expansion of these tissues can close off the ostia, the small openings that allow mucus to drain out of the sinus cavities. That blockage creates a feeling of stuffiness. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses and typically aren’t recommended within the first week of developing a cold.

The stagnant, moist environment of a blocked sinus cavity gives bacteria a place to grow and thrive. If bacterial infection develops, antibiotics may have a role in treatment. It’s tricky to determine whether sinusitis is caused by a virus or bacteria. The symptoms congestion, facial pain, drainage of mucus, cough, headache and feeling unwell can occur with both types of infections.

The likelihood of bacterial infection increases when:

Medications For A Sinus Infection

Sometimes, your sinus infection wont go away without care from your primary care doctor or otolaryngologists . Most bacterial sinus infections can be cured with the help of antibiotic medicines a type of medicine that kills bacteria. Antibiotics will help you feel better after a couple days, but its important to finish the entire amount that your doctor prescribed.

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Unlocking The Mystery Of Your Sinuses: Answers To 8 Common Questions

An empty space can be a lot of something. That’s the story of your sinuses four pairs of air-filled interconnected cavities located between your eyes and nose. Along with the nasal passages in the nose, your sinuses produce and circulate mucus.

While the sinuses are small, they can cause a lot of misery for some people. Your sinuses are connected to your external environments through the nasal passages, and your sinuses can be exposed to allergens, viruses, fungi and bacteria. This can lead to inflammation, congestion, excess mucus, pain, postnasal drip and swelling around your eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead. Each year, about 29 million U.S. adults are diagnosed with an infection in their sinuses, also called sinusitis.

Do You Need Antibiotics For A Sinus Infection

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A viral sinus infection will likely resolve itself on its own, but it can take a few weeks to do so. If the sinus infection is caused by bacteria, it is likely to need antibiotics in order to resolve. But antibiotics arent a cure-all. They will not cure a sinus infection that was caused by a virus or an irritant in the air.

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Two Types Of Sinus Infections

Determining how long your sinus infection will last is dependent on what type you are experiencing. Acute sinusitis lasts for less than four weeks. Chronic sinusitis can last for more than 12 weeks.

The majority of sinus infection sufferers will see their symptoms start to resolve after about 10 days. While one to two infections a year is considering normal, more than four requires medical attention.

If you are experiencing chronic sinusitis with a single infection lasting three months at a time, there may be other factors to consider. Environmental factors such as smoking or allergies are common causes of developing chronic sinusitis.

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Check If You Have Sinusitis

Sinusitis is common after a cold or flu.

Symptoms of sinusitis include:

  • pain, swelling and tenderness around your cheeks, eyes or forehead
  • a reduced sense of smell
  • green or yellow mucus from your nose
  • a sinus headache

Signs of sinusitis in young children may also include irritability, difficulty feeding, and breathing through their mouth.

The sinuses are small, empty spaces behind your cheekbones and forehead that connect to the inside of the nose.

Sinusitis causes the lining of the sinuses to swell up.

This stops mucus draining into your nose and throat properly, making you feel blocked up.

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How Do I Prevent Acute Sinusitis

Do not smoke. Smoking is not good for you or for people around you, since this can cause mucous to become clogged in the nose/sinuses. Avoid being around second-hand smoke, as well as other triggers like animal dander, dust, mold and pollen. Take pains to prevent sinus and other infections by:

  • Washing your hands well before and after eating and after using the bathroom.
  • Staying away from sick people.
  • Treating your allergies, possibly with nasal steroid therapy or immunotherapy .
  • Keeping your body and your immune system in good shape by eating well and staying hydrated.
  • Using a humidifier if your house is dry or an air purifier. Make sure to clean your equipment regularly.
  • Irrigating your nose when necessary with a saline rinse.

When To Seek Medical Care

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See a doctor if you have:

  • Severe symptoms, such as severe headache or facial pain.
  • Symptoms that get worse after improving.
  • Symptoms lasting more than 10 days without getting better.
  • Fever longer than 3-4 days.

You should also seek medical care if you have had multiple sinus infections in the past year.

This list is not all-inclusive. Please see a doctor for any symptom that is severe or concerning.

Other conditions can cause symptoms similar to a sinus infection, including:

  • Seasonal allergies

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When Do I Really Need Antibiotics For A Sinus Infection

When do I really need antibiotics for a sinus infection? is a question many patients have when suffering from bothersome sinus and allergy problems. While sinus infections can be quite painful, antibiotics often do not help in treating the condition.

Sinus infections affect approximately 37 million people in the U.S. each year and can be caused by:

The majority of sinus infections are viral in nature, and antibiotics do not cure viral infections. Taking antibiotics for viral infections also will not:

  • Keep you from being contagious to others
  • Relieve symptoms or make you feel better

In order to distinguish a bacterial sinus infection from an infection caused by a virus or other contributing factor, your doctor will observe your symptoms and possibly conduct other tests, such as a CT scan or cultures.

Antibiotics are only effective on bacterial infections, and even in cases involving bacteria, the body can often cure itself of mild or moderate infections within a few days.

What Are The Different Types Of Sinus Infections

Most sinus infections are caused by viruses, and theyll usually go away on their own. In fact, if the infection doesnt clear up after a week to 10 days, it can be an indication that its caused by bacteria. It may have started as a bacterial infection, or a viral infection may develop into a bacterial infection after your sinuses become filled with fluid and bacteria then forms.

If you have sinus infections that seem to clear up only to shortly return, you probably have a bacterial infection. Thick, dark, or greenish-yellow nasal discharge is another indication, but your doctor can perform tests to verify the type of infection if needed.

Sinus infections can also be classified as acute or chronic. Acute infections usually start suddenly with symptoms such as a runny, stuffy nose and facial pain and can last up to four weeks. Chronic sinusitis occurs when your infection persists for at least 12 weeks despite attempts to treat it.

In the short term, a sinus infection can cause a long list of symptoms, including the following:

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Runny Nose And Postnasal Drip

When you have a sinus infection, you may need to blow your nose often because of nasal discharge, which can be cloudy, green, or yellow. This discharge comes from your infected sinuses and drains into your nasal passages.

The discharge may also bypass your nose and drain down the back of your throat. You may feel a tickle, an itch, or even a sore throat.

This is called postnasal drip, and it may cause you to cough at night when youre lying down to sleep, and in the morning after getting up. It may also cause your voice to sound hoarse.

When To Use Antibiotics For Sinusitis

Essential Oils for Sinus Infection

Though most cases of viral and bacterial sinusitis clear up quickly on their own, some dont. Some last longer than a week with no signs of getting better. They can cause a fever that lasts for a few days, severe facial pain or forehead headaches, or symptoms that get worse after they seem to improve.

In those cases, dont wait for the infection to heal on its own. Seek medical attention. If your primary care provider suspects a bacterial sinus infection, you will likely receive an antibiotic prescription. Remember to avoid antibiotics in the early days of an infection. Excessive antibiotic use can reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics in the future. The American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology recommends you only take antibiotics if symptoms last longer than a week. In the meantime, allow your immune system to do its job.

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When Antibiotics Are In Order

The main reason to prescribe antibiotics is for patient comfort, Dr. Sindwani says. The medical field used to be more convinced than it is today than untreated sinusitis would inevitably become a chronic issue, he says.

We dont think that way as much, he says. We dont know that an untreated acute sinusitis, if left untreated, will grumble along and cause people to have a chronic sinus infection.

Some people think thats two separate things, with chronic sinusitis more likely due to underlying issues like allergies or immune problems.

How To Treat A Sinus Infection

You know how to treat a cold, but this seems like something else. That runny nose, facial pain, headache and sore throat just wont go away and you may also have bad breath and a cough. You go to the primary care provider and learn its not a cold its a sinus infection. What does that mean and how do you treat it?

Eric Jacksonon

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How To Treat Sinus Infections With Surgery

When other treatment methods fail, the final resort for sinusitis is surgery. In many cases, the goal is to fix defects in the sinuses. Reasons to undergo surgical treatment for sinusitis include:

  • Narrowing of the sinuses caused by other reasons
  • Presence of nasal polyps growths that block the sinuses and increase the risk of infection
  • Recurrent sinus infections
  • Small sinus drainage openings from birth

Are Sinus Infections Contagious

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A sinus infection caused by a virus is contagious. When you sneeze or cough, the virus can travel in droplets of moisture through the air. If another person breathes in the virus, they might develop a cold that turns into a sinus infection. In order to limit the spread of sinus infections, remember to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. And wash your hands frequently to avoid leaving the virus on objects that you touch.

If your sinus infection is caused by a bacteria or fungus, its not contagious. But you should still wash your hands frequently and cover your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze.

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Do Sinus Infections Go Away On Their Own

Whether a sinus infection can go away by itself depends on why it happened in the first place.

A sinus infection caused by bacteria may not necessarily disappear on its own. Sometimes, a doctor may prescribe you antibiotics, which you would take for around two weeks. After you start taking the medication, your symptoms will likely go away.

If the sinus infection is due to a fungus, you may be prescribed an antifungal medicine or fungicide.

Remember, however, that the most common form of sinusitis is viral. In this case, though, you will likely not need any treatment as the infection will resolve on its own within about two weeks. You can help the process along by:

  • Using a saline spray to rinse your nasal passages. This allows the mucus to thin out and acts as a decongestant, letting you breathe easier.
  • Using a nasal decongestant. For particularly bad cases where your sinus infection interferes with your daily routine, you can temporarily use an over-the-counter nasal decongestant, although not as frequently as a saline rinse.
  • Staying hydrated. Drinking more water can lessen the viscosity of mucus, making it thinner and easier to drain out of your nasal passages.
  • Getting enough rest. The tiredness that comes with a sinus infection is your body trying to fight it. Allow your body to get the rest that it needs to recover.

Can A Sinus Infection Last For Months

Sinusitis wont go away at the drop of a hat. It tends to linger and, if left untreated, it can last for months. Again, its best to take a trip to your doctors office if your symptoms last longer than one week.

Note that there is a chance that long-term sinus issues may be caused by allergens. If this is the case, then your sinus symptoms will likely last until you can escape the allergen or have the allergies treated.

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Treating Sinus Infections Without Antibiotics

Tomah, WI – People often want antibiotics to tackle a sinus infection but that might not be the best treatment since most infections are caused by viruses. Antibiotics fight bacteria, not viruses.

There are also complications that can develop with dependency on these drugs. The more antibiotics are used the less effective they can become, with possible side effects like dizziness, stomach problems and rashes.

Instead of turning to antibiotics, Alan Conway, M.D., family physician at Mayo Clinic Health System Franciscan Healthcare in Tomah, suggests some alternative methods of treatment. Dr. Conway says, First of all, you should give yourself enough rest. Your body needs the time to fight the infection with full force, especially in the first few days when symptoms are the most severe.

Dr. Conway also says. Watch out for over-the-counter products that contain oxymetazoline. These products may relieve symptoms for a few days, but they can cause congestion if used longer than three days. Instead, use generic pseudoephedrine pills if you are stuffed up for more than three days.

Sinus infections can turn into a bacterial infection, due to the prolonged blockage in the sinus cavity. It is not easy to determine whether the infection is viral or bacterial, considering that the symptoms are the same for both. Even if the infection becomes bacterial, 70% of the time the infection will go away within two weeks without antibiotics.

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Untreated Sinus Infection Risks

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Sinus infections often start to improve on their own after about 10 days. If your symptoms last longer without improving or if they worsen, a doctor may need to treat the underlying cause of the infection.

If a sinus infection affects a sinus cavity close to the brain, it can spread to the brain if left untreated. Though rare, an infection can also pass into the eye socket and cause vision changes or blindness. These types of infections are more common in kids.

While uncommon, a serious fungal sinus infection left untreated may pass into the bones.

Make an appointment with a doctor if you have severe symptoms, or if the following symptoms last longer than 10 days or keep coming back:

Because the cause of your sinus infection can affect your treatment options, its important to see a doctor for a diagnosis. The Healthline FindCare tool can provide options in your area if youre looking for a doctor.

If you believe you have chronic or recurring sinusitis, consider asking for a referral to an otolaryngologist, also known as an ear, nose, and throat specialist. You may need imaging and other tests to determine the cause of your symptoms.

An ENT specialist can take a culture of nose drainage to better understand the cause of an infection. The ENT specialist can also examine the sinuses more closely and look for any problem in the structure of the nasal passages that could lead to chronic sinus problems.

Conditions causing your chronic infections may include:

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Diagnosis Of Sinus Infection

To diagnose if you have a sinus infection, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and their timeframe, and give you a physical exam.

This exam may include looking in the nose for signs of polyps, conducting a transillumination test to identify inflammation, and tapping the sinus area to detect infections.

If you have a chronic sinus infection, your doctor may conduct additional tests, including:

  • Rhinoscopy or nasal endoscopy to inspect your sinuses and see if your membranes are inflamed
  • Mucus cultures to determine what is specifically causing your infection
  • Allergy tests to determine what allergens may be triggering your chronic or recurrent infections
  • CT scan to identify sinus abnormalities, such as polyps or a deviated septum
  • MRI scan to see if you have a nasal tumor or fungal infection

If you have a serious fungal sinus infection, your doctor may order a bone biopsy to see if the infection has penetrated your bones.

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