When To Seek Medical Care
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
Causes Of Your Sinus Infection
Nearly 31 million Americans get a sinus infection each year, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
The inflammation of the lining of your sinuses, the air-filled pockets in your face that sit around your nose, is caused by a viral or bacterial infection. A viral upper respiratory infection, also known as the common cold, or allergies can block your sinuses. This blockage promotes the development of a secondary infection.
You may have heard the urban legend that you can tell the cause of your sinus infection by the color of your mucus. According to Dr. Donald Ford, a family medicine physician at the Cleveland Clinic, this is a myth.
The green-yellow color of mucus that can develop is a byproduct of our own white blood cells, which we use to fight any kind of infection, viral or bacterial, so we cant tell the cause from the color of the mucus, he said. When mucus is thick and dark it usually suggests some mild dehydration, and you should increase fluid intake and use lots of saline spray to keep the mucus thin.
How Do I Know If I Have A Sinus Infection
Cold symptoms that last longer than 7 to 10 days or that start to get better and then get worse again may be a sign of a sinus infection. You may have pain in your face or pain in your upper teeth. Other symptoms include a fever, tenderness over your face, and thick green or yellow mucus in your nose.
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Dont Rush To Antibiotics
The sinuses are small, hollow spaces inside the head. They drain into the nose. The sinuses often cause problems after a cold. They can also cause problems if they get blocked up from hay fever and other allergies. The medical name for sinus problems is sinusitis.
Sinus problems can be very uncomfortable. You may feel stuffed up. You may have yellow, green, or gray mucus. And you may feel pain or pressure around your eyes, cheeks, forehead, or teeth.
Each year, millions of people use antibiotic drugs to treat sinus problems. However, they usually do not need antibiotics. Heres why:
What You Should Do
Dr. Sedaghat recommends that you treat colds symptomatically. I tell my patients do whatever makes them feel better. Pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help. Home remedies that can improve nasal symptoms include saltwater rinses for the nose, Dr. Sedaghat suggests. He also points out that maintaining a healthy diet and drinking plenty of fluids can help keep your energy levels up.
Sinus infections are treated the same way as a cold. If bacteria cause the infection, antibiotics are an option. But many bacterial sinus infections get better on their own.
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A Less Invasive Intervention For Chronic Sinusitis
Sinusitis that occurs regularly and sticks around for three months or longer is called chronic sinusitis. While surgical repair of the sinuses may be necessary, it often isnt. Thats why the University of Maryland Medical System offers balloon sinuplasty in addition to sinus surgery.
During this procedure, the otolaryngologist inserts a thin flexible tube called a catheter into the nostril and leads it to the affected sinus. A tiny balloon is then expanded in the sinus through the catheter. This immediately opens blocked sinuses and grants relief from sinus infection.
What Is The Best Treatment For Sinus Infection
For those who suffer chronic sinusitis, the symptoms of sinus infection are easily recognizable. Viral, fungal, and bacterial sinus infection symptoms can feel very similar. Because we share common symptoms, it is easy to believe that all sinus infections are the same and all sinus infections have similar treatments. The truth is, your sinus infection is unique and your treatment should be customized to meet your specific needs, achieve your individual goals, and fit within your budget.
The best treatment for your sinus infection is the one that is designed specifically for you. The most successful physicians understand this and take a comprehensive approach to design a treatment plan that makes use of a wide variety of tools. Depending on your health condition and your unique needs, these tools may include:
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Diagnosis For Sinus Infection Vs Covid
Diagnosis for sinus infection
Your doctor will examine you and ask about your symptoms, including where you are feeling discomfort and whether you have recently been sick with a cold or other illness.
Your doctor can typically diagnose a sinus infection based on your symptoms. Based on this information, your doctor will likely be able to determine whether you have infected or inflamed sinuses. If your sinus problems are chronic or recur often, a doctor who specializes in allergies called an allergist may do some allergy tests to try to help figure out the cause.
If your sinus infection has been going on for a long time, or you have frequent infections in your sinuses, your doctor may use other procedures to assess the problem. Using a long, flexible camera called a nasal endoscope, your doctor may look into your sinus cavities to see their condition. Alternatively, your doctor may recommend a computerized tomography scan to assess the infection.
Diagnosis for COVID-19 coronavirus
If you suspect you might have COVID-19 coronavirus, consult local sources about testing availability and sites. Coronavirus can be confirmed by a viral test often a nose swab that tells you if you have an active infection or by a test for antibodies, which would be mean you had a past infection.
How Are Chills Treated
Layering clothes or getting to a warm place can make cold chills go away. You can also drink hot chocolate, coffee or tea to raise your internal body temperature.
If an illness, infection or another health problem causes chills, treating the condition should get rid of the symptom. Treatments vary depending on the underlying cause. They may include:
- Antibiotics for bacterial and parasitic infections.
- Antiviral medications for viral infections.
- Over-the-counter medicine, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen , for conditions like flu that cause fevers and chills.
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How Are Sinus Infections Treated
Antibiotics usually are not needed to treat sinus infections. Most sinus infections get better in a few days. If your symptoms do not get better after 7 to 10 days, you may need an antibiotic. It is important to tell your doctor if you have taken antibiotics during the past 6 weeks, because that may affect the choice of medicine you take for this infection.
Is It A Sinus Infection A Cold Or Allergies
Your nose is stuffed and your head is pounding. Heres how to tell if a cold, allergies, or a sinus infection is to blame.
A stuffy nose and headache are common symptoms of many illnesses. So how can you tell whether the culprit is a sinus infection, a common cold, or allergies when the symptoms of these three conditions are so similar?
It can sometimes be difficult even for doctors to differentiate, says Alan B. Goldsobel, MD, an allergist at Allergy and Asthma Associates of Northern California and an adjunct associate professor at Stanford University Medical Center in Stanford, California. But there are some key differences that can give you some clues. Get to know more about the symptoms of these three conditions to help you pinpoint the cause of your sinus congestion:
A Sinus Infection
- What it feels like: You can expect a stuffy nose, but also some runny, discolored mucus, Goldsobel explains. You may also experience a sore throat, cough, sneezing, headache, or fatigue. Another sign is a rising temperature: Colds often trigger a fever, he says, but sometimes those fevers are so mild that people think they have allergies instead.
- What triggers it: A virus.
- How long it lasts: People usually fend off the cold virus within seven to 10 days, Baroody says. But if your symptoms have lingered past that window of time, you might have sinusitis. If you suspect you have a sinus infection, you should talk to your doctor.
An Allergic Reaction
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Describing A Sinus Infection By Cause
Another way to describe a sinus infection is by what kind of germ causes it. Most sinus infections are caused by viruses, just like the common cold.
Viral sinus infections generally end on their own without any medical intervention. They usually only affect the upper respiratory system, with symptoms like runny nose, sore throat, facial pressure, congestion and headache.
But sometimes viral infections can turn into bacterial infections. Inflamed, blocked-off sinuses encourage the kind of moist, vulnerable environment where bacteria can thrive.
You might have a bacterial sinus infection if your symptoms linger beyond about a week. If your drainage turns yellow or green, that could mean your viral infection has turned bacterial.
Bacterial sinus infections typically need a little help from antibiotics to clear up.
Lastly, even though the vast majority of sinus infections are caused by viruses and bacteria, it is possible to have a sinus infection caused by a fungus. Most fungal sinus infections are caused by an allergic reaction to a fungus in the air, like black mold. This type is called allergic fungal sinusitis.
Another type of fungal sinus infection called invasive fungal sinusitis exists, but is extremely rare. People who are otherwise healthy dont get this infection. This type of infection is possible in severely immunocompromised people, such as those going through chemotherapy or with poorly controlled diabetes.
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.
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Sinus Infection Symptoms Follow A Different Path Than Colds
You may be able to tell if you have a sinus infection, depending on how your symptoms progress.
Most cases begin as a common cold, and symptoms usually go away in 7 to 10 days. In some cases, a bacterial infection develops.
Typically, the length of symptoms helps us tell if the patient has a sinus infection or a cold, Dr. Hur says. Cold symptoms usually improve within one to two weeks, though a cold can evolve into a sinus infection, which generally lasts longer without treatment. Also, a cold can affect other areas beyond the nose, such as the throat.
If you have bacterial sinusitis, you might experience the following:
- Fever greater than 102 degrees Fahrenheit
- Nasal drainage or postnasal drainage that looks very discolored or thick, like pus
- A double worsening, meaning that you start to get better but then feel worse again
When Do You Really Need Antibiotics For That Sinus Infection
- By Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributor
It was February, and clinic was teeming with respiratory infections of all kinds: mostly the common cold, but also bronchitis, pneumonia, and sinus infections. The patients were coming in usually thinking that they needed antibiotics for their sinus infection, or another respiratory infection.The first patient on my schedule was a healthcare provider with sinus infection written down as her main issue.* Shed had about two weeks of nasal and sinus congestion which she blamed on a viral upper respiratory infection . Her two young kids had been sick with colds all winter, so she wasnt surprised to have these symptoms, along with endless postnasal drip and a cough.
Her congestion had improved a bit at one point, and she thought that she was finally getting better. But then, the day before her appointment, she awoke with throbbing pain between her eyes, completely blocked nasal passages, and, more concerning to her, green pus oozing from her left tear duct. She had body aches, chills, and extreme fatigue. Do I maybe need antibiotics? she asked.
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Types Of Sinus Infections
During your visit with an ENT, its crucial to identify the potential causes of your sinus infections. Identifying the root of your health concerns helps the doctor design an optimal treatment plan to alleviate your pain.
Its common for sinus infections to be caused by a viral infection, which means that you can use at-home care for a few days. The symptoms will usually clear up in a week to 10 days, with over-the-counter remedies to help you stay comfortable.
Blocked, congested sinuses can also be the perfect breeding ground for the growth of bacteria. For example, there are times when it starts as a viral infection, then develops into a bacterial sinus infection.
Another potential cause of sinus discomfort is a fungal infection. Treatment for this type of condition may require different kinds of medication or surgery to clear up the infection.
Keep in mind that certain health conditions might contribute to the risk of sinus infections but dont cause the infections directly:
These health issues result in sinus blockages, which creates the conditions for an infection to form.
Can Sinus Infection Make You Dizzy
When you have a sinus problem, it is possible that the pressure in your ear can become too great and cause dizziness.The symptoms of this condition vary from person to person but one thing they all share? A sense of imbalance due both efforts needed by their brains inner ears as well as those felt while standing still or walking around without any physical activity!
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Antibiotic Treatment For Bacterial Sinusitis
Antibiotic treatment is usually only needed if the infection does not improve within 7-10 days, the person has another medical condition which may affect recovery, or if:
- Severe pain is present
- Swelling at the front of the head, cheeks or around the eyes occurs
- Nasal discharge contains blood
- High fever is present
These are indications that the bacterial infection is severe. Antibiotic treatment is usually prescribed for about 10 days, but shorter courses may be as effective, depending on the bacteria involved. The choice of which antibiotic to use will be based on which bacteria the treating physician thinks are likely to be involved in the infection.
When To Contact A Medical Professional
- Your symptoms last longer than 10 to 14 days or you have a cold that gets worse after 7 days.
- You have a severe headache that is not relieved by over-the-counter pain medicine.
- You have a fever.
- You still have symptoms after taking all of your antibiotics properly.
- You have any changes in your vision during a sinus infection.
A green or yellow discharge does not mean that you definitely have a sinus infection or need antibiotics.
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Side Effects Of Medication
Some chills are the result of the bodys response to taking medications and adjusting or stopping medications:
- Diabetes medications: Insulin and drugs like sulfonylureas and meglitinides that increase insulin secretion by the pancreas can cause hypoglycemia-related chills. This happens if you have too much insulin and havent matched it with your food intake or physical activity level.
- General anesthesia for surgery: People can experience chills upon waking from anesthesia.
- Chemotherapy medications: Medications that you are taking to calm down your immune system and chemotherapy to fight cancer can have flu-like side effects, including fever and chills. Symptoms typically peak and resolve after treatment over a few days.
Make note of medication side effects to discuss with your healthcare provider. In severe cases, a healthcare provider may be able to prescribe other drugs to help you cope with your chills when they result as side effects to medications you are on.
Although some of the symptoms are shared, there are several distinct ways to tell if you have covid or a sinus infection.
Its human nature to sometimes think the worst if you experience any symptoms in todays environment but in fact, the common cold, influenza, allergies, and sinus infections share some of the same symptoms as the COVID-19.
Heres how you can tell the difference and when you should consider seeking medical help.