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However, the two vary considerably in their durations. If you have a viral sinus infection, youll typically start to feel better in 5-7 days. Symptoms unique to bacterial sinusitis include:
- Your condition gets much worse after you seem to be improving
- You have a high fever of 100° F or higher
- Symptoms lasting longer than 7-10 days
Whats The Best Way To Get Sinus Pressure Relief
Over-the-counter options include nasal decongestants and nasal steroid sprays. Some people try saline spray and nasal irrigation to find relief. Others stick with over-the-counter pain relievers to manage pain and fever symptoms. Drinking plenty of fluids, applying warm compresses to the sinus area, light facial massage and vaporizer use can also keep congestion moving on the way out.
This is a very complex problem and depending on the severity and the level of inflammation there are a host of diagnostic exams and tests to be performed before a true diagnosis can be made so that a treatment plan can be formulated, Winarsky says.
As such, there is no silver bullet or one pill to take that can alleviate all the symptoms.
While a sinus infection can go away on its own, it is a good idea to make an appointment with your doctorespecially if you seem to be getting a lot of sinus infections. Also, nasal discharge, fever, congestion or pain that lasts more than 10 days warrants a trip to see your physician.
Treatments For Sinus Infections
Sinusitis can range from mild to quite severe. If you are experiencing continuous sinus discomfort, we have varioustreatment options that can provide effective relief.
Allergies such as hay fever can certainly lead to sinus blockages. Antihistamines are helpful as they can ease congestion, particularly during the peak times of the year for pollen production and other allergens.
Saline Nasal Sprays or Drops
A nasal spray or drops can reduce swelling and inflammation in the sinuses. This improvement allows bacteria and blockages to be cleared from the nasal passages.
More severe cases of sinusitis are caused by bacterial infections. In these circumstances, it can be beneficial to take antibiotics to clear up a persistent sinus problem.
While sinus surgery is relatively rare, there are occasions where it is the appropriate measure to take. If tissue or bone is blocking the sinuses, a surgical procedure can help. Some patients may also need surgery for the removal of nasal polyps.
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What Is A Natural Antibiotic
Ginger. The scientific community also recognizes ginger as a natural antibiotic. Several studies, including one published in 2017, have demonstrated gingers ability to fight many strains of bacteria. Researchers are also exploring gingers power to combat seasickness and nausea and to lower blood sugar levels.
Essential Oils For Sinus Infection
There are many essential oils that have antiseptic, antifungal, antibacterial and anti inflammatory properties, including:
- Eucalyptus oil
- Thyme oil
- Rosemary oil
Combining a few drops from different oils may be the best route to obtain maximum benefit from their different properties. Components of eucalyptus oil help to clear the air as well as break up mucus, while oregano oil is a potent antibacterial and antifungal oil. Eucalyptus is commonly found in cough drops and other medicines, but using it as an essential oil will yield a pure and more concentrated dose. There are a few ways to reap the benefits of these oils when you have a sinus infection.
- Steaming add a few drops to a pot of boiled water and hold your face over the steam.
- Sinus irrigation add a few drops to your neti pot solution for sinus irrigation.
- Homemade vapor rub or massage oil combining a few drops of essential oil with a base oil such as coconut oil or olive oil will yield a mixture that you can massage onto your throat to soothe and break up congestion.
- Oral consumption put one drop of food grade essential oil on the roof of your mouth. Careful not to consume much more than this, as essential oils are highly concentrated.
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Types Of Sinus Infections: Chronic Vs Acute
There are four types of sinus infections. These classifications depend on the length and frequency of the infection:
- Acute sinusitis.This type of sinus infection lasts only for a short time, defined by the American Academy of Otolaryngology as less than 4 weeks. This short-term infection is usually part of a cold or other respiratory illness. It may also be caused by a bacterial infection .
- Subacute sinusitis. A subacute sinus infection lasts between 4 and 12 weeks .
- Recurrent acute sinusitis. An acute sinus infection is considered recurrent if the infection returns four or more times within a year, with each infection lasting 7 days or more.
- Chronic sinusitis.Chronic sinus infections last for more than 12 weeks or continue to recur.
Many sinus infection symptoms are common in both acute and chronic forms. Seeing a doctor is the best way to learn if you have an infection, find the cause, and get treatment.
For cases of acute bacterial sinus infections, these symptoms last at least 10 days without improving, or they worsen within 10 days after seeming to improve. In this case, its important to talk with a doctor, such as a general practitioner or an ear, nose, and throat doctor , to get a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Learn more about the symptoms of a sinus infection below.
How To Distinguish Between Viral And Bacterial Sinusitis
Viral and bacterial sinus infections may be very similar symptomatically, and a sinus infection that begins as viral can develop into bacterial sinusitis. Much of the time, you can determine if a sinus infection is bacterial, by answering the below questions:
Has the sinus infection lasted for 10 or more days, without any improvement?
For the first three to four days of the infection, did you experience postnasal drip, face tenderness, and a high fever ?
After a cold which lasts five to six days and seems to get better, do symptoms start to get worse, with new face pain or headache, fever, and worsening postnasal drip or stuffiness?
If the answer is yes to one or more of these questionsyour sinus infection may be bacterial.
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Rare Cases Can Turn Serious
Antibiotics also can help ward off rare but potentially dangerous complications that arise when a sinus infection spreads to the eyes or brain, Dr. Sindwani says.
Complications around the eyes are the more common of the two. These complications can cause redness, swelling around the eyes and reduced vision, and even lead to blindness in a severe form known as cavernous sinus thrombosis. Serious cases are immediately treated with IV antibiotics. Patients are usually admitted to the hospital for a CT scan to see if fluid needs to be drained, Dr. Sindwani says.
Also in rare cases, sinus infections in the rear center of ones head can spread into the brain. This can lead to life-threatening conditions like meningitis or brain abscess, Dr. Sindwani says.
Before antibiotics, people would die from sinusitis, he says. But he emphasizes that such complications are unlikely. In most cases, the bacterial infection goes away, especially if you dont have underlying medical problems.
Its important to monitor your symptoms if you suspect a sinus infection. If the condition lingers or worsens, call your doctor.
Ways To Recognize Serious Signs Of Sinus Infections
The length of the infection is an important determinant of the seriousness of the infection.
I usually consider most infections less than 3 weeks to be viral or inflammation related to congestion. At this point, the best treatment is usually medications that decrease the congestion and inflammation. This in turn will alleviate the symptoms and ultimately cure the illness.
When the illness continues beyond 3 weeks, bacterial infection can begin to develop. Though antibiotics can be considered at this point, other treatments may still be the best answer if they have not yet been given a try.
#2: Mucous Color
I will dispel a myth right here and now. Yellowish/greenish mucous does not necessarily mean the infection is bacterial.
Viruses can cause the same color mucous. The reason for the mucous is generally not the actual bacteria or virus, but the bodys immune response to the intruder.
So dont worry just because you see a colored mucous when you blow your nose. This will also improve as the infection abates.
#3: Sinus Pain
Sinus pain can occur anytime throughout a sinus infection. This is normal and means there is inflammation in the sinuses, as we discussed previously.
However, severe pain, redness over the skin, hardened skin over the sinuses, or even a severe headache are not generally normal and can indicate a bacterial infection.
A fever can be caused by both viruses and bacteria. So how do you differentiate between the two?
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How Is Acute Sinusitis Treated
Acute sinusitis is typically a short-term condition that is not too severe. For many people, little or no treatment is needed. Most people get better on their own after seven to 10 days.
Antibiotics are only helpful for bacterial infections. Most sinusitis is due to viruses or other causes that are not cured by antibiotics.
Other treatment options include ways to manage your symptoms. You can:
- Try nasal sprays and decongestants. You should not use over-the-counter medicated nose sprays longer than three days unless your healthcare provider says you should.
- Get extra rest and drink extra fluids.
- Use over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen if you have significant pain.
- Irrigate your nasal passages with saline solution. Since this is just salt and sterile water applied to the nose for cleaning, you can continue longer than five days.
How Are Bacterial And Viral Sinusitis Diagnosed
Although most cases are viral, its important to appropriately identify whether your sinus infection is viral or bacterial. Differentiating between the two often comes down to the duration and severity of their symptoms. When meeting with a patient who has sinusitis, I first ask about their health history, as well as what their symptoms are and how long theyve had them. More tests arent usually needed, though if a patient has had several bouts of acute sinusitis the following tests might be used:
- CT scan: A CT scan can show more information regarding your sinuses and nasal cavity.
- Nasal endoscopy: A nasal endoscopy is a procedure where a doctor places a thin tube with a camera into the nasal cavity and sinuses. It can show whether a blockage is responsible for the symptoms, such as a tumor or polyp. A culture can show which type of bacteria is causing the infection, and the best antibiotic to treat it.
The Infectious Disease Society of Americas clinical practice guidelines state that a sinus infection is likely bacterial in nature if the following are present:
Did You Know?
Distinguishing an upper respiratory infection from viral sinusitis is challenging. 20-40% of children diagnosed with viral sinusitis most likely just have a URI, according to this study.
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Types Of Sinus Infection
The most common sinus infections are called acute bacterial rhinosinusitis , and they typically last about seven to ten days. Sensitive means its happening right now, while bacterial refers to the inflammation associated with infection. Rhinitis describes swelling in your nasal passages. When evaluating an individual for a sinus infection, their doctor will consider how long symptoms have been present and any other complications like fever or earache these things can signal that there is another underlying condition making them worse than usual which requires immediate attention by your physician.
Sinusitis may also be chronic if youve had multiple bouts of respiratory problems within twelve months or more. This kind of sinus infection lasts much longer.
Subacute sinusitis. Symptoms characterize this type of sinus infection for less than four weeks there may be no fever, and pain levels are generally low.
Recurrent acute bacterial rhinosinusitis . Suppose you have two or more bouts within twelve months. In that case, this can indicate that the problem isnt resolved on its own because your bodys natural defenses cannot fight off the bacteria effectively enough without help from antibiotics, surgery, medications, or just time healing it naturally.
About Author: Lisa Coon
Lisa Coon is a Writing Coordinator for OSF HealthCare, where she has worked since August 2016. A Peoria native, she is a graduate of Bradley University with a degree in journalism. Previously, she worked as a reporter and editor at several newspapers in Iowa and Illinois.She lives in Groveland with her husband and son. In her free time she likes to cook, bake and read. She freely admits that reality TV is a weakness, and she lives by the quote, The beach is good for the soul.
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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 initially improving.
- Symptoms lasting more than 10 days without improvement.
- 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
How Can I Get Rid Of My Sinus Infection
On the topic of staying home, rest plays a key role in recovering from a viral sinus infection. Viruses must run their course, so getting lots of rest may help shorten the duration and severity of your illness. Its also important to drink plenty of water and to stay away from things that can further irritate your sinuses, like cigarette smoke, strong perfumes and airborne allergens.
While treatments cant cure a viral sinus infection, there are several steps you can take to reduce your symptoms as you recover. Try using a saline nasal spray to rinse your sinuses and an over-the-counter decongestant to help you breathe more easily. On average, the symptoms of a viral sinus infection last for about seven to 10 days.
While many sinus infections can be addressed with self-care measures, you should promptly seek medical care if:
- You have a fever
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How Long A Sinus Infection Lasts
While the symptoms youre experiencing wont necessarily help you determine the cause of your infection, the duration of the sinusitis can provide some clues. Often, viral infections dont last that long. If your sinus infection lasts for about a week, its usually due to a virus.
Bacterial sinus infections, on the other hand, can persist for some time. They usually last for 10 days or longer. While viral infections usually start to get better after a few days, bacterial infections tend to get worse over time. Bacteria are usually responsible for cases of chronic sinusitis.
Other Remedies For Symptom Relief
Staying hydrated can help thin mucus to ease congestion.
Drinking hot liquids such as tea and broth may help relieve your symptoms. Breathing in moist air may also help relieve the discomfort that comes with nasal congestion. Try breathing in steam from the shower, a bowl of hot water, or a mug of tea.
If your voice is hoarse, rest it by avoiding yelling, whispering, and singing.
Placing a warm compress over the inflamed area can help reduce pressure and provide relief.
damages the natural protective elements of your nose, mouth, throat, and respiratory system.
If you smoke, consider quitting. Ask a doctor if you need help or are interested in quitting. Quitting may help prevent future episodes of both acute and chronic sinusitis.
Wash your hands frequently, especially during cold and flu seasons, to keep your sinuses from becoming irritated or infected by viruses or bacteria on your hands.
Using a humidifier during the cooler, dryer months may also help prevent sinus infections.
Talk with a doctor to see if allergies are causing your sinusitis. If youre allergic to something that causes persistent sinus symptoms, you will likely need to treat your allergies to relieve your sinus infection.
You may need to seek an allergy specialist to determine the cause of the allergy. The specialist may suggest:
- avoiding the allergen
- doing allergic immunotherapy
Keeping your allergies under control can help prevent repeated episodes of sinusitis.
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When Do Symptoms First Appear
The symptoms of a sinus infection often come on suddenly. COVID-19 symptoms can develop more gradually 2 to 14 days after exposure to SARS-CoV-2.
Viruses that cause a cold or flu tend to circulate in the fall and winter months. COVID-19 can occur any time of the year. While a sinus infection could develop following COVID-19, this hasnt yet been reported by research.
A sinus infection can also occur after exposure to allergens or irritants, such as pollen, pet dander, and cigarette smoke. If you have allergies or were recently around an irritant, you may be at risk for a sinus infection.
How To Prevent A Sinus Infection
Prevention is really the key, she said. Staying healthy by drinking plenty of fluids, getting adequate rest, decreasing stress and washing your hands are all good preventive steps.
Make sure you get recommended vaccines such as the flu vaccine. Also, dont smoke and avoid secondhand smoke. And avoid close contract with others who have colds or other upper respiratory infections, Melinda said.
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