Sinusitis: Viral Vs Bacterial Infection
After youve tested, call your primary care doctor to schedule an in-person or virtual visit. Talk through your symptoms, and then your provider can help you determine the best next steps, Dr. Ruff says.
If you have a negative COVID test, we can see you and determine if you have an actual sinus infection and then determine the best treatment, Dr. Ruff says. Were swabbing everyone at my clinic with a respiratory viral panel, which is the same COVID swab, but in addition to COVID, it tells you what virus you have, such as rhinovirus or a number of other respiratory viruses even the flu.
A sinus infection, sinusitis, occurs when your sinuses become inflamed and blocked. This is why you may feel pain or pressure in your face. Sinusitis is usually caused by a virus, but bacterial infections also can cause it.
A viral sinus infection will usually begin to improve after five to seven days. A bacterial sinus infection will last seven to 10 days or longer and may get worse after a week.
To help alleviate your symptoms, stock up on nonprescription pain relievers, fever reducers, decongestants and cough drops. Stay home, rest and drink lots of fluids. Using a humidifier in your bedroom might help. Your provider may prescribe antibiotics if your symptoms last longer than 10 to 14 days.
You dont ever treat with antibiotics unless its been more than 10 to 14 days because, in that situation, you may have a bacterial infection, Dr. Ruff says.
Is It Covid Or A Sinus Infection
The COVID pandemic has killed more than one million people around the globe. With the fall ushering in traditional influenza season, medical professionals express concern that the outbreaks will continue for the foreseeable future. Protecting yourself is of the utmost importance. One way to do this is to understand the differences between COVID-19 and the common sinus infection.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , the symptoms for COVID-19 appear two to 14-days after youve been exposed to the virus. The symptoms could be mild or severe depending on factors that were still trying to understand. They may include:
- Body aches
- Postnasal drip
- Tooth pain
Craig P. Chase, M.D., a partner of Oviedo Medical Research, says, For sinus infections versus COVID-19, sinus infections are usually something that youve had for a while. It could start with allergies, it could start with a cold, and then kind of evolve into a sinus infection.
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Causes And Risk Factors Of Sinus Infection
The terms “sinus infection” and “sinusitis” are often used interchangeably, but sinusitis simply refers to the inflammation of the sinuses, with or without an infection. The medical term for sinusitis is rhinosinusitis because the illness affects the mucous membranes in both the sinuses and nose.
Sinus infections ultimately develop because of sinus and nasal blockages that result in sinus inflammation. There are several underlying causes of sinus blockage, including various environmental, anatomical, and genetic factors. But the most common cause of the blockage is inflammation or swelling of the nasal passages because of the common cold or allergies.
In healthy people, mucosal secretions are always moving and draining into the nasal cavity. But
when blockage occurs, mucus fails to drain properly, increases in thickness, and fills the sinus spaces.
The cilia also slow down their sweeping and cleaning, making it even harder for mucus to drain.
When the mucus is unable to drain, it becomes the perfect medium for microbes to grow out of control and cause an infection.
What Is A Sinus
The sinuses are also called the paranasal sinuses because they are hollow, air-filled spaces present within bones around the nasal cavity . The paranasal sinuses drain into the nasal cavity.
Sinuses are present in pairs. They are:
- Frontal Sinus Above and between the eyes
- Maxillary Sinus Over the cheeks
- Sphenoidal Sinus Between the eyes and upper part of nose
- Ethmoidal Sinus Between the eyes and near the temples
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Research And Statistics: Who Gets Sinus Infections
Each year, acute sinusitis affects about 31 million Americans, who spend a whopping $1 billion on over-the-counter medications and $150 million on prescription medications to treat the illness, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology.
Epidemiologic studies suggest 5 to 12 percent of people have chronic sinus infections. However, research published in December 2018 in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggests this may be an overestimation due to misdiagnosis. According to the study, which relied on imaging tests for diagnosis , about 3.0 to 6.4 percent of people may have chronic sinus infections. 32786-6/fulltext” rel=”nofollow”> 5)
What Is A Sinus Infection
A sinus infection, medically known as sinusitis or rhinosinusitis, occurs when your nasal cavities become infected, swollen, and inflamed. Fluid buildup in the sinuses can cause germs to grow, leading to a sinus infection.
Sinusitis is usually caused by a virus and often lasts even after other upper respiratory symptoms are gone. In some cases, bacteria or, rarely, fungus may cause a sinus infection.
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What Decongestants And Nasal Sprays Soothe Or Cure Sinus Infections Or Sinusitis
Taking decongestants and mucolytics orally may be helpful in assisting drainage of sinus infection.
The treatment of chronic forms of sinus infection requires longer courses of medications, such as Augmentin, and may require a sinus drainage procedure. This drainage typically requires a surgical operation to open the blocked sinus under general anesthesia. In general, antihistamines should be avoided unless it is felt that the sinusitis sinus infection is due to allergies, such as from pollens, dander, or other environmental causes.
It is likely that the use of a topical nasal steroid spray will help reduce swelling in the allergic individual without the drying that is caused by using antihistamines although both are occasionally used. Oral steroids may be prescribed to reduce acute inflammation and to help with chronic inflammation in cases with or without polyps and in allergic fungal sinusitis.
In many people, allergic sinusitis develops first, and later, bacterial infection occurs. For these individuals, early treatment of allergic sinusitis may prevent the development of secondary bacterial sinusitis.
In rare instances or in natural disasters, fungal infections may develop in debilitated people. Death rates of 50%-85% have been reported for patients with these sinus infections. Treatment relies on early diagnosis followed by immediate surgical debridement, antifungal drugs, , and stabilizing any underlying health problem such as diabetes.
When To See A Doctor About A Sinus Infection
On the other hand, a secondary acute bacterial infection may develop, so it’s advised that you see a doctor if your symptoms last more than 10 days or if your symptoms initially improve but then worsen again within the first 7 days.
See a doctor immediately if you experience:
- A persistent fever higher than 102 degrees F
- Changes in vision, including double vision
- Symptoms that are not relieved with over-the-counter medicines
- Multiple infections within the past year
- Sudden, severe pain in the face or head
- Swelling or redness around the eyes
- Stiff neck
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How Long Does A Sinus Infection Last
Unlike a cold, which typically resolves in five to 10 days, a sinus infection can last four weeks or longer. Sinusitis may be acute , chronic , or recurrent . Since the symptoms of a sinus infectionwhether its bacterial or viralcan be similar to those of a cold, the longer duration of the symptoms is generally the easiest way to know its sinusitis.
Some Steps You Can Take
Whether your sinus infection turns out to be viral or bacterial, you can help to ease your symptoms early on with supportive sinus care:
If your symptoms arent improving after one week, its important to see your doctor. If a bacterial infection is suspected, youll probably need to take an antibiotic to clear up the infection and prevent further complications.
If your infections occur more frequently, and your doctor really wants to establish if they are bacterial or viral, your Otolaryngologist or ear, nose and throat doctor can sample the snot from your nose when youre infected and send it to a laboratory to know for sure.
Note: Antibiotics wont help a viral infection, and taking an antibiotic unnecessarily can do more harm than good. You risk possible side effects and increase your chances of developing antibiotic resistance, which can make future infections harder to treat, says Dr. Sindwani. So its important to wait and see how long your symptoms last.
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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
Complications Of Sinus Infection
Sinus inflammation can spread to the bones and soft tissues of the face and eyes. This can cause:
- Cellulitis of the face or around the eyes
- Abscesses of the eyes
Left intreated, sinus infections can also lead to serious intracranial complications, including blood clots within the cavernous sinus, pus between the skulls and dura mater , and meningitis.
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Sinus Infections: Your Top 5 Questions Answered
Cold and flu season isnt quite over yet. If you have congestion that includes sinus pressure, you may have a coldor it could be a sinus infection. How can you be sure that its one or the other, and when is it time to make an appointment with your doctor?
Eric L. Winarsky, M.D., an otolaryngologist and surgeon with Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group, helps answer the 5 most Googled questions about nasal inflammation and sinus infections.
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.
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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.
How Is Sinusitis Diagnosed
Often, your healthcare provider can diagnosis sinusitis based on your symptoms and a physical exam. Sometimes other tests are done. These may include:
Cultures from the nose
Sinus computed tomography . This imaging method uses X-rays and computer technology to make images of the body.
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best care based on:
How old you are
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How Is Sinus Infection Diagnosed
Diagnosis depends on symptoms and requires an examination of the throat, nose and sinuses. Your allergist will look for:
- Discolored nasal discharge
- Bad Breath
If your sinus infection lasts longer than eight weeks, or if standard antibiotic treatment is not working, a sinus CT scan may help your allergist diagnose the problem. Your allergist may examine your nose or sinus openings. The exam uses a long, thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera and a light at one end that is inserted through the nose. It is not painful. Your allergist may give you a light anesthetic nasal spray to make you more comfortable.
Mucus cultures: If your sinus infection is chronic or has not improved after several rounds of antibiotics, a mucus culture may help to determine what is causing the infection. Most mucus samples are taken from the nose. However, it is sometimes necessary to get mucus directly from the sinuses.
Knowing what kind of bacteria is causing the infection can lead to more effective antibiotic therapy. A fungus could also cause your sinus infection. Confirming the presence of fungus is important. Fungal sinus infection needs to be treated with antifungal agents, rather than antibiotics. In addition, some forms of fungal sinus infection allergic fungal sinus infection, for example do not respond to antifungal agents and often require the use of oral steroids.
Sinus Infection Treatment At Home
It isnt possible for you to tell at home if sinusitis is caused by a bacteria, virus or fungus, but there are some steps you can take to help relieve sinus infections symptoms. They include:
Moisturizing the room air with a humidifier or vaporizer
Increasing your fluid intake to ensure you are well hydrated
Using saline sprays or nasal irrigations
Using nasal spray decongestants for 2 or 3 days at the most
Applying warm compresses to your face to help relieve pain and pressure
Sleeping with your head elevated. If sleeping on a pile of pillows isnt comfortable, place blocks under the two legs at the head of your bed to elevate it.
Taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
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What Are The Causes Of Sinusitis
Most sinus infections are caused by the common cold. Since the viral infection can cause your nasal cavities to swell, it prevents the normal flow of mucus. This situation can lead to a sinus infection.
Other causes of sinus infections include:
- Allergic reactions that affect your sinuses
- Medical conditions like cystic fibrosis or HIV that prevent your body from fighting infections
- Abnormalities in your nasal passage, such as a deviated septum or polyps
Testing And Diagnosing A Sinus Infection
During the first part of your appointment, the ENT specialist will ask you to fill out paperwork and request information about your health history. Share important details about your symptoms, including the length of time youve had symptoms and whether they are getting worse.
Next, the doctor will look in your nose using an otoscope. If a sinus infection is present, you likely have signs of congestion, swelling, and irritation.
This examination is usually enough for the doctor to determine that you have an infection for common sinus infections.
When chronic sinus problems are being diagnosed, then your doctor might suggest other outpatient testing procedures. For example, you might need a nasal endoscopy, a flexible device with a small camera inserted through the nose.
Additional testing methods might include a CT scan or swabbing to test for the presence of bacteria or fungi.
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What Causes A Sinus Infection
Sinus infections are more common in people who suffer from seasonal allergies or asthma. If you have a structural blockage in the nose, such as a deviated septum or nasal polyps, you may have more frequent sinus infections. If you have a weakened immune system, you may be more prone to infections of all kinds, including sinusitis.
While the common cold and flu are caused by the influenza virus, and COVID-19 is caused by the coronavirus, a sinus infection can stem from a viral or bacterial infection. Either way, its a painful condition that can make you feel lousy for weeks.
Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses, those air-filled pockets that exist in your face:
- Behind the bridge of your nose
- Directly in front of your brain
- In the bony structures of your cheeks
- On both sides of the bridge of your nose
Normally, your sinuses are lined with a light layer of mucus that trap germs, dust, and other particles that we breathe. There are tiny hairs in your nose that sweep whatever is captured into the back of your throat and into your stomach. This is a normal cyclic procedure that happens without your awareness. That is, until something goes wrong with the process.
A sinus infection inflames the lining of the sinuses and blocks the flow of mucus to the back of the throat. The swelling stops up this efficient elimination system leading potentially to an infection.