When To Go To A Doctor For A Sinus Infection
An untreated sinus infection can turn into a chronic infection, so its important to see the doctor if your symptoms arent improving on their own. We recommend making an appointment with your doctor if:
- Your symptoms havent improved after two days of at-home treatment
- You have cold symptoms that last for 10 days
- You have a fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
- Youre experiencing severe pain in the upper part of your face or your teeth
- You have facial pain from the bridge of your nose to your lower eyelid
- You notice thick and discolored mucus
- You have mild face pain for a month or longer
What Causes Fungal Sinusitis
Several types of fungi can cause a sinus infection. Most fungal sinus infections result from mold or yeast. Tiny fungi can enter the sinuses when someone breaths them in.
Many types of fungus live on or inside the body all the time. Theyre usually only dangerous to people who have a weakened immune system.
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.
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Favorite Resources For Finding A Specialist
Through research, education, and advocacy, the American Rhinologic Society is devoted to serving patients with nose, sinus, and skull base disorders. Their website provides a valuable search tool to find a doctor, as well as links to other medical societies and resources that are useful for patients.
Throat Irritation And Cough
As discharge from your sinuses drains down the back of your throat, it can cause irritation, especially over a long period of time. This can lead to a persistent and annoying cough, which can be worse when lying down to sleep or first thing in the morning after getting up from bed.
It can also make sleeping difficult. Sleeping upright or with your head elevated can help reduce the frequency and intensity of your coughing.
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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.
Sinus Infection Signs And Symptoms You Need To Know
Sinus infection symptoms overlap so much with allergy, cold, and flu symptoms that it can be hard to differentiate between them all. A runny and itchy nose, congestion, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, fever, and phlegm are pretty standard across the board. But there are some unique symptoms that can help you determine if youve got a sinus infectiona bacterial infection that usually needs to be treated with antibiotics.
A sinus infection usually starts as a virus, like the cold or flu. The virus then makes your mucous so thick that it doesnt cycle through your system like it normally would. Bacteria then overgrows in that mucous. Thats how a virus turns into a bacterial infection, Erich Voigt, M.D., director of the division of general otolaryngology at NYU Langone Medical Center, tells SELF.
Since the initial virus wont respond to antibiotics, doctors want to make sure youre actually experiencing a bacterial infection before they give you meds. Theyll usually want to confirm your symptoms have lasted long enough and may also take a culture of your sinus mucous to check for bacteria.
So how can you tell when youve got a sinus infection? Here are the sinus infection symptoms to look out for.
Your symptoms will also become more sinus-focused when a sinus infection develops. The congestion and stuffiness may get worse, and mucous coming out of the nose may be more productive and discolored, Voigt says.
Those symptoms include these, from the Mayo Clinic:
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What Is Fungal Sinusitis
Fungal sinusitis is a sinus infection that results from a fungus. Several types of fungal sinus infections cause similar symptoms. These may include nasal congestion and sinus pain .
Providers treat most cases of fungal sinusitis with sinus surgery, and extreme forms may require additional anti-fungal treatment. But people with healthy immune systems may not need treatment. Some fungal sinus infections clear up without intervention.
People who have conditions that weaken the immune system are much more likely to get fungal sinusitis. They also have a higher risk of complications. Some types of fungal sinusitis can destroy the lining of the nose, spread to the brain and lead to death.
The Two Conditions Share Certain Symptoms
COVID-19 and sinus infection can have similar symptoms because they both involve the respiratory system. However, these conditions do not have the same causes.
This article discusses the differences between COVID-19 and sinus infections. It also details the overlapping symptoms of the two, when to see your healthcare provider, and the latest approved treatments for COVID-19.
Verywell / Jessica Olah
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How Common Is Fungal Sinusitis
Some types of fungal sinusitis are more common than others. Women are much more likely to develop fungal balls than men. Allergic fungal sinusitis is more common in warm, humid climates. GIFS is very rare in the United States. Its much more common in India, Sudan and Pakistan.
Fungal sinus infections have increased over the last few decades. This may be because healthcare providers are prescribing more antibioticsand immunosuppressant drugs. This increase could also be due to a rise in the number of diseases that weaken the immune system.
People with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop fungal sinus infections. Severe infections are more common among people who:
- Have cancer, including leukemia or lymphoma, or are getting chemotherapy treatments.
- Have severe or uncontrolled diabetes.
- Take drugs to suppress the immune system .
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
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Over The Counter Medications For Sinus Infections
Over the counter sinus medication comes in a variety of forms. Some of them are more effective than others. The most common form involves a stuffy nose and a headache. Other forms involve the feeling that a 900-pound weight is sitting on your head. Whatever the case, the best sinus medicine is easily accessible at your local drugstore. Lets take a look at a few different kinds of over-the-counter drugs and what each can do.
Over-the-counter medications for sinus infections are usually made up of several types of medicines. They may contain a combination of antibiotics and decongestants. These should only be used if recommended by a healthcare professional. Some may contain antihistamines, which are used to treat inflammation caused by an allergic reaction. Other types of OTC drugs are formulated to thicken mucus and relieve pain.
Another type of over-the-counter sinus medication is an advil, a cough suppressant, and a decongestant. These are all designed to treat a specific ailment. If these do not work for you, your doctor may recommend a prescription for you. These over-the-counter medications are an excellent choice for treating your sinus infection. However, you should make sure youre getting the right dosage for your specific needs and symptoms.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Sinus Infection
An uncomfortable full or feeling of pressure in your face is an easily identifiable symptom of sinus infection. Sinus infection may be the result of a cold that has become infected or may be caused by another underlying medical condition. Some common symptoms to look for to know if you have a sinus infection are:
Stuffy nose and face
One of the first signs of sinus infection is tenderness of your face. Youll feel most of the pain under your eyes or at the bridge of your nose. This happens because your sinus cavities are full of mucus that isnt draining properly. You may also experience nasal stuffiness or congestion. Pain in the teeth and frontal headaches are also common symptoms.
A post nasal drip is a common symptom of sinus infection. It can lead to sore throat because your excess mucus is full in your sinus cavity and draining down your throat. This irritates the back of your throat, causing it to feel sore and painful.
A persistent cough can be a sign of sinus infection. Your cough may be wet and feel mucusy. This is your bodys way of trying to clear your throat from mucus drainage.
A low-grade fever is another common symptom of sinus infection. It happens because your body is fighting an infection in your sinuses. If your fever lasts longer than four days and becomes very high, seek immediate medical attention.
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Prevention Of Sinus Infection
A sinus infection is not exactly contagious. But depending on what caused a person’s inflammation, other people may also develop the illness. For example, the common cold and flu are both contagious conditions that can lead to a sinus infection.
Taking steps to reduce your risk of contracting viral infections can help prevent sinus infections. These include:
- Practice good hygiene, such as by washing your hands often and covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze
- Get the recommended vaccinations, such as the flu vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine
- Keep your distance from people who have upper respiratory infections
- Take steps to reduce your stress, which affects your immune system
- Keep your immune system healthy, such as by eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables
Other ways to reduce your risk of getting a sinus infection include:
- Dont smoke cigarettes and try to avoid inhaling secondhand smoke
- Minimize your exposure to allergens and pollutants, such as by keeping your home windows closed and using a HEPA air conditioner filter, driving with your external vents closed and air conditioner on, and avoiding activities that expose you to pollen like lawn mowing and leaf blowing
- Moisten the air at home with a humidifier and avoid dry environments
- Inhale steam or use a saline nasal spray regularly
- Drink lots of water
- Irrigate your nasal passages regularly
When To See The Doctor For Sinus Infection
Symptoms that last more than 10 days without improvement and are worsening after you started to improve is cause for concern. If you have symptoms like severe headache or facial pain and a fever that lasts longer than three to four days, you should seek immediate medical care. Your doctor will be able to help diagnose the underlying cause of your symptoms and will provide an active plan of treatment.
While sinus infections are common, they can also be life-threatening. If a sinus infection becomes severe and goes untreated, it can spread to the brain.
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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.
Types Of Chronic Sinusitis Or Chronic Sinus Infections
While acute sinusitis often involves an infection, chronic sinusitis does not. Sometimes, the long-term illness is caused by an infection that hasnât cleared up properly, but most often the exact cause of chronic sinusitis isnât known.
But clinicians may categorize chronic sinusitis into one of three types depending on the features present.
The most common type of the illness, chronic sinusitis without nasal polyposis, involves swelling and inflammation of the mucous membranes by various non-polyp factors, such as allergies or irritation and infections.
Chronic sinusitis with nasal polyposis, on the other hand, involves nasal polyps that are large enough to clog the sinus. Itâs not always clear why some people develop these polyps and others dont.
In chronic sinusitis with fungal allergy, people experience a strong allergic reaction to fungi in the air, which causes their mucous membranes to produce a thick, dense mucus.
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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.
Other conditions such as allergies, nasal polyps, and tooth infections can also contribute to sinus pain and symptoms.
Whats Happening In The Sinuses
The sinuses are bony, air-filled cavities inside the face and skull. A sinus infection, also called rhinosinusitis, is an inflammation of the soft tissues that line the sinuses. This inflammation or swelling can stop the sinuses from draining properly. The buildup can then lead to infection, which causes even more inflammation and pain.
There are four types of sinuses frontal, ethmoid, sphenoid, and maxillary and sinusitis can affect any of them.
Doctors classify the causes of sinusitis this way:
- Anatomical causes such as a deviated septum or enlarged turbinates in the nose
- Inflammatory and infectious causes related to bacterial, viral, and fungal infections, as well as allergies and polyps
- Developmental disorders like cystic fibrosis
- Tumours in the nose and sinuses these can block critical drainage pathways
The underlying cause behind sinusitis may have implications for how a person responds to treatment and which treatment options the doctor recommends.
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Okay But How Long Does A Sinus Infection Last
Something else you need to know: There are two different types of sinusitis, acute and chronic sinusitis. Essentially, acute sinusitis is anything that lasts less than four weeks, says Dr. Ford, while chronic sinusitis lasts more than 12 weeksbut those are just ballparks.
Typically acute sinusitis resolves by 10 days, but if not, then the possibility of a bacterial infection should be considered, says Dr. Chen. Getting one or 2 sinus infections a year is considered normal. More than 4 should prompt a visit to an ear, nose, and throat surgeon.
However, if you have chronic sinusitis, it can last up to 3 months, and may be caused by environmental factors. Chronic sinusitis may have a number of causes, but the most common cause is allergies, says Dr. Ford. Smoking causes impaired function of the cilia, part of the nasal membranes that remove mucus, and can contribute to developing chronic sinusitis.