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When Should I See A Doctor For A Sinus Infection

Common Colds And Sinus Infections

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A viral infection associated with the common cold is the most common cause of sinus infections .

This virus may jump to other people, causing a cold that may also develop into viral sinusitis.

In only 0.5 to 2 percent of cases do people develop bacterial sinusitis , which is typically a complication of viral sinusitis. Bacterial sinusitis is not contagious.

In rare cases, fungi can cause a sinus infection, particularly if a person has a fungal allergy. But fungal sinusitis generally does not affect people with healthy immune systems.

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How Can You Treat Nasal Discharge

Your recommended treatment plan will depend on the underlying cause of your nasal discharge. In many cases, you can take steps to relieve your symptoms using simple home remedies. In some cases, your doctor may recommend medications or other treatments.

If a cold or flu is causing your nasal discharge, your treatment options may be limited. In most cases, your body will recover on its own. You should be sure to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. Over-the-counter medications may help relieve some of your symptoms. If your flu symptoms are severe, your doctor might prescribe you an antiviral medication. This may reduce the time it takes for you to heal.

How Do You Treat A Sinus Infection

Treatment for acute and chronic sinus infections include self-care, over-the-counter and prescription medications, and sinus surgery, if necessary, to enlarge the opening to the sinuses or address other anatomical issues.

Your doctor may also recommend a combination of over-the-counter and prescription medications, including:

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Steroid nasal sprays
  • Saline nasal irrigations

Patients with sinusitis often go to the doctor expecting to get a prescription for an antibiotic. If you have signs of a sinus infection, talk to your doctor about whether an antibiotic is appropriate to treat the type of infection that you have. Dr. Takashima warns that we must be vigilant about not treating viral infections with antibiotics, which only work on bacterial infections, to prevent creating superbugs antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

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When Should I See A Sinus Specialist

When the symptoms persist longer than a week to ten days, then your primary care doctor might give you a referral to talk to a sinus specialist. These are some of the symptoms that might require an ENT visit instead of a standard appointment with your regular doctor:

  • Chronic sinus issues
  • Recurring infections in the ears, tonsils, or adenoids
  • Dizziness or balance issues
  • Persistent sore throat

If you are living with chronic congestion, problems breathing, and unexplained sinus issues, then its time to talk to a sinus specialist. Working with an ENT gives you access to advanced options that arent available through a general practitioner.

The Right Way To Treat A Sinus Infection

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5 min Read Time

Your head is throbbing, especially around your eyes. You cant stop coughing, and for some reason, your breath is terrible. Blowing your nose is a mess.

Bad news: You could have a sinus infection. Most frequently triggered by the common cold, over 30 million American adults are diagnosed with sinusitis yearly.

So, what exactly are sinus infections? How can you tell if you have one? And holy cow how can you feel better as quickly as possible?

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Your Sinusitis Wont Go Away Heres What You Need To Know

Sinusitis also known as a sinus infection is, for the most part, a bacterial infection caused by inflammation of the sinuses. Chronic and recurring long-lasting sinusitis can render you incapacitated and quickly eat up your sick days.

But when your sinusitis wont go away, what options do you have? This guide walks you through how to identify a sinus infection, what happens if you ignore it, how to treat your chronic sinusitis, and more.

Is Your Sinus Infection Acute Or Chronic

A short-term sinus infection is often referred to as acute sinusitis. Most cases of acute sinusitis last about a week, but this type of short-term sinus infection can last up to four weeks. If you suffer from a sinus infection that lasts longer than 12 weeks despite treatment from your doctor, its considered chronic sinusitis.

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Can I Treat A Sinus Infection At Home

If you have a true sinus infection, you will eventually need to visit a medical professional. But in the early stages you can help ease your symptoms with one or more of these treatments:

  • Irrigation. Gently flushing your nasal passages can help relieve congestion and irritation. It is best to use saline solutions from a pharmacy for flushing through each nostril. If you make your own solution, use filtered, sterile, or distilled water.
  • Hydrate. Drinking plenty of water helps loosen mucus and relieve nasal congestion. Proper hydration is also important in helping your bodys immune system function optimally for a quicker recovery.
  • Steam. Breathing in steam can help open your nasal passages and ease your pain. This can be accomplished over a bowl of warm water or in a hot shower.
  • Rest. Getting adequate rest is vital at all times, especially when your body is fighting a bad cold or infection. You may find that keeping your head elevated will help you breathe better and rest more comfortably.
  • Remember that at-home treatments should be discontinued if symptoms arent improving. A timely visit to the urgent care can help speed recovery and get you feeling better quickly.

    If you are in need of sinus infection treatment and your regular doctor is unavailable, make a visit to M.D. Express Urgent Care. With 6 convenient locations open 7 days a week, The Doctor is Always In!

    Sinus Infection Treatment At Home

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    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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    But Sometimes Antibiotics For Sinus Infections Are Needed

    So how does one judge when it is appropriate to prescribe antibiotics for a sinus infection? There are several sets of official guidelines, which are all similar. When a patient has thick, colorful nasal discharge and/or facial pressure or pain for at least 10 days, they meet criteria for antibiotic treatment. If a patient has had those symptoms, but the symptoms seemed to start improving and then got worse again, then even if its been less than 10 days, they meet criteria for antibiotic treatment.

    The authors, however, also suggest that doctors discuss watchful waiting with patients and explain that most sinus infections clear up on their own in one to two weeks, and its a safe option to hold off on antibiotics. The symptoms can then be treated with a cocktail of over-the-counter medications and supportive care, like nasal saline irrigation, nasal steroid sprays, decongestants, and pain medications.

    Of course, many patients expect and demand antibiotics for sinus infections, and even those who are open to watchful waiting may hear about the rare but possible complications of things like, oh, brain abscess, and opt to treat.

    In the case of my patient above, she met criteria for treatment. She weighed the watchful waiting option against the potential risks of antibiotics for her sinus infection, and chose the prescription. I can tell you from very close follow-up that she improved quickly, though in truth, we will never really know if she would have gotten better anyway.

    What Is Sinus Infection Symptoms Causes Diagnosis Treatment And Prevention

    Lying behind your eyebrows, behind your cheekbones, and between your eyes are your sinuses air-filled cavities lined with a mucous membrane that filters and humidifies the air you inhale.

    This membrane produces and circulates mucus into your sinus and nasal passages to help remove dust, particles, and microbes from the air that you breathe. Tiny hair-like cells called cilia sweep the mucus to the openings that lead to the back of your throat, allowing it to slide down into your stomach.

    A sinus infection occurs when the sinuses become inflamed and swell up because of a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection. The infection can be acute or chronic .

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    Managing Your Chronic Sinusitis Symptoms

    If you have chronic sinusitis, your doctor may ask you to see an allergist, an ENT, or both.

    They can help you get started with treatment, but there is a lot you can do to manage sinus problems on your own:

    • Drink plenty of fluids to keep your mucus thin and flowing
    • Use steam or hot compresses to loosen up thick mucus secretions
    • Keep you environment moist by using a clean humidifier
    • Use over-the-counter saline nasal sprays or irrigations to open nasal and sinus passages
    • Avoid overuse of over-the-counter decongestant sprays that can cause rebound congestion

    Remember that sinusitis symptoms could be due to a sinus infection, but they also might be the result of an allergy or fungus.

    Your doctor can help you find out the true cause and get you to the right specialist for treatment.

    When Do You Really Need Antibiotics For That Sinus Infection

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    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.

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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.

    When To Go To The Doctor For A Sinus Infection

    Sinusitis belongs to upper respiratory tract infections. It is one of the commonest and a relatively troublesome condition one can have. Yet, it is also one of those infections which patients often attempt to treat at home.

    So before you understand when to go to the doctor for a sinus infection, it would be worthwhile to go through a few basic facts about sinuses their infections and how to recognize which sinus is infected.

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    When To See A Doctor

    If you have a simple sinus infection, sometimes at-home treatment with over-the-counter medications such as a decongestant. Physicians generally advise not to use an over-the-counter decongestant for more than 3 days, however, as it can make you more congested. Warm compresses and saline nose drops may also help.

    However, sinus infections generally require seeing a doctor. You dont want your sinus infection to get more serious, and the discomfort that accompanies such infections is best treated by a medical professional.

    You should make an appointment with your doctor if any of the above symptoms last more than ten days or keep coming back over a short period of time. Also, contact your doctor immediately if you have a high fever , a severe headache or facial swelling, problems with your vision, or a very stiff neck.

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    Winter season is approaching as so does common respiratory illnesses, like sinus infections. Sinusitis annually affects about 35 million American citizens. This medical condition is primarily symptomatic of nose congestion, which creates constant pain and discomfort while attempting to breathe. Depending on the type of infection, sinusitis can either clear up on its own or require medical attention.

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    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.

    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.

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    Do You Always Need Antibiotics For Sinus Infections

    Not always, and with the rise of superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics, this is not necessarily the best option for treatment. In fact, 85 percent of sinus infections go away on their own after one-to-two weeks, according to information from Harvard Medical School.

    However, if your infection falls into the remaining 15 percent that do not get better, antibiotics are needed.

    According to information from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, antibiotics may also be needed if:

    • There is a thick, colorful discharge coming from the nose.

    • Youve experienced facial pain for more than 10 days.

    • Your condition improved but then got worse.

    • You have facial tenderness .

    • You have dental pain.

    If you have been experiencing any of these symptoms for more than a week, we encourage you to schedule an appointment.

    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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    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:

  • Use saline spray two to three times per day in each nostril.
  • Use a nasal decongestant such as Afrin®, but not longer than three days.
  • Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid per day.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help relieve the swelling of your sinuses.
  • 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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