Signs of a Sinus Infection
Sinus infections are an incredibly common condition in the U.S., affecting 12.5% of adults every year. Despite this ubiquity, it’s sometimes hard to tell if you have a sinus infection or just a nasty cold. Regardless, most sinus infections are viral and will go away on their own with some rest and TLC. About 10% of adult sinus infections are bacterial, however. These cases may require antibiotic therapy to get rid of the infection.
Signs of a Sinus Infection
When your nasal passages become inflamed, mucus thickens and clogs the openings of your sinuses. This causes fluid to build up in one or more of your sinus cavities, increasing facial pressure and trapping bacteria.
Compared to the common cold, sinus infections are hard to get rid of and may seem to drag on, sometimes as long as eight weeks. An infection beyond eight weeks is considered chronic sinusitis, and may require special care.
Common symptoms of acute sinusitis include:
- Thick, green nasal discharge (snot)
- Nasal congestion
- Facial pain and swelling
- Pressure behind the eyes
As you can see, the common cold and sinusitis often share many of the same symptoms. The most notable sign of a sinus infection is facial pressure in your sinuses, and will probably be more intense than the facial pain you might experience with a cold. Duration of symptoms is another way to determine if you have a sinus infection, as most colds start to clear up within a week.
If you do have a sinus infection, it’s possible that it developed after a cold. While a cold does not directly cause a sinus infection, it can often trigger one. Other conditions that may trigger a sinus infection include allergens, pollution, the flu, a dental infection, or in some cases, nasal polyps.
When you have a sinus infection, either one or all four of your sinus cavities will be infected. Infected cavities are the areas in your face where you feel the most pressure. They are:
Frontal sinusitis: Frontal sinusitis causes pain behind your eyebrows and forehead which may feel worse when you lay down.
Ethmoid sinusitis: Ethmoid sinusitis occurs on both sides of the bridge of your nose. You may have swollen eyelids, pain between the eyes, a decreased sense of smell, or pain when touching the sides of the nose.
Sphenoid sinusitis: The sphenoid sinus is located behind the eyes. If infected, you may experience neck soreness, earaches, or a headache at the top of your head and/or far behind your forehead.
Maxillary sinus: The maxillary sinus is in your cheekbones, and an infection will cause pain in your jaw and upper teeth, behind your cheeks or under your eyes.
How to Treat a Sinus Infection
If you think you have pain in the above areas that has lasted longer than a week, contact your doctor to see if you have a sinus infection. Sinus infection treatment will depend on the cause of your infection (virus, bacteria, fungus, allergens, etc.). Your doctor may not prescribe you antibiotics, as it can be difficult to immediately tell if your infection is viral or bacterial.
Instead you may be advised to watch the infection, and if it seems to get worse around the second week (something known as “double-worsening”) then you most likely have a bacterial sinus infection, and your doctor will prescribe antibiotics.
If your infection is viral, symptoms will usually start improving in the second week. In this case, antibiotics are unnecessary, but your doctor may prescribe you anti-inflammatory medication or a decongestant to manage symptoms. These medications can also be found over-the-counter. Saline nasal spray is recommended for all types of sinusitis to help clear the sinuses, and as any illness, it’s important to stay hydrated.
If you don’t want to take antibiotics for a sinus infection or believe that your case is viral, you might also try some sinus infection remedies. Home remedies for sinus infections are plentiful and often already in your home.
How to Remedy a Sinus Infection
Raw garlic - Crushed garlic is an age-old natural remedy for viral and bacterial infections of all kinds.
Antimicrobial essential oils - Eucalyptus, tea tree, peppermint and oregano oil are commonly used to treat sinus infections as they are antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal.
Steam - Sleep with a humidifier or hover your face over a steaming pot of water for 15 minutes. This will break up congestion and alleviate your symptoms. For an antiviral bonus, add a couple drops of essential oils.
If you think you have symptoms of a sinus infection and want treatment, contact a doctor. PlushCare doctors are available 24/7 online or by phone to diagnose your infection and prescribe any needed medications. Call (888) 522-5679 or book an appointment online. Appointments generally take about 10-15 minutes. From there, any needed treatment will be sent to a pharmacy of your choice.