9 Symptoms of a Sinus Infection and When to See a Doctor

9 Symptoms of a Sinus Infection and When to See a Doctor

9 Symptoms of a Sinus Infection and When to See a Doctor

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What is a sinus infection?

Your nasal cavities can become infected, swollen, and inflamed, which is referred to as sinusitis or rhinosinusitis in the medical field. This can lead to a sinus infection. An infection of the sinuses can develop when there is a buildup of fluid in the sinuses, which allows bacteria to flourish.

In most cases, a virus is to blame for sinusitis, and the condition frequently lingers long after other upper respiratory symptoms have subsided. An infection of the sinuses can be caused by bacteria or, in extremely rare instances, fungus.

Sinusitis and the associated discomfort and symptoms can also be caused by a number of other illnesses, including allergies, nasal polyps, and tooth infections.

Infections of the sinuses can be either chronic or acute.

Sinus infections can be divided into four categories. These classifications are based on how long you’ve had the infection and how often you’ve had it:

Acute sinusitis. This particular form of sinus infection only lasts for a brief period of time, which the American Academy of Otolaryngology identifies as being less than four weeks in duration. This infection typically lasts for a short period of time and is associated with a cold or another respiratory ailment. Infection with germs is another possible cause of this condition (acute bacterial sinusitis).

Subacute sinusitis. According to a trusted source, the duration of a subacute sinus infection ranges from four to twelve weeks.

Recurrent acute sinusitis. If you have an acute sinus infection that returns more than four times in one year and each infection lasts for at least seven days, then you have what is known as recurrent acute sinusitis.

Sinusitis persists. Infections of the sinuses that persist for longer than a year or keep coming back are referred to as chronic.

Many sinus infection symptoms are typical, regardless of whether the infection is acute or persistent. Visiting a medical professional is the most effective way to determine whether or not you have an infection, as well as the source of the problem and how to cure it.

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Manifestations pointing to a sinus infection

Many times, the symptoms of sinusitis are very similar to those of the common cold. The following are the primary diagnostic criteria for viral sinusitis:

face discomfort or pressure

nasal discharge that is infected

nasal congestion

In cases of acute bacterial sinus infections, these symptoms either continue for at least ten days without getting better or they get much worse within ten days of initially appearing to get better. It is essential in this scenario to consult a medical professional, such as a family practitioner or an ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT), in order to obtain a diagnosis and formulate a treatment strategy.


Sinusitis can cause pain as well as pressure.

Sinusitis frequently manifests itself by causing pain in the face. You have a variety of sinuses behind your nose, above and below your eyes, and all around the bridge of your nose. When you have an infection in your sinuses, any of these cavities that are filled with air can pain.

Your sinuses may hurt and feel like there is dull pressure if you have inflammation and edema. This is due to the fact that inflammation has the potential to change the normal path that mucus takes from the nose to the back of the throat.

You might experience discomfort in:

your facial area here

both to the left and right of your nose


in the upper regions of your jaws and teeth


betwixt your eyes


It’s possible that this will give you a headache. Infections of the sinuses can induce headaches in a variety of locations, including the sinuses themselves or elsewhere.

a sensitive quality in the face


Because of the pressure that has built up, your face might also be sensitive to the touch. This generally takes place at the bridge of the nose or beneath the eyes, although it can also take place on the forehead and cheeks.

Runny nose with postnasal drip


Because of the nasal discharge, which may be murky, green, or yellow in color when you have a sinus infection, you may find that you have to wipe your nose quite frequently. This discharge is the result of an infection in one or more of your sinuses, and it drains into your nasal passages.


It’s also possible for the discharge to go around your nose and flow down the back of your throat instead. You can have a tickling, an itchy sensation, or even a painful throat as a result of this.


This condition, which is known as postnasal drip, can make you cough both at night when you are lying down to sleep, and in the morning, after you have gotten out of bed. It is also possible that it will make your voice seem hoarse.

Congestion in the nose

It’s possible that the inflammation in your sinuses is making it difficult for you to breathe through your nose. The infection produces swelling in your sinuses and nasal passages, which can contribute to a sense of obstruction or congestion in your airways.

It is likely that the nasal congestion will impair your ability to smell or taste as well as you are accustomed to doing so. Additionally, your tone may come out as “stuffy.

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Pain in the sinuses

You may get headache symptoms if pressure and edema in your sinuses persist for an extended period of time. Pain in the sinuses can also produce discomfort in the ears as well as in the teeth, jaws, and cheeks.

Because of the accumulation of fluids over the night, sinus headaches typically feel their worst first thing in the morning. Altering the posture of your head or experiencing sudden shifts in the barometric pressure around you are two other potential triggers that could make your headaches significantly worse.

Irritation of the throat and coughing

It is possible for the discharge from your sinuses to produce irritation in the back of your throat, particularly if it is allowed to accumulate for an extended length of time. This can result in a cough that doesn’t go away and is quite bothersome. It’s possible that the cough will be worse when you lie down to go to sleep or just after you get out of bed in the morning.

It may also make it difficult to fall or stay asleep. It may be possible to lessen the frequency and severity of your coughing if you sleep with your head elevated or in an upright position.

Throat pain and a harsh, raspy voice

When you have postnasal drip, it can cause your throat to become raw and painful. It could start off as a tickling in your skin that’s a little uncomfortable, but it might develop much worse.

If you have an infection that lasts for a few weeks or longer, the mucus that runs down your throat might irritate and inflame it, causing a severe sore throat and a hoarse voice. This can happen if the illness is left untreated. A hoarse voice can be made worse by coughing and cleaning the throat on a regular basis.


Fever is a symptom that can accompany sinusitis, as it can with many other types of infections, but it is not very common.

The normal temperature range for a fever caused by this kind of virus is between 100.4 and 103 degrees Fahrenheit (38 and 39.4 degrees Celsius). If you have a fever, it indicates that your body is attempting to fight off an infection caused by a virus, bacteria, or fungus.

Having bad breath (halitosis)

Your infected sinuses will generate mucus, which may have an unpleasant odor and may drip down the back of your throat into your mouth. It’s possible that reducing the symptoms of this condition by cleaning your tongue, rinsing your mouth and sinuses frequently, and drinking a lot of water will help.

Managing the treatment of sinus infections

Medications that can be purchased without a prescription

In the short term, you may find that using a nasal decongestant spray, such as oxymetazoline, might help reduce some of the symptoms of a sinus infection. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t utilize it for more than three days at a time.

A rebound effect in nasal congestion may be experienced after prolonged use. When treating a sinus infection using nasal spray, it is important to keep in mind that extended use can make your symptoms much more severe.

It is possible that a steroid nasal spray, such as fluticasone (Flonase), triamcinolone, or mometasone, could be helpful in relieving the symptoms of nasal congestion. This would be the case even though extended use carries the risk of rebound symptoms. Both fluticasone and triamcinolone are available as nasal sprays that can be purchased without a prescription at this time.

In the event that you also suffer from allergies, you may find that other over-the-counter drugs that contain antihistamines and decongestants are helpful in treating sinus infections. The following list includes common drugs of this type:


cetirizine (Zyrtec)

the drug fexofenadine (Allegra)

loratadine (Claritin)

Decongestants are normally not advised for use in patients who have the following conditions:

hypertension; high blood pressure

prostate concerns


sleep difficulties

Have a discussion with your healthcare provider before starting to take any of these medications to ensure that they are the most appropriate option for your unique circumstances.

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Nasal irrigation

The process of cleansing out your nostrils with sterile water or a nasal solution is what is known as nasal irrigation. People who suffer from chronic rhinosinusitis, allergic rhinitis, and postnasal drip may benefit from using nasal irrigation, according to the findings of a review that was published in 2009. People who have acute sinusitis may potentially benefit from a nasal irrigation treatment.

If you are going to drink the water from the tap, your doctor will likely advise you to either filter the water through a filtration system or boil it first. Purchasing distilled water or utilizing pre-mixed solutions that are available over-the-counter are two further choices.

According to a Trusted Source from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drinking unfiltered tap water rather than using sterile water can put a person at risk for a form of infection that can be lethal.

You can also make nasal solutions at home by combining one cup of prepared sterile warm water, half a teaspoon of table salt, and half a teaspoon of baking soda in a separate container and stirring to combine.

You can either pour the mixture into your nose using a Neti pot or another sinus rinsing equipment, or you can spray the mixture into your nose using a nasal sprayer.

Before attempting to make your own nasal spray, you should consult a physician. If the solution is not combined properly, there is a possibility that it can irritate your nose.

The combination of saline and baking soda in this remedy can help clear discharge from the sinuses, reduce dryness, and flush allergens from the system.

Treatments based on herbs

Herbal remedies are frequently utilized as a treatment for sinusitis in Europe.

Certain herbal remedies have been demonstrated to be beneficial in treating both acute and chronic sinusitis in a number of studies (including a 2013 study that involved patients with acute bronchitis and a 2017 study that involved children with acute sinusitis). These therapies include the product GeloMyrtol forte, which is an oral capsule of essential oils (known as Myrtol 300 in the United States), and Sinupret, which is an oral mixture of herbs. Both of these products are taken orally.

Comparing these herbal concoctions with many alternative therapeutic modalities requires further investigation, which is currently lacking. If you are thinking about using herbal treatments, you should consult a medical professional first to determine which types of treatments are appropriate for you.

Making your own concoction using these herbs is not suggested. If you use too little or too much of each herb, it is possible that you can experience unwanted side effects like allergic reactions or diarrhea.


Antibiotics, such as amoxicillin, are used to treat acute sinusitis caused by a bacterial infection when other treatments, including nasal steroid sprays, pain medicines, and sinus rinses or irrigation, have not been successful in resolving the condition.

“Watchful waiting” is a medical technique in which a doctor observes a patient with a sinus infection for some time in order to establish the origin of the infection before writing a prescription for antibiotics. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections of the sinuses.

When a bacterial sinus infection has continued for 10 days or longer without the symptoms improving, or when the symptoms seem to improve but then become worse within 10 days, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics. This is also the case when the symptoms seem to improve but then get worse.

Before attempting to take antibiotics on your own for sinusitis, you should first consult with a medical professional.

When antibiotics are taken for sinusitis, there is a possibility that they will cause the following side effects:



gastrointestinal distress


Antibiotics can be overused and misused, both of which can contribute to the development of superbugs, which are strains of bacteria that have developed resistance to antibiotics and are responsible for serious infections that are difficult or impossible to treat.

Alternative treatments for the alleviation of symptoms

Maintaining a healthy level of hydration might help thin mucus and relieve congestion.


Consuming hot beverages like tea and broth could help alleviate the discomfort you’re experiencing. The discomfort that comes with nasal congestion can sometimes be alleviated by just breathing in air that has a high humidity level. Exhaling the steam from the shower, a bowl of hot water, or a mug of hot tea are all good options.


If your voice is hoarse, you should give it a rest by refraining from singing, yelling, and whispering.

The application of a warm compress to the area that is causing inflammation might assist relieve pressure and discomfort.

Can one steer clear of or avoid getting a sinus infection?

If you want to reduce your risk of having sinusitis, it is important to steer clear of substances that can aggravate your nasal and sinus passages. People who smoke cigarettes have an increased risk of contracting this particular sort of infection. The natural defenses of your nose, mouth, throat and respiratory system are compromised when you smoke, which can lead to serious health problems.

If you are a smoker, you should think about stopping. In the event that you require assistance or are considering quitting, consult a medical professional. If you stop smoking, you may reduce your risk of developing acute or chronic sinusitis in the future.

In order to prevent your sinuses from becoming irritated or infected by viruses or germs that may be on your hands, you should wash your hands often, particularly during the cold and flu seasons.

It’s possible that using a humidifier during the colder, drier months will assist you to avoid getting a sinus infection.

Consult a medical professional to determine whether or not allergies are the source of your sinusitis. It is possible that you will need to treat your allergies in addition to your sinus infection in order to get relief from your sinus infection if you have an allergy to something that causes persistent sinus symptoms.

It is possible that you may need to consult with an allergist in order to find out what triggered the allergy. The professional might recommend the following:

staying away from the allergy

using oral drugs, such as antihistamines, to treat allergy symptoms

Immunotherapy for people with allergies

If you are able to get a handle on your allergies, you may be able to avoid having sinusitis more than once.

There is also the possibility that your symptoms are being caused by another condition. For example, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), often known as acid reflux, has been linked to sinus infections. There is also the possibility that larger adenoids are a significant factor in children and adolescents. The initial step should be to consult with a general practitioner, pediatrician, or ENT in order to obtain a diagnosis.

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Dangers associated with untreated sinus infections

After about ten days, patients who have sinus infections typically begin to feel better on their own. If your symptoms continue for an extended period of time without improving or if they worsen, it is possible that a doctor will need to treat the underlying source of the illness.

If a patient does not receive treatment for a sinus infection that is affecting a sinus cavity that is adjacent to the brain, the infection may progress to the brain. It is possible, while extremely unlikely, for an infection to spread into the eye socket and cause visual problems or even blindness. Children are more likely to suffer from infections of this kind.

The spread of a severe fungal sinus infection into the bones is unusual, although it is possible if the infection is not treated.

9 Symptoms of a Sinus Infection and When to See a Doctor
9 Symptoms of a Sinus Infection and When to See a Doctor

When you should get medical attention for sinusitis

Schedule an appointment with your primary care physician if you are experiencing severe symptoms, or if any of the following symptoms persist for more than 10 days or continue to recur:


nasal discharge


face pain

Consider asking for a referral to an otolaryngologist, commonly known as an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist, if you think you may be suffering from chronic or recurrent sinusitis. Otolaryngologists are medical professionals who specialise in the ear, nose, and throat. In order to figure out what’s causing your symptoms, you might require some imaging as well as other tests.

A culture of the mucus that drains from the nose can be taken by an ENT professional to help better understand what caused an illness. Additionally, the ENT specialist is able to do a more in-depth examination of the sinuses and check for any structural abnormalities in the nasal passages that may be the cause of persistent sinus issues.

Although a fever is not a typical sign of either acute or chronic sinusitis, it is nonetheless possible to have one of these conditions. There is a possibility that an underlying ailment is the source of your persistent infections; if this is the case, you might require specialised therapy.

It’s possible that the following conditions are what are causing your chronic infections:

nasal polyps

deviated septum


other diagnoses under consideration

Your physician can investigate the possible causes of your sinus infection and provide you with many treatment options to choose from.

If you notice any of the following symptoms, you should make an appointment with a medical professional as soon as possible:

a temperature over 103°F (39.4°C)


stiff upper lip

alterations in one’s vision

additional connected symptoms, some of which are alarming or severe

Infections of the sinuses in children

It’s not uncommon for children to suffer from allergies and to have a heightened risk of getting infections in their ears and nose.

If your child exhibits any of the following symptoms, a sinus infection should be considered a possibility.

a cough and fever that linger for more than seven days.

puffiness found around the eyes

discharge from the nose that is thick and pigmented

The symptoms of postnasal drip include foul breath, coughing, nausea, and vomiting.



Make an appointment with your child’s primary care physician to discuss the treatment options available for your child. Acute sinusitis can be effectively treated with a variety of different methods, including nasal sprays, saline sprays, and pain management.

If your child is younger than two years old, you should not give them any over-the-counter cough or cold medications or decongestants.

Without antibiotic treatment, sinus infections will typically clear up on their own in most youngsters. Antibiotic treatment is recommended for children who have severe cases of sinusitis or who have other issues as a result of their sinusitis.

If your child’s condition does not improve with treatment or if they develop chronic sinusitis, your primary care physician may suggest that they consult an ENT specialist.

Perspectives on a sinus infection and its treatment

When treated with the appropriate care and medication, acute sinusitis often clears up within one to two weeks. Chronic sinusitis is a more severe form of the condition, and it may be necessary to consult a specialist or to undergo therapy that is ongoing in order to address the underlying reason for the infection’s persistence.

It’s possible for a bout of chronic sinusitis to persist longer than a month and a half.

It may be possible to minimise the duration of an illness by maintaining proper hygiene, keeping the nasal passages moist and clear, and treating symptoms as soon as they appear.

There are a variety of treatments and procedures available, depending on whether the condition is acute or chronic. Visiting a primary care physician or a specialist can significantly improve your prognosis after a sinus infection, even if you have experienced a number of acute episodes or have chronic sinusitis.

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