Ear, Nose & Throat

Sinus Infection – Symptoms, Treatment, Causes – A Complete Patient Guide

written by Becki Andrus
Sinus Infection - Symptoms, Treatment, Causes

Whether you experience occasional sinus infections or chronic pain and pressure, it’s helpful to learn more about the symptoms and causes of this condition. When you understand the underlying reasons why infections occur in the sinuses, then you can clear infections quickly – and even prevent future medical concerns.

Working with a skilled sinus doctor is an important step to help on your pathway to recovery. At Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat, we offer quality treatments and patient empowerment through education. Our goal is to identify the underlying causes to clear your sinus infections as quickly as possible.

Identifying the Earliest Signs of Sinus Infections

If you’ve had sinus infections in the past, you might notice the earliest signs showing up when a new infection is starting. Watch for these symptoms so you can take a proactive approach with treatment, helping to minimize severe symptoms from a developing infection.

Here are some of the most common signs that you have an infection in the sinuses:

  • Increasing pressure behind the eyes and cheeks
  • Running, stuffy nose lasting for more than a week
  • Bad breath due to post-nasal drip
  • Headache, focusing specifically on the forehead
  • Thick drainage coming from the nose
  • Nose discharge is yellow or green in color
  • Decreased sense of smell
  • Fever

Pay attention to how your head pressure or pain increases depending on your body position. For example, it’s common to be more comfortable when your head is propped up. If the symptoms worsen when you are lying flat, try adding an extra pillow to see if that brings relief.

Also, a good sign that you are dealing with a sinus infection is if the pressure and pain increase when you bend over. If you lean down to pick something off the floor and experience intense pain in the sinus areas, then there’s a good chance that you are dealing with an infection.

Causes: Is it a Sinus Infection or a Head Cold?

Keep in mind that the first signs of a sinus infection are often similar to having a head cold. You might notice congestion or other symptoms in the nose, throat, and sinuses. If it’s only a cold, then the symptoms will subside within a week to 10 days. On the other hand, these symptoms intensify with time if you are dealing with a sinus infection.

In fact, a head cold or allergies might be the catalyst that leads to a secondary infection. When you are experiencing congestion or other sinus-related symptoms, it might create the perfect breeding environment for a sinus infection.

Other common causes can contribute to the development of a sinus infection:

  • Exposure to fungus
  • Bacterial growth
  • Allergies
  • Viruses

As the symptoms intensify and last for longer than a week, it indicates that a basic head cold might have changed into a full-blown sinus infection requiring treatment. Reach out to a sinus doctor for medication and other treatment recommendations.

Addressing the Underlying Cause of Sinus Infections

When chronic sinus infections are occurring, it’s likely that there is an underlying cause contributing to this health concern. Your ENT will complete thorough diagnostics to determine the factors affecting your chronic infections. Common related health concerns include:

  • Exposure to environmental irritants (such as cigarette smoke)
  • Recurring illness or viral infections
  • Nasal polyps
  • Deviated septum or other structural issues blocking the drainage pathways
  • Allergies causing sinus congestion and inflammation
  • Blockages in the drainage ducts

Sinus Infection Timeline: What to Expect

In most cases, an acute sinus infection will clear up in 7 to 10 days. But if you are suffering from chronic sinus infections, then it’s possible for your symptoms to last for 8 to 12 weeks – or even longer.

When these symptoms continue, don’t delay a conversation with a skilled sinus doctor. You don’t need to live with the ongoing pain and pressure. In fact, delaying treatment could lead to complications or other related issues developing from the infection.

Sinus Infections: At-Home Treatment Recommendations

Minor symptoms often respond to at-home remedies to relieve the pain and pressure. The goal is to reduce your symptoms while also supporting the body in recovery from the infection. Consider these at-home sinus infection treatments:

  • Over the Counter (OTC) Medications: You can buy OTC medication at a local pharmacy or drug store without a prescription. These medications address the acute symptoms to provide relief. For example, antihistamine or decongestant medications can manage your congestion, which reduces sinus inflammation and helps your sinuses heal. Also, consider pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Plants and Herbs: Certain plant teas and aromatherapy can be beneficial for opening the sinus passages. Sip on peppermint tea during your recovery. You can also smell peppermint or eucalyptus essential oils or add these scents into your humidifier to diffuse in the room.
  • Sinus Rinsing: Gentle rinsing can be helpful to clear nasal congestion. These rinses help with immediate relief from the symptoms while also cleaning out the affected areas to reduce the chance of infection. Use a neti pot and sterile water. You can also find OTC saline products at a local pharmacy.
  • Soothing the Sinuses: Try placing a warm, damp washcloth over the affected sinus areas to reduce congestion and alleviate your pain. It can also be helpful to breathe in the steam while in a hot shower to open the airways.

When to Talk to a Sinus Doctor

Have you tried the home remedies above with no relief? Then it might be time to schedule an appointment with a sinus doctor. Here are a few signs that you need to talk to an ENT about your sinus condition:

  • Infection and symptoms lasting more than 10 days
  • Discolored, thick nasal discharge
  • Recurring, chronic infection symptoms
  • At-home remedies aren’t working to manage the symptoms
  • Pain and pressure are increasing
  • Health concerns disrupt daily activities and responsibilities

An ENT can identify the root cause of your sinus infection and offer a variety of treatments based on your unique needs. Common medical treatments might include:

  • Antibiotics: If bacteria cause the infection, then antibiotics might be helpful to knock out the infection and help your body heal.
  • Steroids: Serious inflammation can be reduced using prescription steroids. These medications can be used in the form of a nasal spray, or your sinus doctor might prescribe pills to take.
  • Surgery: Are chronic sinus infections occurring because of physical blockages in the sinus passages? Then surgery might be required, such as a balloon sinuplasty or correcting a deviated septum.

Rest assured knowing that our team at Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat focuses on minimally-invasive treatments whenever possible. We’ll design a personalized medical plan that will help with immediate recovery, as well as solutions to reduce the likelihood of recurring infections in the future.

Book an Appointment with a Sinus Doctor Near Me

If you are located in the Dallas or Collin County areas and looking for a sinus doctor near me, then we invite you to contact our team. Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat is here to provide the ongoing services your family needs. Schedule an appointment at a convenient location in Frisco or Plano, TX by filling out the request form on the website or calling: (972) 596-4005.

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“This was my first time visiting this office. These folks were super friendly!! Starting with the front desk to all the help in the back, the Dr. Littlejohn was very patient and listened to all my concerns. I dealt with 5 people total due to testing and they all were genuinely nice! Loved it, and not to mention quick service. Great customer service, I’ll be sure to refer family and friends! ”

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“I have used Collin Co. ENT and Dr. Kenny Carter for over 3 years, primarily for ear problems. The staff has been consistently helpful and friendly to me. When I have had problems needing immediate attention and explained the need, have been able to get an appointment within a reasonable time to address the problem. I recommend Dr. Carter and his staff.”

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