Sinus & Allergy

What Are the Signs of a Sinus Infection?

written by Becki Andrus
What Are the Signs of a Sinus Infection?

Do you have a non-stop runny nose that doesn’t seem to get better with time? Then it’s possible that you might have sinusitis, commonly known as a sinus infection. Sinus infections are pretty common and can affect people of all ages.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe, making it hard to get through the day when you are experiencing intense pain. If you suspect that you are having sinus problems, then the best thing that you can do is talk to an ENT about treatment options.

What Is Sinusitis?

An infection in the sinus area can cause swelling or inflammation in the sensitive tissue. The sinuses are lined with tissue that is constantly cleansing with mucus. These hollow spaces behind your cheekbones and in the forehead area are important for the upper respiratory system because mucus production protects against pollutants, allergens, and dust.

If your sinuses are healthy, then they are filled with air. However, if you have an infection, the sinuses become blocked because they are filled with germs, fluid, and congestion. These blockages cause the perfect environment for an infection to continue and thrive.

Several conditions can increase the likelihood of a sinus blockage, which increases the risk of a sinus infection:

  • Seasonal allergies
  • The common cold
  • Environmental irritants
  • Nasal polyps (small growths in the nose lining)
  • Deviated septum

Risk Factors for Chronic Sinusitis

It is estimated that 35 million Americans have sinusitis at least once a year. Your risk of a sinus infection increases with these factors:

  • Getting the common cold, which causes swelling inside the nose
  • Blocked drainage ducts in the upper respiratory system
  • Structural issues that are blocking drainage in the sinuses
  • Untreated allergies
  • Smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke

Sinus infections are common in adults, and children can be affected as well. Factors that increase the risk of childhood sinus infections include:

  • Illness after spending time around other kids at school or daycare
  • Allergies
  • Drinking a bottle while lying down
  • Using a pacifier
  • Breaking second-hand smoke
  • Environmental pollutants

Difference Between Acute Sinusitis and Chronic Sinusitis

The symptoms for acute and chronic sinusitis are similar, but there are a few notable differences that ENT doctors use to determine a diagnosis.

For example, if you have an acute sinus infection, then it means that the symptoms start quickly and go away within a few days after treatment begins. On the other hand, chronic sinus infections are recurring. Even though you can manage immediate symptoms, the infection often returns several times a year or more.

Signs of an Acute Sinus Infection

These are the most common signs of an acute sinus infection:

  • Feeling like your nose is always “stuffed up”
  • Runny nose or postnasal drip
  • Pressure or pain in the facial area
  • Loss of smell
  • Congestion
  • Coughing
  • Bad breath
  • Fever
  • Dental pain
  • Fatigue
  • Thick yellow or green nasal discharge

Signs of a Chronic Sinus Infection

One of the most notable signs that distinguish a chronic sinus infection from an acute condition is the length of time that the symptoms last. For example, if your symptoms last longer than 12 weeks, you need to talk to an ENT for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Other signs of a chronic sinus infection include:

  • A feeling of fullness or congestion in the facial area
  • Presence of pus in the nasal cavity
  • Nasal blockage or obstruction
  • Fever
  • Discolored postnasal drip
  • Runny nose
  • Headaches
  • Tooth pain
  • Fatigue
  • Bad breath

Other conditions can also cause similar symptoms. The only way to determine an accurate diagnosis is by visiting with an experienced ENT to discuss your symptoms and use digital imaging diagnostics.

Treatment Solutions for Sinus Issues

Your personalized treatment plan will vary depending on the severity and length of your symptoms. The ideal situation is to identify a specific diagnosis first. Then we can put together a treatment plan to address your unique needs.

With a minor sinus infection, nasal saline washes and using a decongestant can be sufficient to relieve symptoms and clear the infection. But it’s not recommended to use over-the-counter decongestants for more than 3 days.

Sometimes, doctors prescribe antibiotics. But it’s important first to determine that the sinus infection is bacterial because antibiotics don’t work for viral infections. If you are using antibiotics, it’s essential to finish the prescribed medication to the end of the prescription, even if your symptoms have improved.

Also, it can help to identify any triggers that might be affecting your sinus symptoms. For example, reducing exposure to allergy compounds or second-hand smoke can be effective in minimizing the symptoms that are occurring in your sinuses.

What to Do When Initial Sinus Treatments Aren’t Working

In many situations, first-line sinus treatments will be sufficient in reducing your pain and minimizing symptoms. But if you don’t experience results, your doctor might recommend other treatment options.

For example, you might need to use an antifungal medication if a fungus is the root cause of your infection. Or, prescription steroids can be helpful when used for a short time to reduce inflammation in the sinus area.

Prevention Tips to Manage Sinus Infections

If you have recurring sinus infections, it’s important to be proactive about preventing them in the future. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to avoid sinusitis. But these tips can help to minimize your risk:

  • Stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke
  • Practice good health habits to minimize the risk of illness, especially during cold and flu season
  • Avoid known allergy triggers

If you are experiencing chronic sinus issues because of structural problems, your doctor might recommend surgery. For example, removing nasal polyps or correcting a deviated septum can help open up drainage, which naturally decreases the chances of sinus infections.

Why Sinus Treatment Is Important

Don’t suffer through the symptoms of a sinus infection! Not only are you uncomfortable, but an untreated sinus infection can lead to other complications.

If the infection continues to get worse, then it can spread to the brain or bone. Meningitis is another potential complication.

An ENT can evaluate the severity of your sinus issues then provide recommendations to treat the current infection and minimize the risk of repeat infections.

Sinus Help from a Professional ENT

Primary care providers can offer basic support for upper respiratory conditions, but an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist is the ideal provider when you are experiencing chronic issues. If you are searching for an ENT in or around Collin County or Dallas, then we invite you to schedule a consultation at our office.

At Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat, we provide full-service solutions for the whole family. We have convenient offices located in both Frisco and Plano, TX. Fill out the online form for an appointment request, or call if you need additional information: (972) 596-4005.

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