Recognizing a Sinus Infection
Your nose is running, your eyes are watering, and your head is aching. It feels like a cold or the flu, but could it actually be a sinus infection?
Your sinuses are air-filled pockets in the bones of your skull that are connected to your nasal passages. When you have a sinus infection, also known as sinusitis, the sinuses become inflamed, usually because of a viral infection.
Your sinuses are lined with mucus that filters germs and other particles from the air as you breathe, and that mucus usually drains from the sinuses into the throat. When the sinus cavities are infected and swell, the mucus can’t drain, leading to pain and pressure throughout the face.
Though anyone can get a sinus infection, certain factors increase the risk. Smokers and those with seasonal allergies or weak immune systems are more likely to get sinusitis, as are people getting over a cold or who have other sinus issues.
Sinus Infection Signs
Sinus infections have relatively harmless, yet annoying, symptoms that can keep you from enjoying daily life. Depending on which sinuses are affected, your symptoms may affect either side of your nose, behind the nose, behind your eyebrows and forehead, or within your cheekbones.
Common symptoms of sinusitis include the following:
- Bad breath
- Clogged or runny nose
- Feeling pressure or pain in the face
- Sore throat
Cold or Sinus Infection?
Because sinus infection symptoms may mimic those of the common cold, it can be tricky to differentiate the two. The good news is that in most cases, it doesn’t matter. Annoying as they are, colds and sinus infections normally clear up on their own.
On occasion, you can tell the difference. When symptoms continue 10 or more days, it’s usually not a cold and more likely a sinus infection. In fact, it’s probably a bacterial sinus infection. Most sinus infections, both viral and bacterial, go away on their own within a few days. If the infection lingers, it’s more than likely the result of stubborn bacteria.
Sinus infections rarely need medical attention. If symptoms last more than 10 days or worsen after improvement, contact your provider. You should also seek medical attention if you experience a fever for three or more days or have severe facial pain or headache.
Because sinus infections and colds are similar, they respond to similar treatment. In most cases, that means home remedies. Over-the-counter decongestants or nasal sprays can relieve symptoms, as can breathing in the steam during a hot shower or placing a warm compress over the area experiencing pressure. In rare cases, antibiotics are used to treat bacterial sinusitis.
Worn out from sinus symptoms? Walk in to River’s Edge Hospital’s Urgent Care Department, speak with a provider, and find relief.
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