Sinus Infections – What are They and How are They Treated?

By: John Hinson | On: October 30, 2015

Even during the winter, the humidity in Florida can be pretty high. This warm, moist air can easily contribute to the development of a sinus infection, as bacteria thrive in warm and moist spaces.

Sinus infections have many similarities to the common cold; however, they are different conditions. Identifying and treating a sinus infection quickly will help speed the recovery process.

What is a Sinus Infection?

Sinus Infections – What are They and How are They Treated?Sinusitis, more commonly known as a sinus infection, is a painful and uncomfortable condition where the sinus cavities become infected, swollen, and inflamed. The individual may suffer from headaches, congestion, coughing, and sinus pain.

Sinus infections are usually caused by viruses or infection, and are often the result of the common cold. Less frequently, they can be caused by fungal infections or bacteria.

Other possible sinus infection causes include tooth infections, allergies, and polyps.

There are 4 main types of sinus infections:

  • Acute Sinusitis: Cold-like symptoms and facial pain that usually resolves within 4 weeks.
  • Subacute Sinusitis: Sinus inflammation and facial pain which lasts between 4 – 8 weeks.
  • Chronic Sinusitis: Sinus inflammation and facial pain that lasts 8 weeks or longer.
  • Recurring Sinusitis: Sinusitis which occurs multiple times in a year.

Symptoms of a Sinus Infection

If you’ve never had a sinus infection before, it may be easy to mistake sinusitis for a cold as some of the symptoms are similar.

  • Congestion
  • Stuffed nasal passages
  • Cough
  • Facial pain and/or pressure
  • In cases of acute sinusitis, two or more of the above symptoms as well as green or yellowish nasal discharge
  • Loss or reduction of sense of smell
  • Fever (rare)
  • Pain in teeth
  • Fatigue

Sinus Infection or Cold?

Sinus infections usually develop independently of a cold. However, when the sinuses are blocked and unable to drain during a cold, bacteria can grow and turn into a sinus infection.

Determining the difference between the two is key to treating the illness properly, and getting back on the road to recovery that much faster.

Both sinus infections and colds will cause:

  • Congestion
  • Cough
  • Mucus buildup
  • Loss or reduction of sense of smell
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen sinuses
  • Sneezing

The best way to tell the difference between the two is to pay attention to how long the symptoms last. Colds generally subside within 10 days or fewer. Sinus infections can last upwards of 8 weeks.

Another way to tell, at least in cases of acute sinusitis, is to look at the color of the mucus. Normal mucus is clear or cloudy. Mucus from a sinus infection will range in color from green to yellow or orange.

Caring for a Sinus Infection

drinking-water-xsCaring for a sinus infection is much like caring for any other wintertime illness.

  • Drink plenty of fluids to thin your mucus
  • Take decongestants as necessary to help relieve pressure
  • Take ibuprofen to reduce fevers if they occur
  • Pain killers are a great way to reduce your discomfort
  • Some doctors may recommend sinus irrigation, which is a saline-based rinse for your sinuses that can help clear out bacteria in your nasal passages
  • If your doctor has prescribed antibiotics for a bacterial sinus infection, take all the doses and finish the regimen even after you feel better

With rest and plenty of fluids, most cases of sinusitis go away on their own within a few weeks.

When to Visit Florida Medical Clinic

Not all sinus infections go away on their own. Severe, recurring, or chronic cases may require antibiotics or even surgery. The course of treatment for these cases will depend on what is causing the infection.

Sinusitis which is not properly treated can sometimes lead to serious complications, especially if the sinus infection spreads to the brain or eyes.

If you are unsure about whether you have a sinus infection, how to treat your sinus infection, or if you are experiencing complications with your symptoms, it’s important to seek medical advice.

Florida Medical Clinic

If you suspect you have a sinus infection, make an appointment with your primary care provider for diagnosis and treatment.

In rare cases, sinusitis can develop into a medical emergency. These symptoms include changes in vision, bulging eyes or eyelids, personality changes, or severe headache. In these cases, our Urgent Care center is available to help.