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Sinus Infections

Sinus infections are caused when the sinuses become swollen or inflamed and do not drain correctly.

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What is a sinus infection?

A sinus infection, or sinusitis, is the inflammation or swelling of the sinuses. The sinuses are air-filled spaces in your nose, cheeks, and forehead that make mucus to keep the inside of your nose moist. This helps protect the body against dust, allergens and pollutants.

When your sinuses become blocked and filled with fluid, it creates an environment where germs can flourish.

What causes a sinus infection?

Sinus infections are caused by various pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria and fungi. Allergies and certain nasal conditions can also make sinusitis more likely.

Most sinus infections are viral, often following a cold or flu. Viruses cause the sinuses' lining to become inflamed, leading to congestion and difficulty draining mucus. Viral sinus infections usually begin to improve after 5 to 7 days.

In some cases, bacteria can infect the sinuses, causing a more prolonged infection. Symptoms are similar to viral infections, but bacterial sinusitis typically lasts for 7 days or longer.

Fungal sinusitis is a type of sinus infection that can lead to severe health issues and even death. Individuals with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of catching fungal sinusitis. Antifungal medications or surgery may be necessary to treat a fungal sinus infection.

For people with allergies, sinusitis can be triggered by inhaling dust, pollen and other airborne irritants. While its symptoms largely mirror those of other sinusitis types, allergic sinusitis also can cause an itchy nose, eyes, and throat. These symptoms may fluctuate with the seasons, as airborne allergen levels change.

Nasal polyps are small growths that can appear inside the nose or the sinuses. They are painless and non-cancerous but can contribute to breathing problems and make sinus infections more likely.

The septum is a wall of cartilage that divides your nostrils. Some people are born with a septum that is crooked or “deviated” from the midline of the nose. A deviated septum can also result from an injury to the nose. Deviated septums can block sinus drainage, resulting in repeated sinus infections.

Sinus Infection Symptoms

How do you know if you have a sinus infection?

Common symptoms of a sinus infection include:

  • Pain or pressure on the face, especially around the eyes, forehead and cheeks

  • Nasal congestion

  • Cough (often worse at night)

  • Post-nasal drip (mucus dripping from the nasal passages into the throat)

  • Greenish nasal discharge

  • Sore throat

  • Bad breath

  • Fever

Sinus Infection Treatment

Sinus infections may resolve on their own, with symptoms improving within 5-10 days. If your symptoms persist longer than this, you should visit a medical provider.

If your sinus infection is caused by bacteria, antibiotics may be prescribed to help the infection heal. Your healthcare provider may also recommend or prescribe decongestants, painkillers or anti-inflammatory medication to help ease your symptoms.

Home remedies can provide relief from sinus infection symptoms. It’s important to drink lots of fluids, get extra rest and avoid cigarette smoke or other airborne irritants. Warm compresses can relieve facial pain, while nasal irrigation products reduce congestion. Many over-the-counter cold medications are useful for managing the symptoms of sinus infections, as they tend to have overlapping symptoms. Common painkillers can help with the headaches and sinus pain associated with sinus infections.

Sinus Infection FAQs

Sinus infections share many symptoms with common viral infections, such as the cold, flu and COVID-19. This can make it difficult to distinguish whether your symptoms are being caused by a sinus infection or another ailment.

However, pain or pressure in your sinuses is a characteristic sign of a sinus infection. In addition, you may suspect a sinus infection if your illness is lasting longer than a week or your nasal discharge is greenish in color.

Getting the advice of a qualified medical professional is the best way to get the right diagnosis.

In chronic or severe cases, sinus surgery may be recommended. Procedures such as endoscopic sinus surgery can remove nasal polyps and scar tissue that may be blocking your nasal passages. It can also be used to correct a deviated septum. As a result of surgery, you should be able to breathe more easily and experience less congestion, resulting in fewer sinus infections.

Preventive measures to avoid sinus infections include:

Hand Hygiene: Regular handwashing reduces the risk of viral infections.

Allergy Management: Identifying and managing allergies can prevent sinus infections.

Vaccinations: Stay up-to-date on vaccines for common viruses, such as the flu and COVID-19.

Avoiding Irritants: Avoid smoking, and stay away from respiratory irritants like wildfire smoke and second-hand smoke. Use an air purifier if indoor air quality is poor.

Physical Distancing: If you know someone has an upper respiratory infection, avoid close contact with them until they are no longer contagious.

Humidification: Using a humidifier can keep nasal passages moist and reduce the risk of infection. It is important to clean your humidifier regularly (follow the instructions provided with the device).

  • Your symptoms begin to improve but then get worse

  • Your symptoms haven’t improved after 10 days

  • You have a fever that lasts for more than 4 days

  • You have severe a headache or pain in the face

  • You have any symptoms that are severe

  • You’ve had more than one sinus infection in the past 12 months

When should you visit urgent care for sinus infection treatment?

If you’re uncomfortable and/or experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, don’t suffer from sinus infection symptoms longer than you have to. WellNow Urgent Care can diagnose and treat your sinus infection right away. Check in online or walk in to a WellNow location nearest you.

This medical information has been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Robert Biernbaum, Chief Medical Officer for WellNow Urgent Care.

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Illnesses We Treat

WellNow Urgent Care treats a variety of illnesses, infections and diseases along with their
associated symptoms. If you are feeling uncomfortable or unwell, our dedicated medical
team is prepared to deliver a personalized and tailored treatment plan to help you get
better, faster.

This list contains our most commonly treated illnesses and symptoms. If you are
experiencing an illness not listed or are unsure of the source of your discomfort, visit a
WellNow location near you
or start a virtual care session.

A - E

Abscesses and Cysts
Common Cold
Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)
COVID - 19
Ear Infections