Health Care

Sinus Infections: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

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If you have an achy or throbbing headache and a pile of tissues by your side, you may be dealing with a sinus infection (sinusitis). Every year, almost 31 million people, adults and children, experience some sort of sinus infection but don’t get it treated because they mistake it for the common cold or allergies.

Keep reading to learn more about sinusitis, symptoms to look for, treatment options and ways to prevent your passageways from getting congested.

What Is a Sinus Infection?

Sinuses are hollow spaces within the bones between your eyes, behind your cheekbones and in your forehead. A sinus infection is an inflammation or swelling of the tissue lining the sinuses, which creates blockages and fills up with fluid. This creates a perfect environment for germs to grow and cause an infection.

Some conditions can increase your chances of developing a sinus infection, such as:

  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Common cold
  • Deviated septum
  • Small growths in the lining of the nose called nasal polyps

Types of Sinus Infections

While all sinus infections are uncomfortable, they are not all the same. You may hear your health care provider use these terms when diagnosing your sinus infection:

  • Acute sinusitis: starts with cold-like symptoms like a runny nose and facial pain (may start suddenly and last two to four weeks)
  • Subacute sinusitis: usually lasts four to 12 weeks
  • Chronic sinusitis: symptoms last 12 weeks or longer
  • Recurrent sinusitis: happens several times a year and lasts four to 12 weeks

What Are the Symptoms of a Sinus Infection?

Symptoms of sinusitis often include:

  • Aching in your teeth
  • Altered sense of smell
  • Bad breath
  • Blocked or stuffy nose
  • Cough
  • Ear pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Pain, tenderness, swelling and pressure around eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead
  • Thick, yellow or greenish mucus from the nose or down the throat

Contact your primary care provider if your symptoms last more than a week, worsen or have a persistent fever.

See an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist as soon as you can if you have the following signs or symptoms, as they may indicate a more serious infection:

  • Confusion
  • Double vision or other vision changes
  • High fever
  • Pain, swelling or redness around your eyes
  • Stiff neck

Treatment for Sinus Infections

If your symptoms worsen or last longer than a week, your doctor may recommend you use a decongestant paired with saline washes. You shouldn’t use an over-the-counter decongestant for more than three days, though, because it can make you more congested.

If the over-the-counter medication doesn’t provide enough relief, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics for 10 to 14 days to clear up the infection.

Surgical ENT Treatments for Sinus Infections

If you have chronic or recurrent sinusitis, there are more advanced options that an ENT specialist can offer. Our AdventHealth ENT providers specialize in minimally invasive procedures that help alleviate and reduce your sinus infections. Two of the procedures we offer include:


In this procedure, a doctor inserts a thin and flexible instrument called an endoscope into your nose. It has a camera that sends images back to a screen. The doctor can see where your sinuses are blocked and guide other instruments to gently remove polyps, scar tissues or other blockages.

Balloon Sinuplasty

If you don’t have a physical blockage in your sinuses, you may be a good candidate for this newer type of minimally invasive surgery. A doctor puts a thin tube into your nose and releases a small balloon that inflates to expand your passageways and drain your sinuses so that you won’t feel congested.

How to Prevent Sinus Infections

While there is no definitive way to prevent sinus infections, by taking these small steps, you can greatly reduce the chances of getting congested:

  • Apply a warm, damp washcloth to your face several times a day to help open your sinus passageways
  • Drink plenty of fluids to thin the mucus
  • Get a humidifier to moisten the air you breathe and help open sinuses
  • Inhale steam two to four times a day or sit in the bathroom with a hot shower running
  • Rinse your nose with a saltwater solution
  • Use a nasal saline spray several times a day

Expert ENT Care to Keep Your Nasal Passages Clear

We’re here to provide healing and help you feel like yourself again. When your ears, nose or throat cause discomfort and disruption in your life, you can rely on our ENT specialists at AdventHealth to treat your symptoms with advanced, minimally invasive techniques that promote faster, better healing. Our ENT doctors can help you feel the relief you deserve. Learn more about our expert ENT care near you.

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