How to Find Out if You Have a Sinus Infection

Two Parts:Recognizing Sinus InfectionsTreating Sinus Infections at Home

A sinus infection, also known as sinusitis, is a very common upper respiratory tract infection that infects millions of people every year. It occurs when the membranes of the paranasal sinuses, which are the small air-filled spaces located within the skull around your nose, become inflamed. This causes pressure in your sinuses, which is due to a build-up of air and mucus in the nasal cavity.[1][2] If you are experiencing sinus pain, follow a few simple steps to find out if you have a sinus infection and learn some ways to ease the symptoms.

Part 1
Recognizing Sinus Infections

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    Look for sinus congestion and pain. There are many common symptoms of a sinus infection. One of the main symptoms is sinus congestion. This is typically connected with sinus pain as well. This pain occurs in the areas on and around your nose and is due to the pressure from the inflamed sinus cavity. This pressure often causes headaches.[3]
    • There may be pain when you move your head forward or when you touch the areas overlying your sinus cavities. The maxillary sinuses, which are under your eyes, may be painful or uncomfortable as well when pressed or tapped.
    • The symptoms can seem very similar to the common cold. The major difference is that, with a cold, you will have congestion, but the sinus pain and pressure will not be as severe.[4]
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    See if you have discolored sinus discharge. One of the other major signs of a sinus infection is discolored sinus discharge, or snot. The color of the discharge will be green, yellow, or blood-tinged. This is due to the virus in your system, which causes the snot to change colors.
    • It will also likely be thick and might be hard to blow out.
    • This is another major way to distinguish a sinus infection from a common cold. The nasal discharge you experience with a common cold is abundant and there is a lot of it, but it is clear. The discharge with a sinus infection will always have a cloudy and colored appearance.[5]
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    Take note of a cough. Along with the nasal symptoms, you may develop a cough as well. The nasal discharge often drains into your throat and lungs, which is called a post-nasal drip. You may feel the sensation that it is draining to the back of your throat. This drip can cause a cough that may or may not be productive, which means that it produces phlegm.
    • You may also develop a low grade fever.
    • This cough will not be set in your lungs. A sinus infection does not cause mucus to be created in your lungs. The cough you develop with a sinus infection is the way your body reacts to post-nasal drip. It is simply trying to expel the phlegm that travels to your lungs.[6]
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    Distinguish sinusitis due to chronic allergies. You can develop a sinus infection as a result of your allergies. The same pathogenesis that cause sinusitis is present with allergies, which sets the stage for the symptoms of the infection. For this type of sinus infection, you may have sinus pressure and pain for days leading up to the onset of the infection. The change in color of your snot notes when your sinus issues change from allergies to an infection.
    • Chronic allergy sufferers may also have nasal polyps, which impede drainage and predispose you to infection.[7]
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    Seek medical care. The duration of the symptoms is the most important factor in determining if you need to visit a healthcare provider. If you have been suffering from the symptoms of a sinus infection for more than seven days and the symptoms have not gotten better, you need to seek medical attention. There is a higher likelihood that you could develop a build up of bacteria in your sinuses, which can cause a secondary infection. This will make your condition much worse and cause you more discomfort and pain.
    • Bacterial sinusitis presents as a cold with intense sinus pain and pressure that will not go away.
    • The treatment will vary depending on your doctor. There is a bit of controversy over whether antibiotics are helpful for sinus infections since there is no proof that they help with viruses. [8][9] Viruses that cause sinusitis include rhinovirus, parainfluenza, and influenza.
    • If your symptoms last for under a week, you do not need to see a healthcare provider. Up to 70% of those infected with sinusitis recover without the use of medication or without seeing a doctor.[10]
    • If your doctor is concerned about an intracranial infection or orbital cellulitis, she may order a CT scan. This will allow her to see your sinuses for diagnosis.
    • She may prescribe oral administration of decongestant such as pseudoephedrine, or the use of mucolytics and antihistamine medications.
    • If you fail to improve with these measures, you will often be prescribed an antibiotic, such as amoxicillin or augmentin.
    • Follow up with your doctor as necessary.

Part 2
Treating Sinus Infections at Home

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    Take minerals. There are some treatment and preventative methods that can help you when you have or think you might be getting a sinus infection. When you first suspect a sinus infection or cold is coming on, start taking zinc as quickly as possible. Studies show that zinc taken within 24 hours of the beginning of cold symptoms greatly decrease the duration of the symptoms.
    • Studies show that a dose between 75 mg-150 mg daily will shorten the duration of a cold by 42%.[11]
    • You can get zinc in a lozenge form over the counter at most drugstores. Try common brands such as Cold-EEZE. To use, dissolve the zinc lozenge in one cup of water and drink every one to three hours for your total daily dose.
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    Ingest vitamin C. Ingesting a large amount of vitamin C naturally enhances your immune function. This can help fight the symptoms of your sinus infection. Multiple studies show that 2000mg of vitamin C daily provided great benefits in reducing not only duration but severity of the symptoms.
    • You need to get at least 1000 mg daily to help fight the symptoms. You can also ingest even more than 2000 mg because no side effects have been reported when more than the recommended daily amount is consumed. [12][13]
    • You can get more vitamin C every day through citrus fruit and leafy green vegetables. You can also buy over the counter supplements in powder, tablet, and chewable form.
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    Use a neti pot. When you start to feel your nostrils inflame, you can use a neti pot to help with the symptoms. A neti pot is a miniature teapot shaped device that cleanses your sinus passages by flooding warm water through one nostril and out the other. To use, fill the pot with warm water that is around 120 degrees. Tilt your head to the side to allow the water to pour into your right nostril and drain out the left.
    • It can be dangerous to use a neti pot if used incorrectly. If you breathe during a nasal douche, it can introduce bacteria into your nasal cavities and possibly lead to pneumonia.
    • There have been some case reports of rare amoebic infections in areas with unclean water inhabited by this parasite, in which the fecal parasite was introduced via poor sanitation. This is not a problem in areas with appropriate water sanitation.[14] If you are worried about the safeness of your water, boil it for at least ten minutes and then let it cool to the recommended temperature before using.
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    Try echinacea. You can take echinacea to help shorten the duration of your symptoms. There have been multiple studies done that prove that echinacea works in these situation. Although there is no research-based consensus on the dosage needed per day, most medical professionals suggest that three tablets of 176-300 mg should be taken daily for one week when you have symptoms of a sinus infection.[15]
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    Try allergy medication. There are many different over-the-counter allergy medications that are helpful when you suffer from sinusitis due to chronic allergies. These come in tablet and nasal spray. Try tablet medications such as Claritin and Zyrtec. Take 5-10mg per day. You can also try nasal sprays such as Flonase, which is a non-addictive steroid based nasal spray that was once by prescription only but is now available over the counter.
    • There are other nasal sprays available, but they have negative side effects. Neo-synephrine nasal decongestant spray carries a rebound addictive property, in which congestion will worsen if product is not used daily.[16]

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Categories: Nasal and Sinus Care