If you’re the type that catches colds all winter long, you might not necessarily realize that your stuffy nose has turned into a sinus infection. After all, the symptoms can be similar, although a sinus infection is likely to be more severe. And much of the time, having a cold can lead to a sinus infection, compromising your immune system so that bacteria or a viral infection can take hold. Even allergies can pave the way for a sinus infection. However, if the condition goes untreated, it won’t be long before you realize that something is wrong since symptoms are unlikely to get better on their own. If you’re worried that you’re suffering from a sinus infection, here are a few signs and symptoms to look for.
The main indicator of a sinus infection is the length of time you’ve been sick. A cold bug will generally run its course in about ten days, and you’ll be on the upswing before that point. So if you seem to have symptoms that linger longer, it could be a sinus infection. If you suffer from allergies it may be harder to tell since the symptoms can last indefinitely. But of course, if you’re not sure you should always consult with your physician, an allergist, or an ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT). There are other symptoms you can look for, as well, though, when trying to determine if you’re dealing with a sinus infection or something you can treat on your own.
In addition to the duration of symptoms, you’re bound to experience many physical manifestations of a sinus infection. Along with the regular coughing, sneezing, and runny nose that tend to accompany a cold, you’ll also deal with sinus pressure behind the nose, cheeks, and eyes. This is not surprising because the primary characteristic of a sinus infection is inflammation of the nasal cavity. Headache is also common, and it will likely get worse the longer the infection goes untreated. One of the telltale signs of any type of infection is fever, so you should check your temperature periodically.
You’re also likely to see more extreme mucus when you’re dealing with a sinus infection. A cold can definitely leave you with a runny nose that you’re constantly blowing, but with a sinus infection you’ll start to see thicker mucus that is yellow or green in color. And because of postnasal drip, you’re likely to start coughing it up eventually. Another symptom that is bound to increase the longer you have a sinus infection is fatigue.
The good news is that there are plenty of sinus infection treatment options. If your infection is bacterial, a course of antibiotics should clear it up pretty quickly. For viral infections, you can’t get the magic pill, so to speak, but in severe cases your doctor may prescribe steroids to reduce inflammation in a hurry. Or you could rely on OTC decongestants, mucus thinners (like Mucinex), and nasal irrigation to relieve symptoms. And plenty of rest is always a good idea when you’re under the weather. If your symptoms don’t improve or you find that you’re prone to sinus infections, you could also visit the specialists at a facility like the St. Louis Sinus Center to determine a course of treatment that will get you back on your feet.