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Signs of a Sinus Infection and When to See a Doctor

What Are the Signs and Symptoms?

There are a number of common signs and symptoms of sinusitis in adults. The most common symptoms in people with an acute sinus infection include:
  • Nasal congestion or blockage
  • Drainage of thick, yellow-to-green mucus, which can drain out the nose or down the back of the throat
  • Face pain or discomfort that is worse when bending over
  • Tooth pain or discomfort.
Other symptoms, such as a fever or cough, are less common.
Most symptoms of a sinus infection develop over 1 day and improve within 7 to 10 days. Symptoms tend to be at their worst from day 3 to day 6.
(Click Sinus Infection (Sinusitis) Symptoms for more information about possible symptoms, including those that are common with chronic sinus infections. You can also click Cold or Sinus Infection to see the difference between the symptoms of both conditions.)

When to See a Healthcare Provider

In most cases, it is difficult to know whether a sinus infection is caused by bacteria or a virus. No treatment is available to speed up the recovery of a viral acute sinus infection; the condition generally clears up on its own. In some cases, an acute bacterial sinus infection will also clear up on its own. Therefore, healthcare providers often recommend treating possible sinus infections at home.
However, there are times when you should see your healthcare provider. If the following symptoms are present for more than seven days, contact your healthcare provider:
  • Face or tooth pain, especially if it is only on one side
  • Thick, yellow-to-green discharge from the nose
  • Cheek tenderness or pain (this is where your maxillary sinuses are).
You should also contact your healthcare provider if symptoms were getting better but suddenly get worse.
Reasons to contact your healthcare provider right away include:
  • Double vision
  • Decreases in vision
  • Drooping eyelid
  • Swelling around the eyelid
  • Redness around the eyelid
  • Severe headache
  • High fever (over 102.5°F or 39.2°C)
  • Severe facial pain
  • Stiff neck
  • Shortness of breath
  • Changes in mental state.
5 Tips to Keep a Cold at Bay

Sinus Infections (Acute and Chronic)

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