Acute Sinusitis

Symptoms of an Acute Sinus Infection

There are a number of common signs and symptoms of acute sinusitis. The most common symptoms include:
  • Nasal congestion or blockage
  • Drainage of a 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 signs, such as a fever or cough, are less common.
(Click Acute Sinusitis Symptoms to learn more, including symptoms that are likelier to be from a bacterial infection and symptoms that may indicate something more serious.)

Making a Diagnosis

Most cases of acute sinusitis can be diagnosed following a physical exam and a discussion with your healthcare provider. There are no routine tests used to diagnose an acute sinus infection.
There are also no routine tests that can help diagnose a sinus infection caused by a virus or bacteria. Healthcare providers rely on your symptoms, their severity, and what they find in the physical exam in order to help decide between the two.
(Click Diagnosing Sinusitis for more information.)

Treating Acute Sinusitis

Decreasing inflammation and relieving symptoms are the two main goals of sinusitis treatment. Treatment does not shorten the course of the illness; it just helps relieve symptoms until the body can take care of the infection on its own.
Some different options for treating an acute sinus infection include:
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®), naproxen (Aleve®), or acetaminophen (Tylenol®), for pain relief and/or fever.
  • Irrigating the nose with a non-medicated saline solution or spray several times a day. This helps clear the nasal passages and decreases the need for pain medicine (see Nasal Irrigation).
  • Nasal decongestants and steroid nasal sprays to reduce congestion.
Most sinus infections do not require antibiotics. This is because the majority of sinus infections are caused by a virus, and antibiotics have no effect on viruses. However, these medicines will be prescribed if the healthcare provider suspects bacterial sinusitis. Antibiotics can control a bacterial infection and decrease the chance of complications.
(Click Sinusitis Treatment for more details on treating an acute sinus infection.)
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