Sometimes it’s difficult to know if you have a cold or a sinus infection. Many of the symptoms overlap. You may also have chronic sinusitis that lasts for 12 weeks with mild symptoms, whereas acute sinusitis can cause more severe symptoms. Although acute sinusitis often clears up in seven to 10 days, there might be times when you need to see a specialist such as an otolaryngologist, more commonly known as an ear, nose, or throat doctor.

What is Acute Sinusitis?

Acute sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses, the cavities around your nose. The infection causes inflammation, swelling, and pain. In many cases, sinusitis is caused by the same virus that causes a cold.

What are the Symptoms of Acute Sinusitis?

The symptoms of acute sinusitis vary from person to person. The most common symptoms are as follows:

• Nasal congestion and swelling
• Swelling around eyes and cheeks
• Pain or tenderness around your nose, eyes, and cheeks
• Thick yellow or green discharge from nose
• Ear pressure or earache
• Facial pressure that worsens as you bend over
• Headache
• Postnasal drip down back of the throat
• Coughing
• Sore throat
• Bad breath
• Change in sense of smell
• Fever
• Lack of energy

What are the Causes of Acute Sinusitis?

A virus infection that causes a cold can also cause acute sinusitis. In some cases, a bacterial or fungal infection results in acute sinusitis. With some people, an allergy can trigger a sinus infection.

There are medical conditions that can make a person more susceptible to sinus infections. If you smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoke, you are more vulnerable to sinusitis. Other conditions are hay fever, and abnormalities such as nasal polyps, infected adenoids, or a deviated septum. People with cystic fibrosis or immune deficiency disorders are also at a higher risk for acute sinusitis.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Acute Sinusitis

Doctors can usually diagnose acute sinusitis with a physical exam. The doctor looks at the nasal passages and feels the face around the eyes and the nose for swelling and tenderness. Another diagnostic method is to visually examine the sinuses using a nasal endoscope, a narrow tube with a light at the end.

Over-the-counter remedies include decongestants, pain relievers, saline nasal sprays, and corticosteroid nasal sprays. If these medications don’t work, and your symptoms become more severe, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

If you or a family member has many of the symptoms of acute sinusitis for over a week and the condition gets worse, you need to see a doctor, especially if the patient also has a fever.