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Could it Be a Sinus Infection? How to Tell

13397331035_74405edc15_oWhen you feel congested and can’t stop coughing and sneezing, a common cold could be the culprit–or you could have a sinus infection, which may require treatment from your family physician. Knowing the signs of sinusitis allows you to seek medical care and resolve your symptoms sooner.

Types of Sinus Infections

Some cases of sinusitis are acute, meaning the symptoms occur as a complication of a cold or allergies and last only a few days. Others are chronic, characterized by symptoms that last weeks or months and may frequently resolve and recur. While both types of sinus infections are usually caused by a virus, they can sometimes be triggered by bacteria, nasal polyps, a deviated septum, or even a tooth infection that spreads to the sinuses.

Symptoms You’ll Experience

Sinus infections most often manifest with pain in the sinus cavities, located around the eyes and behind the nose. This is typically a dull sensation triggered by inflammation and swelling in the passages, and can lead to jaw pain, earache, or headache. Many people with sinusitis also experience nasal discharge, congestion, cough, and sore throat.

When to See Your Family Physician

Although the common cold passes on its own without medical treatment, that’s not necessarily the case for sinusitis. Your family physician may need to prescribe antibiotics to clear the infection. See your doctor if your symptoms last longer than a week or two or you have a fever that comes and goes, which could be a sign of an underlying issue.


If you’re prone to sinus infections, some preventive tips can keep them from recurring. Avoid substances that can irritate the sinuses, such as cigarette smoke, chemicals, and other allergens. Wash hands frequently to avoid exposure to bacteria. If your symptoms are caused or exacerbated by allergies, treating this underlying cause often resolves chronic sinusitis.