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Sinusitis - When To Call a Doctor

Call your doctor if sinusitis does not improve after 2 days of home treatment and you have symptoms such as:

  • Pain in the face or upper teeth.
  • Pain extending from the bridge of the nose to the lower eyelid.
  • Headache that is not relieved by taking acetaminophen or aspirin. (Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20 because of the risk of Reye syndrome).
  • Fever of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher.
  • Nasal discharge that starts out clear and later becomes thick and discolored (yellow or green).
  • Cold symptoms that last longer than 10 days or get worse after the first 7 days.
  • Mild or chronic pain in the face that lasts longer than a month, has changed, or has not been checked by a doctor.
  • Not feeling any better within 3 to 5 days after starting antibiotics for your sinus infection. You may need to try a different antibiotic or add medicine to your treatment that will reduce swelling.

If you are not sure whether you have a cold or a sinus infection, see the topic Facial Problems, Noninjury.

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Watchful waiting

Watchful waiting is appropriate if you have symptoms of an early sinus infection (such as pain and pressure in your head along with a stuffy or runny nose). An early sinus infection can often be treated at home if you are in good health. If you develop symptoms of a sinus infection, start home treatment, such as drinking lots of fluids and breathing steam from a warm shower, and use the guidelines above to decide whether you need to call a doctor.

Who to see

Sinusitis may be diagnosed by any of the following health professionals:

Your doctor may refer you to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist (also called an otolaryngologist) who can provide a more specialized examination of the nasal passages and upper throat. Referral to an ENT specialist may be beneficial for people in whom nasal polyps or other conditions causing blockage of the nasal cavity are suspected. Diagnosis and surgical treatment of chronic or complicated cases of sinusitis may be done by an ENT specialist.

An infectious disease specialist may be needed when sinusitis is caused by something unusual or when rare complications (such as an infection of the facial bones) occur. An allergist may be needed when allergies are suspected to be causing or contributing to sinus problems.

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 12, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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