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When a Cold Becomes a Sinus Infection

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How Is a Sinus Infection Diagnosed and Treated?

A sinus infection is diagnosed after a physical exam and a medical history evaluation. In some instances, X-rays or a CT scan of your sinuses may be necessary, particularly if you don't respond to initial treatment.

Sinusitis is first treated with medication. Antibiotics are usually used if symptoms persist for more than 10 days. Decongestants and other drugs help decrease the swelling in your sinuses and nasal passages.

Steam and hot showers may be recommended to loosen mucus. Your doctor may also recommend nasal saline to wash mucus from your nose.

In rare instances, when sinusitis becomes chronic or long lasting, long-term antibiotics or surgery may be needed to establish adequate drainage.

When Should I Call the Doctor About a Cold or Sinus Infection?

Most colds go away without medical treatment. If you have pain around your face or eyes along with thick yellow or green nasal discharge for more than a week, seek care from your health care provider. Also, call your health care provider if you have fever or symptoms that are severe or do not get better with over-the-counter treatments. 

Routine sinus conditions can be cared for by your primary care doctor. If, however, you are bothered by persistent abnormal symptoms, recurring infections, or have abnormal X-ray findings or complications, your primary care doctor may refer you to an ear-nose-and-throat doctor.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on June 11, 2012
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