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You are sneezing, coughing and all stuffed up. It sounds and feels like a cold, alright. But as time goes on you start to wonder is it turning into a sinus infection.

What is a sinus infection?  It’s inflammation or swelling of your sinuses. These are hollow spaces in your skull that are connected to each other.  Normally they are filled with air. But when they become blocked and filled with fluid bacteria can grow and cause infection.  You may hear it referred to as sinusitis.

Sinusitis is usually caused by a virus and often persists even after other upper respiratory symptoms are gone.  In rare cases fungus or bacteria may cause a sinus infection. Allergies, nasal polyps, a tooth infection and a deviated septum can also trigger sinusitis as well.

What are the symptoms of sinusitis?  It can include thick discharge from your nose, pressure or pain around your eyes and face, headache generally in the forehead area and blockage in your nose. Sinus pain can also give you earaches and toothaches. Congestion, post nasal drip and a cold that gets worse or won’t go away are symptoms as well.

How do you treat a sinus infection? Over the counter medicines that include antihistamines and decongestants can help with sinus infections.  Nasal sprays can help with nasal congestion symptoms. Tal to your healthcare provider prior to taking any of these medications to make sure that you are not allergic to any ingredients in these medications. Antibiotics are not needed for all sinus infections. Do not take “left over” antibiotics if you think you have a sinus infection.

Avoiding things that irritate your nose and sinuses can help you prevent sinusitis. Cigarette smoke, chemicals in cleaning supplies and known allergens like ragweed can contribute to the development of a sinus infection.

Acute sinusitis usually goes away within one to two weeks with proper treatment and conservative care. Chronic sinusitis, which means the infection continues to reoccur, is more severe and may require evaluation by a specialist.   Good hygiene (washing your hands), keeping your sinuses moist and clear and treating symptoms early can help to prevent and resolve cases of sinusitis. And remember if you have questions regarding symptoms of sinusitis contact your healthcare provider.