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Sinus infections: When to see a doctor

Sinus infections

Sinus infections occur when mucus sits in the sinus cavities, giving pathogens a chance to grow and multiply. Sinus infections often follow a respiratory infection and are common in those with allergies. Here are five common sinus infection symptoms and when you should see a doctor. 

Pain or pressure in sinus cavities

One of the telltale signs of a sinus infection is pain or pressure in the sinus cavities. These cavities are located in several places: at the two sides of the upper part of your nose, the center of your forehead, and under the cheekbones. Pressure may be felt in any of these places. 

Sometimes, the pressure causes pain in other unrelated areas of the face. Those with sinus infections sometimes get sinusitis headaches or develop tooth and jaw pain from the pressure.

Nasal discharge

Nasal discharge is another common symptom of sinus infections. This discharge will usually be yellow or green and thick, causing the need to clear out the nose frequently. 

Postnasal drip

Postnasal drip is another symptom that comes from the back of the nose and drips down the throat. This can lead to several related symptoms, such as an itchy, irritated throat, coughing, and a hoarse voice. 


A stuffy nose is another symptom of a sinus infections, and this is due to mucus buildup in the sinus cavities. This congestion makes it hard to breathe through the nose and can also affect the senses of smell and taste. 


As with any other infection in the body, fever can develop during sinusitis. It’s your body’s way of trying to fight off the infection. A raised temperature (anything over 100.4 is considered a fever) often helps to kill off pathogens. 

When to see a doctor about a sinus infection

If you are experiencing a sinus infection, it usually will go away on its own with time. You can take over-the-counter sinus medication to help alleviate symptoms in the meantime. However, there are several instances where you should visit your doctor or an ENT specialist to get help.

See your doctor if your symptoms don’t go away within 7-10 days. See your doctor if any of your symptoms worsen rather than better with time. You should also see your doctor immediately if your fever becomes very high or you experience confusion, vision changes, swelling around the eyes, or a stiff neck. These can all potentially be signs of a severe infection. 

If you experience chronic sinusitis or recurrent acute sinusitis, you should see an ENT specialist. Chronic sinusitis is a sinus infection lasting longer than 12 weeks, and recurrent acute sinusitis is recurring bouts of sinusitis (at least four per year), lasting the usual week or longer. In both cases, an ENT specialist can help you find relief through treatments beyond just managing the symptoms.

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