Sinus Infections

Early Signs of a Sinus Infection

September 1, 2018

5 minutes

Reviewed by Michael Kaplan, MD

The early signs of a sinus infection are very similar to the early signs of a cold, often causing confusion in individuals trying to self-diagnose. It’s not uncommon for us to receive calls asking about the difference between the two, especially from concerned parents asking, “How do I know if my child has a sinus infection?”

Fortunately, there are a few telltale early signs of a sinus infection that aren’t present with the common cold. If you want to be proactive and stop a brewing sinus infection in its tracks, read on to learn how you can identify the early signs of a sinus infection vs. a cold.

How do sinus infections start?

Sinus infection causes vary, but most are the result of a bacterial infection. There are, however, several circumstances that can help a sinus infection develop, including allergies and — you guessed it — the common cold.

Less obvious factors can also influence the onset of a sinus infection. For more information, check out our post that answers the question, “Can stress cause sinus infections?”

No matter the root of your sinus infection, all sinus infections begin when the lining of your sinuses becomes inflamed. Inflamed and swollen sinuses block the natural movement of mucus through your system, creating a whole slew of frustrating symptoms for you to deal with.

How do you know when you have a sinus infection?

Sinus infection symptoms share some likeness to cold symptoms: both illnesses can cause a stuffy nose, mucus buildup, fatigue, headaches, a cough, post nasal drip, and fever. However, as mentioned previously, there are a few symptoms and early signs of a sinus infection that distinguish it from a cold. These include:

Sinus pressure and tenderness near the eyes and cheekbones: If mucus is unable to drain, it increases the amount of pressure built up in your sinuses. This pressure can make your face feel very tender to the touch.

Teeth pain: Teeth pain is another product of pressure buildup in your sinuses, as a few of the sinus cavities are near enough to your teeth to make them ache.  

Bad breath: Bacteria-filled mucus that’s unable to drain creates a smell which can make your breath be less than minty fresh.

Discolored, yellow or green mucus: If your nasal discharge is a different color than usual, this could signal that you have a sinus infection vs. a cold.

Redness of the face and swelling of the nasal passages: These early signs of a sinus infection are easier for your doctor to see than you yourself, but redness and swelling of the nasal passages are a strong indicator that a sinus infection is present.

One of the less commonly mentioned sinus infection symptoms is dizziness caused by a buildup of fluid in the ear. Dizziness can also occur in colds, albeit not as frequently. The same can be said for nausea caused by mucus from post-nasal drip upsetting your stomach. For more information, read more in our post, “Can sinus infections cause nausea?”  

Sinus infection treatment

What is the fastest way to get rid of a sinus infection? Besides knowing the early signs of a sinus infection, one of the fastest ways to get rid of a sinus infection is to visit your doctor.

Your doctor will be able to tell you how advanced your sinus infection is, whether it can be treated with decongestants, saline nasal sprays, sinus infection antibiotics, or other treatments. If your sinus infections are chronic or severe, your doctor might recommend balloon sinuplasty as an effective sinus infection treatment.

In the meantime, it’s smart to rest, drink fluids, consume foods that help sinus infections be less unbearable, and avoid environments that you know could agitate your allergies. Almost always, the worst course of action is to do nothing. A sinus infection left untreated can create further health complications.

What to do when you spot the early signs of a sinus infection

If you are concerned that you or a loved one is showing the early signs of a sinus infection, one of the best things you can do is seek out a sinus doctor in Houston. Doing so may save you quite a few (sinus pressure) headaches and trips to urgent care down the line.

Should this not be the first time you’ve had a sinus infection, we encourage you to ask us about balloon sinuplasty in Houston, a non-invasive, in-office procedure that can be completed within only 21 minutes. Dr. Kaplan specializes in balloon sinuplasty and has helped thousands of Houstonians like you find long-lasting sinus relief.

Ready to breathe easy again? Stop your early signs a sinus infections from getting worse by scheduling an appointment today.

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