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What Is a Viral Sinus Infection?

By Meshell Powell
Updated May 17, 2024
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The majority of sinus infections are caused by viruses, although they may occasionally occur due to bacterial or fungal infections. In most cases, a viral sinus infection is caused by the same type of virus that causes the common cold. Symptoms typically include a runny or stuffy nose, headache, and a feeling of pressure in the face and head. Medical treatment for a viral sinus infection is not normally needed, as it usually goes away on its own within a matter of days. Home treatment methods that may prove useful include getting plenty of rest, drinking extra fluids, and taking over-the-counter pain relievers.

A viral sinus infection occurs when the nasal passages and sinuses become inflamed due to the presence of a virus. Many of these infections follow an upper respiratory infection, although they may sometimes develop spontaneously. If a viral sinus infection occurs more than four times per year or if it lasts for more than four weeks, a doctor should be consulted for further medical evaluation.

Some of the most common symptoms of a viral sinus infection include headache, stuffy nose, or facial pressure. The nose may be runny instead of stuffy, or it may alternate between the two. Postnasal drip may occur and involves the drainage of mucus from the nose and down the throat. Mild to moderate fatigue may develop, and some people with this type of infection may experience a foul odor to the breath. Fever, sore throat, or cough may sometimes occur as a result of a viral sinus infection.

Persistent or chronic symptoms of a viral sinus infection should be evaluated by a doctor in order to rule out more serious health concerns. These complications may include an infection that lasts longer than 10 days, an exceptionally high fever, or symptoms that do not respond to conventional over-the-counter medications. Prescription antibiotics are not used in the case of a viral sinus infection, as this type of medication is useful in treating only bacterial infections.

Home treatment options that may help to manage the symptoms associated with a sinus infection include extra fluids, plenty of rest, and the use of over-the-counter medications. A warm compress placed on the face several times per day may also be helpful. Some people may benefit from inhaling the moist, hot vapors of a hot shower. A saline rinse or saline nasal drops may ease symptoms while decreasing the amount of time that the symptoms are experienced.

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