How Long Do Sinus Infections Last?

How Long So Sinus Infections Last?

A sinus infection can last anywhere from 10 days to several weeks. The length of a sinus infection usually depends on whether the cause is viral (i.e. a cold or flu) or bacterial (i.e. Streptococcus pneumonia - “strep throat” or Haemophilus influenzae).

A sinus infection caused by a virus should start to show improvement within 3 to 5 days. Under normal conditions, sinusitis symptoms (i.e. post nasal drip, runny nose, and congestion) should clear up in about 10 days.

In some cases, a sinus infection caused by a virus may contribute to the onset of a bacterial infection in the sinuses. The swelling and inflammation caused by the initial infection can create hotbeds for bacterial growth, which can lead to further complications and increased severity.

As well, seasonal allergies (hay fever), dental infections, and nasal blockages, can also contribute to the onset of a bacterial infection in the sinuses. These conditions can also lead to swelling, irritation, and obstructions that help foster bacterial growth.

If a bacterial infection sets in, symptoms will generally last longer than 10 days. In severe cases, especially if left untreated, bacterial sinus infections can endure for weeks. However, if the bacterial infection is diagnosed and treated in time, symptoms should start clearing up within a few days.

Sinus infections are typically separated into 3 types roughly based on the length, severity, and cause of the symptoms.

How Long Does A Sinus Infection Last?

3 Types Of Sinusitis

  • Acute sinusitis - Acute sinusitis typically lasts 10 days, with most symptoms showing improvement after 3 to 5 days. In some cases, symptoms may continue up to 3 or 4 weeks depending on the severity of the infection and other underlying conditions. Acute sinus infections are commonly caused by viral infections, such as the cold or flu. However, in some cases, they can also be the result of environmental and/or bacterial conditions.
  • Subacute sinusitis - Subacute sinusitis is identified when symptoms persist anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks. Subacute sinus infections are commonly caused by bacterial growth, typically, as the result of a viral infection or seasonal allergies.
  • Chronic sinusitis - Chronic sinusitis (or chronic rhinosinusitis) lasts 12 weeks or longer. Before developing chronic sinusitis, you will likely have a number of acute sinusitis episodes. Seasonal allergy sufferers tend to also experience chronic sinusitis more often. 

What Happens If You Let A Sinus Infection Go Untreated?

A sinus infection that is left untreated can not only make life miserable it may develop into chronic sinusitis. If an infection isn’t cared for properly, it could also result in some potentially serious complications. These types of issues are rare but they can occur:

  • Sinus infections, if left untreated, can spread to the eyes, often causing redness, irritation, and/or swelling. In more severe cases, they can even cause reduced, blurry, or complete loss of vision.
  • Severe sinusitis may need to be treated with antibiotics administered through an IV.
  • A CT scan may be required to determine the seriousness of the infection.
  • In very rare cases, brain abscesses or meningitis may result from a severe and untreated sinus infection.

How Do You Treat A Sinus Infection?

If you suspect you have a sinus infection, you should see a medical professional in order to get advice on proper treatment. In most cases, antibiotics are not necessary. However, if your sinus infection is caused by a bacterial infection, your doctor may prescribe medications. You can also try some of these home care techniques to help relieve discomfort and congestion:

  • Hot showers or stream treatments, especially before bed, may help open up your sinuses and allow you to breathe better.
  • Using a nasal nebulizer with a saline moisturizer to clear out congestion and soothe irritated areas.
  • Ask a pharmacist or a healthcare professional about over-the-counter medications and treatments to relieve pain and other symptoms
  • Get plenty of rest and drink warm fluids to reduce post nasal drip.
When Should I See A Doctor For A Sinus Infection

When To See A Doctor For A Sinus Infection?

Consult a physician if you experience any of the following:

  • See your doctor if there is no improvement after 48 to 72 hours as this could indicate a more serious problem.
  • See your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following: fever, severe headache, confusion, stiff neck, changes in your vision, and/or swelling around the eyes or forehead, as these could be signs of a more serious infection.
  • Remember to record and report your symptoms and their duration to assist your doctor in creating your care plan.
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