Sinus Infection Treatment Online

Sinus infection symptoms result from inflammation of the sinuses caused by viral or bacterial infection.

Sinus Infection

Sinus infection symptoms can vary, but patients typically experience:

  • Facial pressure or tooth pain
  • A sinus headache
  • Nasal congestion and thick discharge
  • Swelling around the eyes and cheeks
  • Fever
  • Bad breath or loss of smell
  • And more.

Diagnosing and Treating a Sinus Infection Online

Sinus infections are one of the most commonly treated conditions by Amwell physicians. Sinus infections are often mistaken for the common cold, but they are different conditions. While the two conditions are similar, the most likely symptoms for a sinus infection might include:

  • Thick, yellow, foul-smelling discharge from your nose
  • Pressure or pain around the eyes or cheeks
  • Cold like symptoms that won't go away or get worse
  • Fever

Many people think antibiotics are the number one treatment for sinus infections, but this is usually not the case. According to guidelines released by the Infectious Diseases Society of America, 90 to 98 percent of sinus infections aren't caused by bacteria, meaning antibiotics will not work. Antibiotics are typically used to treat infections or diseases caused by bacteria. If your case of sinusitis is viral, antibiotics will be ineffective. In fact, antibiotics can be harmful to you if used inappropriately. Doctors can help determine if you have sinusitis, the type of sinusitis, if treatment is needed, or if a referral to a specialist is required.

During a video consult on Amwell your doctor will ask you a series of targeted questions to determine if your symptoms point to a sinus infection. Then your provider will proceed to determine the best treatment plan for you. Your provider may recommend in-person examination by a specialist if this is needed. Your treatment plan is based on the duration and severity of your symptoms and your medical history.Be prepared to discuss any past treatments you have had for sinusitis. Along with these questions, the doctor may ask you to take your temperature, shine a light on your sinuses, touch your neck and cheeks and report what you feel.

Once a diagnosis has been made, your doctor will go over the risks and benefits of the various treatment plans. Depending on the cause and severity of the infection, your treatment plan may include:

  • Home treatment options to help promote nasal drainage and ease symptoms i.e. salt water rinses
  • A recommendation of over the counter (OTC) medications including:
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories i.e. Ibuprofen
    • Mucinex
    • Vaporub
    • Decongestants
    • Nasal sterioids i.e. Nasacort
    • Oral or nasal antihistamine
  • If it is bacterial, antibiotics could be prescribed
  • A referral to a specialist

Note: To assess the severity of your infection the doctor may ask for your temperature, if possible it would be best to take your temperature before starting the call.

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“I had been sick with a sinus infection for several days, I have a packed schedule and being sick had already taken up too much time out of my schedule. My doctor visit was better than I had even hoped - this was the least complicated, best medical experience I have had in twenty years.”

- Kelly G., Florida

Ask the Doctor About Sinus Infection

Video Transcript

Sinusitis is one of the most common diagnoses we see through online care visits. Many people will call with a day or two of congestion or yellow green mucus and wonder do I have a sinus infection or is this a common cold. The doctors at American Well with the help of your mobile device or desktop can help make an accurate diagnosis. We can ask the patient to bring the camera up to the mouth so we can assess the back of the throat to make sure there is nothing else going on. We can have them gently press on their cheekbones or bite down to see if there is any pain in their teeth or their jaw. Once a diagnosis has been made a treatment plan can be created, customized for each patient. If the patient is not seeing improvement of symptoms in 2-3 days we do ask that they follow up with their primary care physician or their online care doctor.

Got Questions? We’ve Got Answers.

See below for answers to some of our most common questions. You can also call us anytime 24 hours a day at 1‑844‑SEE‑DOCS for questions about our services or to speak to a doctor about your symptoms or conditions.

  • Are there any home remedies for sinus infections?

    The heat and steam from a hot shower does wonders for congestion and sinus pressure. Netti pots, salt water nasal sprays, Vapo rub and humidifiers can also help relieve the discomfort from your sinus infection symptoms. 

  • Is a sinus infection contagious?

    A sinus infection (sinusitis) is swelling in the lining of your sinuses — hollow spaces in the bones of your skull. It’s usually caused by a cold or other virus but can also be caused by allergies or bacteria.  If your sinus infection is from a cold virus , you can spread it through droplets in the air from your sneezes, coughs, or breathing, or if another person touches a surface you’ve touched.  That person may get a cold or other respiratory symptoms but may not necessarily develop a sinus infection. If your sinus infection is due to bacteria or allergies, it’s usually not contagious. 

  • If I only take one day off, which one would you suggest?

    The 2nd or 3rd day of your sinus infection is usually the most uncomfortable. If you have a fever, take the day off and talk to a doctor about your symptoms.  If you are prescribed antibiotics, it is a good idea to take the 1st day off to rest and allow the medication to start to work.

  • How long does a sinus infection last?

    Sinus infections can last several days. Viral sinus infections are usually most severe three to six days after they start, and then begin to improve by day 10. A viral sinus infection can develop into a bacterial infection, which typically lasts longer than 10 days. Patients will usually respond to antibiotics within two to three days after a bacterial sinus infection is diagnosed and treated. After that, sinus infections can resolve anywhere between seven and 14 days.

    There are three types of sinusitis. All three are based on length of symptoms:   

    • Acute Sinusitis - symptoms last for less than four weeks
    • Subacute Sinusitis - symptoms last for four to 12 weeks
    • Chronic Sinusitis - symptoms last for more than 12 weeks
  • How does an online doctor tell if it is a sinus infection or a cold?

    Knowing the patient’s medical history and severity of symptoms are the most useful pieces of information when diagnosing a sinus infection online.  Even in the office setting, one cannot see inside the sinuses, or obtain fluids from the sinuses to analyze further. Doctors on Amwell rely on the patient’s description of their symptoms and active participation in the visit to define our diagnosis and determine the best course of action.

  • Given the rise in antibiotic resistance, when do you recommend a patient uses antibiotics for sinus infections?

    Doctors on Amwell follow the standard of care and recommendations provided by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) with regard to treatment and antibiotic prescription. There are specific symptoms we look for as well as symptom duration to consider when deciding whether or not to prescribe a patient antibiotics. By nature, sinus infections take a long time to heal; antibiotics are not always the recommended form of treatment.

  • How can one get rid of a sinus infection?

    In most cases, a sinus infection (sinusitis) goes away on its own and doesn’t need antibiotics. If your sinus infection lasts longer than 10-14 days, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

    Meanwhile, there are things you can do to relieve your symptoms.

    •       Drink plenty of fluids to thin mucus and help it drain from your sinuses
    •       Breathe moist air — in the shower or from a humidifier in your room
    •       Apply a warm, damp cloth to your face periodically throughout the day
    •       Use a saline nasal spray

     You can also try over-the-counter nasal sprays for stuffy noses, but don’t use these for more than three to five days. Using them too often can actually make your symptoms worse.

  • Is there a best antibiotic for a sinus infection?

    In most cases, a sinus infection (sinusitis) doesn’t need antibiotics; it will go away on its own. Viruses are usually the cause of sinusitis. However, if yours is due to a bacterial infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotic treatment to shorten your recovery time and relieve your symptoms. Amoxicillin, with or without clavulanate, is a first-line antibiotic prescribed for sinus infections, but your doctor will prescribe the antibiotic that’s best for your condition.

     Only take antibiotics if your doctor prescribes them. Don’t try to self-treat your sinus infection by taking leftover antibiotics you may have on hand. Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them won’t help your condition and could cause serious health problems.

  • What is the difference between a sinus infection and a cold?

    A cold is caused by a virus. Symptoms typically include sneezing, a stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, cough, and post-nasal drip (mucus going down the back of your throat). A cold usually lasts five to 10 days.

    A sinus infection is swelling in your sinuses — air-filled spaces behind your forehead, nasal bones, cheeks and eyes — that prevents mucus from draining. A primary symptom is painful pressure in your cheeks and forehead. Sinus infection can also cause the same stuffy nose, cough, and post-nasal drip as a cold, as well as thick, yellow-green nasal discharge; headache; ear fullness; and even toothache.

    A sinus infection can result from you having a cold; if your cold symptoms have lasted more than 10 to 14 days, you could have developed a sinus infection. Severe or persistent allergy symptoms can also lead to a sinus infection.

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