Sinus Infections: Bacterial Vs. ViralSinus infections are a very common condition with more than 3 million cases being formally diagnosed in the US each year. Sinus infection is usually resolved within days to weeks.  However, if you develop acute sinusitis, those infections are usually caused by a cold or allergies; they will still generally resolve themselves. Chronic sinusitis is the worst type of sinus infection that is usually caused by an infection or growth. These types of sinus infections may last for up to eight weeks at a time in the worst cases. Sinus infections usually make themselves known through multiple symptoms including headaches, facial pain, runny nose and nasal congestion. 

Sinus infections are either bacterial or viral, and the differences are difficult for sufferers to figure out.  The two types differ in the following ways:

Sinus Infections – Bacterial: A bacterial infection is an infection that enters the body through the spread of bacteria. Bacteria spreads by touch, bodily fluid transfer (such as coughing or sneezing) or air transfer. These infections will generally last for at least 10 days and may actually get worse after the initial week of the infection. 

Sinus Infections – Viral: A viral infection is an infection that enters the body through a virus. Viral infections are spread in the same way as bacterial infections.  The difference is that the viral infection will start to improve after five to seven days of the initial onset of the symptoms. 

There is no one definitive way for a doctor to determine if you have a bacterial or viral sinus infection based on symptoms alone. Instead, the way it’s determined will generally be how long the infection lasts. If it’s a shorter duration it was likely a viral infection and if it was a longer duration as in a couple of weeks or longer it was likely a bacterial infection. 

The symptoms of both bacterial and viral infections will be similar, including bad breath, yellow/green mucus, fever and headaches; these are not even reliable signs of what type of sinus infection you have as both bacterial and viral infections share many of the same symptoms. 

Generally, treatment includes over-the-counter decongestants which help clear up the problem. Nasal sprays are also sometimes beneficial. In the worst cases of acute or chronic sinus infections, sometimes antibiotics may be needed to clear up the infection.

At Roanoke Valley ENT & Allergy, Dr. Lenkowski has the knowledge to treat your sinus infection. Schedule an appointment with us today and start getting relief!