Viral vs Bacterial Sinus Infections


Sinusitis is the inflammation of the sinus that is caused by
either a viral or bacterial infection. Sinusitis typically occurs when excess
mucus develops or there is a blockage to the sinuses. The causes of excess
mucus or blockage to the sinuses can be from an active cold, allergies, a
deviated septum, or cilia not working properly, which are the small hairs in
your sinuses that help move mucus out. There are two forms of sinusitis, which
are acute and chronic. Acute sinusitis is a sinus infection that last anywhere
from ten days to four weeks depending on the severity. Chronic sinusitis lasts
longer that acute sinusitis. Chronic sinusitis is an ongoing infection that may resolve with medical treatments such as appropriate antibiotics. Both
acute and chronic sinusitis can be in the form of a viral or bacterial

Viral sinus infections are the most common type of
sinusitis. Viruses that cause the common cold are usually the reason for the
sinus infection. The symptoms of a viral sinus infection typically last between one and ten days. Your symptoms will initially worsen and may stabilize before improving. These types of sinus infections generally go away on their own
without the need for antibiotics. The symptoms you may experience while having
a viral sinus infection are headaches, congestion, low fever, clear or colored nasal discharge, and
trouble sleeping. When you experience any type of sinus infection it will
more than likely be a viral sinus infection. Antibiotics are never indicated for viral infections and along with unwanted side-effects can prevent antibiotics from working when you really need them.

Bacterial sinus infections are less common but do occur and may be the
result of a severe viral sinus infection. It may be difficult to tell the difference
between bacterial and viral sinus infections because they share common
symptoms. In some cases a viral sinus infection can develop into a bacterial
sinus infections. This occurs when bacteria multiplies in fluid-filled sinus
pockets. Bacterial sinus infections may resolve spontaneously but may also require antibiotics to fight off the
bacteria. Signs are noticeable worsening of symptoms or failure to begin improving after seven to ten days. Bacterial sinus infections can also
form when your symptoms have healed and return shortly after. If your nasal
discharge or mucus is thick, dark, and/or greenish-yellowish and does not resolve, you likely
have a bacterial sinus infection. There are tests you doctor can perform to
determine whether or not you have a bacterial or viral sinus infection. If your
symptoms show no sign of improvement after seven to ten days it is likely
you have developed a bacterial sinus infection.

There are treatments available to help cure and heal your
symptoms of sinus infections. As discussed earlier viral sinus infections
do not require antibiotics. The best treatment for a viral sinus
infection is plenty of rest and drinking fluids. You can take decongestants to
help clear your sinuses. Viral sinus infections heal on their own with time
while the virus runs its course through your body. On the other hand, prolonged bacterial
sinus infections may require antibiotics to fight of the bacteria that have
formed. Both types of sinus infections require rest and consumption of fluids. If
you feel you may have a bacterial sinus infection it is best to visit your
doctor to be properly diagnosed and be provided the best treatment, which may
or may not include antibiotics. In some cases, people will experience chronic
sinusitis and may require an evaluation from a specialist. If you are
experiencing reoccurring sinus infections, it may be in your best interest to
see a specialist and discuss alternative treatments to help cure you

Article by
Manhattan Facial Plastic Surgeon