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What are the symptoms of a sinus infection?

What are the symptoms of a sinus infection? I don't think I really understand the difference between a sinus infection and just having a cold that leaves you sinuses stuffed up and runny. When does it become an infection and how can you tell you have one? Is there a good way to prevent them?
The symptoms of a sinus infection are quite unpleasant. The difference between a common cold and a sinus infection is location and the infectious agent. A common cold is always caused by a virus most commonly the rhinovirus. It infects the upper respiratory tract lining including the nasal passages which result in rhinorrhea (runny nose) of clear thin fluid. Cough can be a symptom as the nasal fluid frequently drips down to the back of the throat and irritates the airway causing the cough reflex. A sinus infection can have many of the same symptoms because it almost always is preceded by an upper respiratory tract infection and the two are often going on at the same time. In addition, facial pain (worse with pressing on the face), headache, fever, and thick green nasal discharge is also seen. If a sinus infection has been present for greater than a week, they usually need treated with antibiotics. Sinus infections are challenging to prevent. One strategy to prevent a sinus infection is to keep the congested fluids moving out. Frequently blowing your nose and the judicious use of decongestants may help out while the cold is clearing. Before taking any decongestant or over-the-counter medicine for a sinus infection, make sure to speak to your doctor first. There are conditions in which these medicines may do a lot more harm than good. Good luck.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under ZocDoc’s Terms of Service.

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