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No appointment necessary. Visit one of our convenient locations listed below.


  Sanford Downtown Walk-in Clinic
Serving all ages
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  Sanford North Walk-in Clinic
Serving all ages
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  Sanford Children's Walk-in Clinic
Serving children
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  Sanford Health Walk-in Clinic
Serving all ages
Location and hours »


  Sanford Health Walk-in Clinic
Serving all ages
Location and hours »

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Sanford Ear, Nose & Throat

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Q and A

How is a sinus infection different from a cold?

Dr.Jeffrey Nelson
Nelson, MD
  Acute sinusitis has similar symptoms to a cold and in fact, may be caused by a common cold virus. Bacteria, allergies and fungal infections also can contribute to development of sinusitis. With sinusitis, the cavities surrounding your sinuses, or nasal passages, become swollen. As a result, mucus builds and interferes with normal drainage. Most people find it hard to breathe through their nose, and many also experience headaches and swelling/pressure around the eyes and upper face.

What can I do to relieve symptoms?

Rest and drink lots of water. For temporary relief from congestion, try over-the-counter medications and nasal sprays. You also can use over-the-counter pain relievers with aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen to lessen aching and swelling. Avoid cigarette smoke and polluted air. Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air in your home. Nasal saline and sinus irrigation kits are often very helpful to remove mucous and thin thick nasal secretions.

What should I do if my sinusitis doesn't improve?

Acute sinusitis generally subsides within seven to 10 days as it runs its course. If your symptoms aren't diminishing, you may have bacterial sinusitis. Additional symptoms you are likely to have with chronic sinusitis include at least two of the following: thick, yellow or greenish discharge from the nose, pain and tenderness around the eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead, reduced smell and taste sensations, ear, jaw and/or teeth pain, severe coughing and sore throat, bad breath and nausea.

What causes chronic sinusitis?

Contributing factors include nasal polyps, allergies and/or asthma, a deviated septum (crooked nose), facial trauma and medical conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux or other immune system diseases.

Is chronic sinusitis serious?

Chronic sinusitis should not be ignored. Complications can include fatigue and decreased productivity as well as more serious issues such as spread of infection, permanent reduced vision or blindness, aneurysms and blood clots.

When should I see a doctor?

If you have a severe headache, changes in vision, a stiff neck, shortness of breath, severe headache or mental confusion, see a doctor immediately. If you have symptoms that last more than two weeks or have had recurring sinusitis problems, make an appointment with your primary care doctor or an otolaryngologist, also known as an ear, nose and throat specialist.

How is sinusitis treated?

Your doctor's primary goal will be to identify and eliminate the underlying cause contributing to your chronic symptoms. Treatments to relieve sinusitis symptoms may include nasal sprays, prescription medications and antibiotics. Surgical procedures such as endoscopic surgery or balloon sinuplasty may be recommended in cases where there is nasal blockage or failure to respond to treatment. These improved surgical procedures have good success rates and little trauma for patients, who generally are able to go home the same day.


Dr. Jeffrey Nelson is an otolaryngologist at Sanford Ear, Nose & Throat. Nelson is board certified by the American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. A graduate of Brigham Young University at Provo, Utah, Nelson completed his medical degree at the Medical College of Ohio in Toledo, and a residency in Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. He has special interests in pediatric ENT care, medical and surgical treatment of sinus disease, voice disorders and sleep apnea treatment options.)



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