When Should You Go To Urgent Care For A Sinus Infection?

Sinus infections are very common, affecting more than 31 million people in the United States every year, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. That doesn't mean they're always easy to deal with, however. The headaches, congestion, fatigue, sore throat, and other common sinus infection symptoms can last for several weeks, or even months in the case of chronic sinusitis. Many sinus infections don't require medical treatment—they'll get better on their own—but there are times when you should consider going to an urgent care clinic or making an appointment with your family doctor.

Length and Severity of Illness

While it's true that sinus infection symptoms can last a long time, if you've been having symptoms for more than seven to ten days with no or very little improvement, it's a good idea to check into an urgent care to have a physician take a look. Many sinus infections are viral, meaning antibiotics won't help, so many doctors are hesitant to prescribe antibiotics at the first onset of symptoms. The longer your illness lasts, the more likely it is that you have a bacterial sinus infection, and antibiotics can help clear those up. If your symptoms get a lot better but seem to worsen again within a short time frame, get checked out. Those "on again/off again" sinus infections could be a sign of chronic sinusitis that needs further testing or treatment.

Very High Fever

Running a fever can leave you feeling even worse than you already do, with achy joints, fatigue, and headaches. When your body runs hot, it's an immune system response to fight the virus or bacteria that's making you sick, so it can actually be a good, albeit unpleasant, thing. A very high fever of more than 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit is too high to leave treatment at rest and over-the-counter medications. If you're running a high fever, get into an urgent care or your doctor as soon as you can, even if your symptoms haven't lasted several days. Even the emergency room is an appropriate response to a very high fever if you can't seek treatment elsewhere.

Severe Pain

Some pain, especially around your sinus cavities and head, is a very common symptom of sinus infections, and it isn't usually cause for alarm. Most sinus infections shouldn't cause severe pain, however, and you should notice an improvement in pain if you take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If you experience severe pain that doesn't improve with conservative medications, it's time to see a doctor to make sure you aren't dealing with a more serious illness that requires treatment.

Breathing and Vision Difficulties

Feeling stuffy and congested is normal when you have a sinus infection, and you may have some swelling around your eyes that makes them puffy and itchy. If you're having trouble breathing even when you're resting or if you find yourself seeing double or unable to see clearly at all, it's best to get a doctor's opinion. Doctors at urgent care clinics and other medical facilities can also prescribe inhalers or other medications to help your breathing if needed.

If your baby or young child is experiencing sinus infection symptoms, it's best to make an appointment with your pediatrician as soon as you can, since small children's immune systems aren't as developed as adults' are. Your pediatrician can also rule out any more serious illnesses. Don't wait to see a doctor if you're elderly or have a compromised immune system due to other medical conditions or medications or treatments you're receiving. It's important to catch infections early in anyone who is at a higher risk for more serious complications from a standard infection.