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Warning Signs of a Dangerous Sinus Infection

author image Emily DeSerio
Emily DeSerio has been a freelance writer since November 2009. DeSerio works in the mental health field as a clinical social worker. She began her higher level education at the University of South Florida (USF) with a B.A. in English and went on to complete a Master of Social Work degree at USF as well.
Warning Signs of a Dangerous Sinus Infection
A man suffering from a sinus infection. Photo Credit nebari/iStock/Getty Images


A sinus infection occurs when the walls of the sinus cavity become inflamed, blocking normal airflow and proper drainage. Although most acute sinusitis does not require extensive treatment, if left untreated, the infection can cause complications in the body. Going to your doctor at the first signs of a sinus infection will help to prevent it from developing into anything worse.

Chronic Sinusitis

A typical sinus infection will last from a few days to four weeks. After having a sinus infection for more than four weeks, it is then considered a chronic sinus infection. A chronic sinus infection may indicate that a long-term condition is causing the infection, such as a deviated septum, nasal polyps or severe allergies. Any persistent infection is a warning sign that something more dangerous could develop. Talk to your doctor to determine the cause of your sinus infection if it lasts for more than four weeks.

Severe Pain

A dangerous sinus infection may cause severe pain in your eyes, ears, throat or head. A sinus infection has the potential to spread throughout the head, causing multiple infections. You can develop an ear infection, a throat infection and even an infection of the lining of the brain -- a condition called meningitis -- if your infection is not properly treated. Almost all sinus infections will produce some level of pain, but if the pain is causing you to not open your eyes or makes you feel dizzy and lethargic, this may be a warning sign of a more dangerous condition.

High Fever

See a doctor if you develop a fever over 100.5 degrees. A fever lower than this can be normal when fighting a sinus infection --it s the body’s way of attempting to kill the infection naturally. When your body temperature rises above 100.5, it may indicate that the infection has spread.


Swelling around the eyes or the forehead is a warning sign that the sinusitis is severe. It could be a sign that your eye socket is becoming infected. Place a cold compress on the swollen areas and call your doctor immediately. Talk to your doctor about taking an anti-inflammatory pain reliever such as ibuprofen to reduce the swelling and ease the pain. The swelling may be due to an allergic reaction, but this should be confirmed by your doctor.

Mental Confusion

Mental confusion may be a sign that the infection is more serious or spreading in such a way as to affect your brain. If you find yourself forgetting common information or you have a difficult time remembering what you’re doing, seek medical advice.

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