Sinus infection – Sinusitis

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 18 March 2021

What Is Sinusitis?

Sinusitis is a condition in which the tissue surrounding the sinuses becomes inflamed or swollen. The sinuses of healthy people are full of air. Pathogens can develop and trigger an infection if they become blocked and filled with fluid.

Sinus blockage may be induced by a number of causes, including:

  • Common cold
  • Allergic rhinitis – swelling of the lining of the nose caused by allergens
  • Nasal polyps – small growths in the lining of the nose
  • Deviated septum – a shift in the nasal cavity



  • Acute sinusitis often begins with cold-like symptoms like a runny, congested nose and facial pain and headaches. It starts suddenly, and can last up to 2-4 weeks.
  • Subacute sinusitis can last up to 4 to 12 weeks.
  • Chronic sinusitis  can last up to 12 weeks or longer.
  • Recurrent sinusitis attacks a few times each year.

Who Gets It?

Affects anyone many times a year. You risk increases if you have:

  • swelling within your nose
  • congested drainage ducts
  • structural abnormalities within the drainage ducts that causes clogged ducts
  • Nasal polyps
  • Immune system deficiencies
  • You are on medications that suppresses the immune system

Sinusitis in children are often caused by:

  • Allergies
  • Sickness passed on from other children at school
  • Pacifiers
  • Bottle drinking while lying on their back
  • Smoke from surrounding environment – like from a parent who smokes cigarettes

Infections and smoking are the two major factors that increase the risk of sinusitis in adults.


Acute Sinusitis Symptoms

Main symptoms of acute sinusitis includes:

  • Facial pain or pressure
  • Congested or “blocked” nose
  • Runny nose
  • Loss of smell
  • Cough

There may also be accompanying symptoms like:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Bad foul breath
  • Dental pain or toothache

If you have two or more signs, it may be acute sinusitis, or thick, green, or yellow nasal discharge.

Chronic Sinusitis Symptoms

You may experience the following symptoms for up to 12 weeks:

  • Congestion or feeling of fullness in the face
  • Nasal blockage or obstruction
  • Pus within the nasal cavity
  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat

Headaches, bad breath, and tooth pain are also possible symptoms. You might be tired all of the time.

Symptoms like this may be caused by a variety of factors. To find out whether you have sinusitis, you can see your doctor.



Your doctor can recommend you to use a decongestant and saline nasal washes if you have a simple sinus infection. However, using an over-the-counter decongestant for longer than three days will make you much more congested, so limit use to less than 3 days.

If the doctor prescribes antibiotics, you would most likely need to take them for 10 to 14 days. Treatment normally reduces the symptoms.

If you have persistent sinusitis, warm, moist air can help. You should inhale steam from a pot of boiling water or use a vaporizer. Monitor to see if the water is too hot, be careful.

You can also help cope with recurrent sinusitis by:

  • Warm compresses – this eases pain and discomfort in the nose and sinuses.
  • Saline nose drops
  • Over-the-counter decongestant sprays or drops. Limit use to recommended days.

In some more serious cases, your doctor may recommended the use of steroids and antibiotics.

Other Options

You can still prevent any sinusitis-related causes.

Your doctor can prescribe an antihistamine if you have allergies.

An antifungal prescription will help in cases where a fungus is the cause.

Immunoglobulin can help if you have immune defects or deficiencies causing you to suffer symptoms.


Can I Prevent Sinusitis?

There is no foolproof way to avoid sinusitis. However, there are a few factors that might help.

  • Avoid smoking yourself, and second hand smoke from others.
  • Maintain good hygiene to prevent infections.
  • Avoid foods or substances you are allergic to.


What Happens if Sinusitis Isn’t Treated?

You'll be in pain and discomfort until it begins to clear up. Untreated sinusitis may lead to meningitis, a brain abscess, or a bone infection in rare cases. Discuss your concerns with your doctor.


Referenced on 2.3.2021:

  1. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
  2. Ford Albritton, MD, director, the Center for Sinus and Respiratory Disease at the Texas Institute, Dallas.
  3. Jordan Josephson, MD, director, NY Nasal & Sinus Center; attending physician, Lenox Hill Hospital; author, Sinus Relief Now.
  4. “When Sinuses Attack.”
  5. National Institutes of Health: “Sinusitis.”
  6. WebMD Medical Reference: “When a Cold Becomes a Sinus Infection.”

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