Sinusitis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments & Prevention

Sinus Infection (Sinusitis): Symptoms, Causes, Duration, & Treatment

Sinusitis means infection or inflammation of the sinuses. It’s usually caused by a viral infection and often improves within two or three weeks. Sinuses are hollow spaces in the bones around the nose that connect to the nose through small spaces or holes. They are located in the cheeks, forehead and around the eyes. The sinuses join and connects each other into the nose and throat. The sinuses produce mucus, which drains into the nose. This keeps the nasal passages moist and also traps dirt particles and germs. The mucus produced by your sinuses usually drains into your nose through small channels. In sinusitis, the sinuses are blocked and filled with mucus. This makes you feel pain and pressure. The sinuses that get infected in sinusitis

What causes sinusitis ?

When the lining of the sinuses gets inflamed from a viral infection such as a cold, it swells. This is viral sinusitis. The swelling can block the normal drainage of fluid from the sinuses into the nose and throat. However, if the fluid cannot drain and builds up over time, bacteria or fungi may start to grow in it. These bacterial or fungal infections can cause more swelling and also pain. They are more likely to last longer, get worse with time, and become chronic. Additionally, nasal allergies or other problems that block the nasal passages and allow fluid to build up in the sinuses can also lead to sinusitis.

Risk factors

Certain factors increase a person’s susceptibility to sinusitis, including:
  • Frequent colds especially for young children
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Regular use of nasal decongestant sprays for more than two to three days
  • Untreated hay fever or other allergies
  • Structural abnormalities of the nose
  • Swellings in the linings of the nose or sinuses
  • Dental disease, such as untreated tooth abscess.

Is sinusitis contagious?

Sinus infection itself is not contagious. But it often follows a cold, which can spread easily among family and friends. To prevent spreading germs, teach your family to wash their hands well and often, particularly when they’re sick.

Types of sinusitis

You may hear your doctor use these terms:
  • Acute sinusitis usually starts with cold-like symptoms such as a runny, stuffy nose and facial pain. It may start suddenly and last 2-4 weeks. Any other airway infection such as allergic rhinitis that causes mucus build up, can cause it.
  • Subacute sinus inflammation usually lasts 4 to 12 weeks.
  • Chronic inflammation symptoms last 12 weeks or longer. It can continue for months or even years.
  • Recurrent sinusitis is when someone has four or more sinus infections (acute sinusitis) in one year but does not have symptoms in between those infections.

Signs and symptoms of sinusitis

Sinusitis usually occurs after an upper respiratory tract infection, such as a cold. Therefore, if you have a persistent cold and develop the symptoms below, you may have sinus infection. Symptoms of sinusitis can include fever, weakness, fatigue, cough, and nasal congestion. There may also be mucus drainage in the back of the throat, called postnasal drip. Others includes symptoms such as;
  • Runny nose
  • A feeling of fullness in your face
  • Pain or tenderness at the affected sinus
  • Greenish/yellowish nasal discharge
  • Recurrent headaches
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Loss of smell
  • Bad breath
  • Toothache
However, lots of things can cause symptoms like these. Therefore, you’ll need to see your doctor to find out if you have sinus infection.

Diagnosing sinusitis

Your doctor can tell if you have sinusitis by asking questions about your past health. He may also perform a physical examination. In addition, if you have the symptoms of sinusitis such as discharge plus pressure or blockage no tests is needed. But, if your doctor suspects a complication or if you have repeated episodes or prolonged sinus symptoms, he may order a CT scan or X-ray of your sinuses.


Treatment of sinus infection is different depending on the cause. Most cases of acute sinus infections, about 98 percent, are caused by a virus, not bacteria. Therefore, should not be treated with antibiotics. Acute viral sinusitis may be treated using pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Viral sinus infections usually go away on their own within 10 to 14 days. Home treatments may help drain mucus from the sinuses. They may also prevent a more serious bacterial or fungal infection. Here are some things you can do at home to speed up your recovery:
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Put a hot, damp towel or gel pack on your face for 5 to 10 minutes at a time, several times a day.
  • Breathe warm, moist air from a steamy shower, a hot bath, or a sink filled with hot water.
  • Use saline nose drops and sprays to keep the nasal passages moist. Saline nasal washes to help keep the nasal passages open and also wash out mucus and bacteria.
Bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics. You will probably feel better in a few days, but some symptoms may last for several weeks. You may need to take the medicine for a longer time if you have chronic sinusitis. If you have a fungal infection-which is not common-antibiotics won’t clear up your sinusitis. With this type of infection, you may need treatment with anti-fungal medicines, steroid medicines, or surgery. If you have taken antibiotics and other medicines for a long time but still have sinusitis symptoms, you may need surgery. You may also need surgery if the infection is likely to spread or if you have other problems, such as a growth (polyp) blocking the nasal passage.

How can i prevent sinusitis?

There is no sure-fire way to prevent sinusitis. But there are some things that might help.
  • Avoid allergic substances such as dust
  • Avoid smoking or exposure to smoke
  • Steam inhalation
  • Drinking of adequate fluid
  • Using disposable tissues to wipe off secretions
  • Rest and exercise regularly
  • Eat adequate fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid others with upper respiratory tract infections

About felclinic 593 Articles
Felix Ntifo is a Registered General Nurse who has so much passion to improve health care delivery. He founded FelClinic with the hope of making health information accessible to everyone who may not come in contact with him personally. "At we are very passionate about health and well-being of everyone. Our team is made up of professional doctors, nurses, midwives and lab technicians."

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