Authored by Revere Health

The Basics of Sinusitis

August 11, 2017 | Ear, Nose, Throat

Why Do I Have Allergies

The sinuses are an important part of the nasal system, and if the tissue lining the sinuses becomes inflamed or swells up, it causes a condition called sinusitis. When sinuses become blocked and filled with fluid, it can lead to germ growth and eventually infection.

There are a few different types of sinusitis, along with several methods of treatment and risk management.


Types and Causes


There are a few different terms your doctor may use to describe your type of sinusitis:

  • Acute sinusitis: Usually starts with cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose or facial pain. Acute sinusitis can start suddenly and may last 2-4 weeks.
  • Subacute sinus inflammation: Usually lasts 4-12 weeks.
  • Chronic inflammation (chronic sinusitis) symptoms: Lasting 12 weeks or longer.
  • Recurrent sinusitis: Happens several times a year.


In general, conditions that can cause sinus blockages include:

  • Common cold
  • Hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
  • Nasal polyps: small growths in the lining of the nose
  • Deviated septum: a shift in the nasal cavity


In children, a few specific causes include:

  • Allergies
  • Illnesses from other kids at school or daycare
  • Pacifiers
  • Bottle drinking while lying on their back
  • Smoke in the environment


Risk Factors


About 35 million Americans have sinusitis at least once every year. A few factors that can make it more likely include:

  • Swelling inside the nose, such as from a common cold
  • Blocked drainage ducts
  • Structural differences that narrow drainage ducts
  • Nasal polyps
  • Immune system deficiencies or medications that suppress the immune system




Symptoms of acute sinusitis include:

  • Facial pain or pressure
  • Stuffed nose
  • Runny nose
  • Loss of smell
  • Cough or congestion
  • Fever
  • Bad breath
  • Fatigue
  • Dental pain


If you have two or more of these symptoms, or thick green or yellow nasal discharge, you could have acute sinusitis. In cases of chronic sinusitis, you may have these symptoms for 12 weeks or more:

  • Feeling of congestion or fullness in the face
  • Nasal obstruction or nasal blockage
  • Pus in the nasal cavity
  • Fever
  • Runny nose or discolored postnasal drainage
  • Headaches or tooth pain
  • Bad breath


Sinusitis Treatment and Prevention


For a simple sinus infection, your doctor may recommend a decongestant and saline nasal washes. He or she may also give you antibiotics to be taken for 10 to 14 days. These symptoms will usually disappear.

For chronic sinusitis, a few things might help:

  • Warm, moist air: Often through a vaporizer or a pan of warm water
  • Warm compresses: To ease pain in nose and sinuses
  • Saline nose drops
  • Over-the-counter decongestant sprays or drops (don’t take these for longer than recommended)
  • Steroids: In some cases, your doctor will prescribe steroids that go along with antibiotics
  • Trigger avoidance: If you have any triggers linked to sinusitis, such as allergies or fungus, try to prevent these. Your doctor may recommend an antihistamine for allergies or a prescription for antifungal medication.


There is no certain method for preventing sinusitis, but these habits can help lower your risk:


  • Don’t smoke, and avoid secondhand smoke
  • Wash your hands often, particularly during cold and flu season, and try not to touch your face
  • Stay away from known allergic triggers


In rare cases where sinusitis isn’t treated, it can lead to meningitis, a brain abscess or an infection of the bone. If you’re worried you have sinusitis, your doctor can recommend a treatment approach.


Our specialists have received extensive training and completed a variety of procedures, offering the best ENT care for our patients. Our team also has access to a variety of specialties to ensure that patients receive coordinated care.




“What Is Sinusitis?” WebMD.

“Sinusitis.” American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery.


The Live Better Team

Telehealth is not appropriate for every medical concern, so it’s important to ask your provider whether a virtual visit is suitable for your needs.

Learn more about Telehealth

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.