Sinus Infection Overview, Symptoms, Treatments

Wake Forest Sinusitis occurs when there is inflammation or swelling in the tissue lining the sinuses. Healthy sinuses are filled with air. When the sinuses are blocked and filled with fluid, it is possible for germs to be trapped and cause an infection.

There are various conditions which can cause a blockage in the sinuses:

  • Allergies
  • Common colds
  • Deviated septum or nasal cavity abnormalities
  • Nasal polyps

The following terms may be used to describe a sinus infection:

  • Acute sinusitis: typically begins with cold-like symptoms and lasts less than four weeks
  • Subacute sinusitis: lasts about 4 to 12 weeks
  • Chronic sinusitis: symptoms which are present for 12 weeks or more
  • Recurrent sinusitis: infection occurs multiple times each year

Sinusitis is common and affects about 35 million Americans each year. Rick factors for an increased chance of having sinusitis include allergies, an illness or cold, exposure to smoking, and other infections such as the cold or flu.

Symptoms of acute sinusitis include the following:

  • Facial pain and pressure
  • Stuffy nose
  • Runny nose
  • Loss of smell
  • Congestion or cough

Other symptoms, which are not as common, can include a fever, bad breath, fatigue, and pain in the teeth.

Symptoms of chronic sinusitis include the following which occur for 12 or more weeks:

  • Congestion or swelling in the face
  • Nasal obstruction or blockage
  • Pus in the nasal cavity
  • Fever
  • Runny nose or discolored postnasal discharge

In addition to the above, patients with chronic sinusitis may also experience headaches, bad breath, tooth pain, and feel overly tired.

Many different health issues can cause these common symptoms. Schedule an appointment with your doctor to determine if you have sinusitis and for a treatment plan.


Patients who have a simple or acute sinus infection may see improvements of their symptoms through the use of a decongestant in addition to saline nasal washes. Over-the-counter decongestants should not be used for more than three days as it can make the symptoms worse.

Patients who are prescribed antibiotics for the prescription will most likely take the medication for 10 to 14 days. Over time, the symptoms should improve and eventually disappear.

Another treatment for chronic sinusitis can include warm, moist air which can be achieved with a vaporizer or by inhaling steam from a pot of warm water.

Other treatments which can be used to help with cases of chronic sinusitis include:

  • A warm compress to alleviate nose and sinus pain
  • Saline nose drops for congestion
  • Over-the-counter decongestant drops or sprays can be helpful, however the instructions and recommended usage should be closely followed
  • In some cases, the doctor may prescribe a steroid in addition to the antibiotic

It is important to be aware of and avoid triggers which can be connected to sinusitis. For example, patients with allergies may benefit from an antihistamine. If a fungus is the culprit, an antifungal medicine will be prescribed. Patients with immune deficiencies may receive immunoglobulin from their doctor, which aids in fighting off the infection.

Preventing Sinusitis

While there is no proven way to completely prevent sinusitis, there are some things you can do to help minimize your risk for an infection.

  • Do not smoke and avoid being around second-hand smoke
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Avoid touching your face which can spread germs
  • Avoid known environmental allergies

While it is rare, untreated sinusitis can lead to a brain abscess, meningitis, or a bone infection. These outcomes can be irreversible or even fatal. Follow up with a doctor if your symptoms do not improve or if you experience frequent and reoccurring sinus infections.

Sinus Infections if they go untreated?