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Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Questions & Related Topics

Key Points

  • Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses that can be acute, subacute, chronic, or recurrent, with symptoms such as congestion, fever, cough, fatigue, and sometimes toothache.
  • It often starts as a common cold that turns into a bacterial infection, but can also be triggered by chronic conditions, nasal issues, environmental factors, and smoking.
  • Prevention of sinusitis involves avoiding colds and managing chronic conditions that could lead to it.
  • Treatment for sinusitis varies from antibiotics for bacterial infections to home remedies for acute cases, and in extreme cases, surgery may be needed.
  • Doctors diagnose sinusitis by asking about the duration of symptoms, previous colds, existing conditions, smoking habits, and the frequency of sinusitis symptoms.

Possible Symptoms for Sinusitis

1. Congestion

Sinusitis is the medical term for the inflammation of the sinuses, and there are several types of this condition.[1] The main types of sinusitis are acute, which can last as long as four weeks; subacute, which can last from four to 12 weeks; chronic, which lasts more than 12 weeks; and recurrent, which appears several times throughout the year. The main symptom of sinusitis is congestion or a stuffed-up feeling in the nose.

2. Fever

Fever is also common with sinusitis. In children, this syndrome can be hard to diagnose, but you should be aware of this condition if your child has been experiencing cold symptoms for more than 14 days along with a fever higher than 102.2 degrees.[2]

3. Cough

A mild to moderate cough may also be a symptom of sinusitis. The cough plus congestion can also lead to a sore throat. This is why people may not notice the difference between a regular cold or sinusitis, which can usually best be differentiated by the time it takes to get well.

4. Fatigue

As a result of all of these symptoms, a person with sinusitis will feel tired or fatigued, often as if they had a cold. Headaches can also occur due to the pressure the mucous is putting on the sinuses, which can cause more fatigue and exhaustion.

5. Toothache

Sometimes a toothache with no known cause can be the result of a sinus infection.[3] Any form of dental discomfort or pain should usually be dealt with in a dentist’s office first, but if your dentist is unable to determine a reason for your pain, you may be dealing with sinusitis.

Top 5 Causes of Sinusitis

1. Recent Cold

Acute sinusitis most often begins as a cold that becomes a bacterial infection.[1] When a person has had symptoms of a cold that have lasted more than 14 days, it is likely that a sinus infection has developed, and specific treatment will be necessary.

2. Chronic Conditions

Certain chronic conditions can cause sinusitis to develop. These can include common asthma and allergic rhinitis, which can cause nasal cavities and airways to be more likely to experience inflammation.[4] Cystic fibrosis can also potentially cause a sinus infection because it creates mucus buildup in your lungs.[2] Immune diseases or deficiencies can also put you at greater risk of developing a sinus infection.

3. Nasal Issues

Certain nasal issues can potentially increase your chance of developing sinusitis. These can include nasal polyps, a nasal bone spur, or a deviated septum.[2] In fact, even having a dental problem could lead to sinusitis because the nose and mouth are interconnected.

4. Environmental Factors

Your environment and what you come into contact with could cause problems with sinusitis. For example, being exposed to mold spores can potentially cause sinusitis, as can the germ exposure associated with frequent air travel.[2]

5. Smoking

Smoking is a serious risk factor for developing sinusitis. Those who smoke are much more at risk of experiencing this issue either in its acute, chronic, or recurrent phases. This is also true of those who live with a smoker or are often exposed to cigarette smoke.

2 Ways to Prevent Sinusitis

1. Cold Prevention

Preventing any interaction with the common cold or any kind of respiratory infection is a good way to prevent sinusitis. Washing your hands as often as possible, especially before you eat, reducing interactions with those who have a cold, and taking vitamins or supplements to boost your immunity-especially during cold and flu season--are three ways to do this.

2. Manage Chronic Conditions

If you have a chronic condition like asthma or allergies, managing your condition and its symptoms are the best way to avoid sinusitis. Staying away from your allergens is a good and helpful preventative technique. Using a humidifier in your home can also help, as long as you clean it often.[5]

Possible Sinusitis Treatment Options

1. Antibiotics

Antibiotics are often helpful for treating sinusitis, and they may be necessary if you have experienced the symptoms listed above for three weeks or longer.[2] However, antibiotics cannot treat sinusitis that has been caused by a virus or by inhaling cigarette smoke.[6] To receive antibiotics, you will need to see a doctor. Always take your antibiotics for as long as your doctor prescribes, even if you start to feel better. Let your doctor know if you are allergic to any medications.

2. Home Remedies

Acute sinusitis can be treated with several home remedies, such as sitting in the bathroom next to a hot shower so you can breathe in the steam, applying a warm, wet cloth to your forehead and face, and drinking plenty of water.[2]

3. Surgery

Chronic sinusitis that does not go away and becomes severe might require surgery. In addition, you may need surgery if you have nasal polyps or a deviated septum and you experience sinus infections often or for long periods of time as a result.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Sinusitis

  • How long have you been experiencing the symptoms of sinusitis?
  • Do you remember the last time you had a cold?
  • Do you have or have you ever had any conditions that might have contributed to these symptoms, such as nasal polyps, asthma, allergies, etc.?
  • Do you smoke or does someone else in your home smoke?
  • How often do you experience symptoms of sinusitis?

Sinusitis May Also be Known as:

  • Sinus infection


Frequently asked questions

  • What is sinusitis and what are its symptoms?

    Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses that can present in different forms. Symptoms include congestion, fever, cough, fatigue, and sometimes an unexplained toothache.
  • What causes sinusitis?

    Sinusitis can be caused by a variety of factors including a cold that turns into a bacterial infection, chronic conditions like asthma and allergic rhinitis, nasal issues like polyps or a deviated septum, environmental factors like mold exposure, and smoking.
  • How can sinusitis be prevented?

    Sinusitis can be prevented by avoiding colds and managing any chronic conditions that could lead to it.
  • What are the treatment options for sinusitis?

    Treatment options range from antibiotics for bacterial sinusitis, home remedies for acute cases, and in severe instances, surgery may be required.
  • How do doctors diagnose sinusitis?

    Doctors diagnose sinusitis by asking about the duration of symptoms, previous colds, existing conditions that might contribute to sinusitis, smoking habits, and the frequency of sinusitis symptoms.

Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

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