If you've been feeling stuffy or congested, waking up with a headache, and noticing
swelling around your eyes, you may have sinusitis. Sinusitis can be a mild annoyance
or become painful at times, but it's usually not severe and is easy to treat.
What Is Sinusitis?
Sinusitis is the medical term for inflammation (irritation and swelling) of the
sinuses. It's usually caused by an infection.
Our sinuses are the moist air spaces within the bones of the face around the nose.
When we're healthy, our sinuses are filled with air, making our facial bones less
dense and much lighter in weight. Sinuses also play a role in how our voices sound.
Infection with viruses or bacteria — or a combination of both — can
cause sinusitis. Generally, someone with a cold
also has inflammation of the sinuses. This is viral sinusitis. Allergies also can lead to
If nasal congestion (stuffiness) from a common cold or allergies prevents sinuses
from draining as they should, bacteria can become trapped inside them, leading to
Bacterial sinusitis tends to make people feel sicker than viral sinusitis. Someone
with bacterial sinusitis usually will have more facial pain and swelling than someone
with viral sinusitis, and might also develop a fever.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Sinusitis?
Some of the signs that someone may have bacterial sinusitis are:
a stuffy or runny nose with a daytime cough that lasts for 10 to 14 days or longer
continuous thick green mucus discharge from the nose (sometimes with postnasal
lasting dull pain or swelling around the eyes
tenderness or pain in or around the cheekbones
a feeling of pressure in your head
a headache when you wake up in the morning or when bending over
bad breath, even after brushing your teeth
pain in the upper teeth
a fever higher than 102°F (39°C)
Some people also have a nighttime dry cough and find it hard to sleep. Others have
upset stomachs or feel nauseous.
Many of these symptoms are similar to those you can get from viral sinusitis or
allergies. Still, it's a good idea to see your doctor just in case. Viral sinusitis
and allergic rhinitis are more common, but bacterial sinusitis often needs to be treated
with antibiotics, and you can only get these with a doctor's prescription.
How Is Sinusitis Treated?
Doctor often prescribe antibiotics for bacterial sinusitis. Your doctor may also
recommend a topical nasal steroid spray, an antihistamine or decongestant to reduce
congestion, runny nose, and pressure symptoms.
Fever and pain can be treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Normal saline (saltwater)
sprays and irrigations are available over the counter and are safe and effective at
washing the nose and easing many nasal and sinus symptoms.
Can I Prevent Sinusitis?
You can lower your risk of getting sinusitis by making some simple changes in your
home environment. Try using a humidifier during cold weather to stop dry, heated air
from irritating your sinuses, as that can make them more susceptible to infection.
Clean the humidifier regularly because mold, which can trigger allergies in some people,
forms easily in moist environments.
If you have allergies, make an extra effort to keep them under control because
they can make sinus infections more likely.
Is Sinusitis Contagious?
Sinusitis itself is not contagious. But it often follows a cold,
which can spread to family members and friends. The most effective way to prevent
the spread of germs is to wash
your hands well and often. Steer clear of used tissues, and try to reduce close
contact with anyone who is sneezing often or has signs and symptoms of sinusitis.
What Can I Do to Feel Better?
If your doctor has prescribed antibiotics or any other medicines, be sure to follow
the directions. Otherwise, sinusitis can last a long time or happen again. Even if
you feel better, keep taking the antibiotics until you have finished them as prescribed.
This helps to kill all the bacteria causing the infection.
Also be sure to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids so that your immune
system can work along with the antibiotics to fight and cure the infection.
If you have sinusitis, chances are the type you have is not severe. But it's important
to see a doctor, especially if your symptoms last or get worse. If you have a bacterial
infection, quick treatment can help prevent it from getting worse or spreading. It
also will help you get and feel better faster.