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What's Up with Sinusitis?

Millions of Americans are affected by sinusitis every year. But it's often misdiagnosed and misunderstood by people have it.

Sinusitis affects the sinuses. The sinuses connect to the nasal passages. Sinusitis is swelling (inflammation) in these sinuses. It can be caused by allergies, certain medicines, infection, or changes in the air. Or it can be caused by problems in the sinuses themselves. Short-term (acute) sinusitis lasts less than 4 weeks. It's the most common form of this condition.

Your nose can get stuffy when you have a cold. So it's easy to confuse nasal congestion with rhinosinusitis. Acute rhinosinusitis is inflammation of both of the nasal passages and the sinuses. It lasts longer than a cold and causes some different symptoms. It often begins about 10 days after the start of a cold.

With sinusitis, you may have some or all of these symptoms:

  • Pain in the upper jaw and teeth

  • Headache when you wake up in the morning

  • Pain when your forehead or cheek is touched

  • Soreness when the sides of your nose are touched, a loss of smell, and a stuffy nose

  • Earaches, neck pain, and deep aching at the top of your head

  • Fever

  • Weakness

  • A cough that may be more severe at night

  • Runny nose or nasal congestion

  • Sore throat

Get treatment

If you have sinusitis, your healthcare provider may prescribe decongestants, pain relievers, antibiotics, a steroid nasal spray, or a combination of these.

Use decongestant nose drops and sprays (such as oxymetazoline) for no more than 3 days. Using these medicines longer can lead to more congestion and swelling of your nasal passages.

Try prevention

The tips below may help reduce the number and severity of attacks. They may also prevent acute sinusitis from becoming an ongoing (chronic) problem:

  • Use a humidifier at night and drink plenty of water during the day. Follow the instructions and clean the humidifier as directed. 

  • Don't smoke. Stay away from secondhand smoke and other air pollutants.

  • See your healthcare provider if you think your sinus inflammation may be linked to dust, mold, or pollen.

  • Don't drink alcohol. It causes nasal and sinus membranes to swell.

  • If you get a cold, clean your sinuses with sterile saline to keep mucus liquid. If you don't know how to do this, ask your healthcare provider for instructions.

Online Medical Reviewer: Ashutosh Kacker MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN CCRC
Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2018
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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