Stuck with a cold you can’t shake? According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, if it sticks around for more than 10 days - or gets worse after it starts getting better - there’s a good chance you have sinusitis, a condition where infection or inflammation affects the sinuses.
Sinuses are hollow spaces in the bones around the nose that connect to the nose through narrow channels. When sinuses are healthy, these channels are open and air flows freely from the nose to the sinuses, allowing mucus in the sinuses to drain into the nose.
When a bacteria or virus infects your sinuses, your sinus lining swells. This causes blockage in the channels that drain your sinuses. As a result, mucus and pus fill up your nose and sinus cavities, and this trapped fluid allows germs to grow.
According to the CDC, several conditions can increase your risk of getting a sinus infection.
- A previous respiratory infection
- Structural problems within the sinuses
- Weak immune system
- Nasal polyps
- Seasonal allergies
Types of Sinusitis
The sinusitis type depends on the amount of time the infection lasts. Medline Plus identifies four main types:
- Acute - lasts up to 4 weeks
- Subacute - lasts 4 to 12 weeks
- Chronic - lasts more than 12 weeks
- Recurrent - infection happens several times per year
Signs & Symptoms
The Mayo Clinic says these signs and symptoms must be present in order to properly diagnose sinusitis:
- Thick, discolored discharge from the nose or drainage down the back of the throat (postnasal drip)
- Nasal obstruction or congestion, causing difficulty breathing through your nose
- Pain, tenderness, and swelling around your eyes, cheeks, nose, or forehead
- Reduced sense of smell and taste
Other Symptoms May Include:
- Ear pain
- Aching in your upper jaw and teeth
- Cough that might worsen at night
- Sore throat
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Fatigue or irritability
Viral vs. Bacterial Treatments
If you’re sick for less than 10 days and aren’t getting worse, the infection is probably viral. If you’re not improving at all within 10 days of getting sick, it’s most likely caused by bacteria. It’s important to know the difference because treatments differ. For example, antibiotics are effective with bacterial infections but not with viruses. Viral sinusitis may be treated using pain relievers, steroid nasal sprays, or saltwater nasal irrigation.
The Mayo Clinic suggests several ways to relieve symptoms of sinusitis:
- Saline nasal irrigation. Using nasal sprays or solutions can reduce drainage and rinse away irritants and allergies.
- Nasal corticosteroids. These nasal sprays help prevent and treat inflammation. Ask your doctor to recommend a spray that would work best for your symptoms.
- Oral or injected corticosteroids. These medications are used to relieve inflammation from severe sinusitis, especially if you also have nasal polyps. Oral corticosteroids can cause serious side effects when used long-term, so these are prescribed only to treat severe symptoms.
Always consult your doctor before treatment or if your symptoms worsen. If you think you have symptoms of seasonal allergies instead, read our allergy blog post for tips.
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Patient Plus treats most common illnesses and injuries — the sniffles, rashes, fevers, aches, breaks, and other conditions that deserve prompt treatment but aren’t serious enough to require a trip to the nearest emergency room. The clinics provide complete diagnostic services, including X-rays, EKGs, and flu and strep tests. Other services include physicals, vaccinations, and more. Patient Plus clinics are open every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and patients never need to call first or make an appointment.