Sinus infections

What are sinus infections?

Sinus infections happen when fluid builds up in the nasal cavities (sinuses), causing infection, swelling, and inflammation. A sinus infection is also called sinusitis.

Sinusitis can be caused by:

  • The common cold
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Smoking
  • Structural problems with the sinuses (such as small growths in the nose lining called nasal polyps)
  • A weakened immune system

What are the symptoms of a sinus infection?

Common sinus infection symptoms include:

  • Runny and/or stuffy nose
  • Facial pain or pressure
  • Headache
  • Post-nasal drip (mucus dripping down the throat)
  • Pain in teeth
  • Sore throat
  • Cough

How are sinus infections prevented?

A sinus infection can happen to anyone; however, you can reduce the risk of developing an infection. Here are some tips to help reduce the risk:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Do not touch your face.
  • Avoid allergens, such as pollen and mold.
  • Do not smoke and avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Receive recommended vaccinations, such as the flu vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine.
  • Use a humidifier to moisten the air at home.

How are sinus infections diagnosed and treated?

Sinus infections may require an examination and treatment by a physician. See a doctor if you have the following symptoms:

  • Severe headache or facial pain
  • Fever
  • Nasal discharge
  • Congestion
  • Worsening of symptoms after initial improvement

Treatment depends on the severity of the infection. A physician may recommend using an over-the-counter decongestant and/or saline nasal wash. However, antibiotics or prescribed nasal sprays may be needed for more severe infections. Consult a physician for the best treatment.

Other suggestions to ease sinus pain and pressure at home include:

  • Applying warm compresses to ease discomfort around the nose and sinuses
  • Breathing warm, moist air (e.g., using a vaporizer, steam from a bowl of hot water or a hot shower.
  • Using saline nose drops
  • Taking over-the-counter decongestants
  • Drinking plenty of fluids

You can walk into any Patient First center from 8 a.m. to 8 pm, any day of the week – no appointment is needed.