Sinus Infections

Sinusitis (often called a sinus infection) is an inflammation, or swelling, of the tissue lining the sinuses. Sometimes, after a cold or allergy episode, sinus passages become blocked and filled with fluid. Germs (bacteria, viruses, and fungi) can then grow in that fluid and cause an infection.  Besides the common cold, sinus blockage is caused by allergic rhinitis (swelling of the lining of the nose), nasal polyps (small growths in the lining of the nose), a deviated septum (a shift in the nasal cavity) and more.  Additionally, sinusitis may be caused by:

  • Abnormalities in the structure of the nose
  • Enlarged adenoids
  • Diving and swimming
  • Infections from a tooth
  • Nose injury
  • Foreign objects stuck in the nose
  • Secondhand smoke. 

Common Types of Sinusitis

Acute:  Sudden onset of cold-like symptoms (runny, stuffy nose and facial pain) that does not go away after 10 to 14 days. It typically lasts four weeks or less.

Subacute: Inflammation lasting four to eight weeks

Chronic: Inflammation lasting eight weeks or longer

Recurrent:  Three or more episodes of acute sinusitis within a year


Always consult a licensed health care provider for a diagnosis, but these common sinusitis symptoms will alert you to a problem:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Thick, colored nasal drainage
  • Postnasal drainage (down the back of the throat)
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Pain or soreness over sinuses
  • Fever and loss of smell


When acute sinusitis doesn’t get better on its own, your licensed health care provider may prescribe medications to clear up the infection and/or relieve allergies. Decongestants help to relieve swelling. (Use decongestant sprays for short periods only under the direction of your licensed health care provider.) For recurrent acute and chronic sinusitis, your licensed health care provider may refer you to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist for testing and treatment.  In addition to medications, treatments may include allergy shots or even surgery. 

Visit with a Virtual Care health care provider on the phone or online for help with your symptoms.

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