FAMILY HEALTH CARE +

Your complete online medical source

Navigate by theme:

Web familyhealthhandbook.com

Return to index

Chest and Respiratory Problems

Sinusitis

Prevention - Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

Sinusitis is an inflammation or infection of the sinuses. The sinuses are hollow spaces in the head that are lined with mucous membranes. The sinuses usually drain easily unless inflammation or infection is present.

Sinusitis most often follows a cold and may also be associated with allergies, an infected tooth (dental abscess), or air pollution. Sinusitis can occur in infants and children, but it is more common in adults.

Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis is a contagious disease caused by organisms that usually infect the lungs (pulmonary TB). When a person who has pulmonary TB coughs, sneezes, or laughs, TB-causing organisms are released into the air where other people can inhale them. This is how TB is spread. Children and people with weak immune systems are particularly prone to TB.

Most people who are exposed to TB never develop symptoms because their immune systems are able to stop the disease. People who develop symptoms of TB, such as persistent cough, weight loss, fatigue, night sweats, and fever, need drug treatment to stop the disease from progressing and to reduce the risk of spreading TB to others. Treatment, which consists of several medications, may last from 6 months to 2 years.

People who have weak immune systems, abuse alcohol and drugs, or have a chronic lung disease called silicosis are at high risk for developing progressive TB, which can damage the lungs or spread to other parts of the body.

To prevent TB infection, avoid close contact with people who have TB if possible. If you live with someone who has TB, ask your doctor what you can do to protect yourself from TB infection and whether you need to be tested for TB.

The key symptom of sinusitis is pain over the cheekbones and upper teeth; in the forehead over the eyebrows; or around and behind the eyes. There may also be headache, swelling around the eyes, fever, stuffy nose, coughing, or mucus draining down the back of the throat (postnasal drip). In children, coughing and nasal discharge that last more than 7 to 10 days along with complaints of headache and facial pain are good signs that the problem is sinusitis, not just a cold.

If your symptoms are severe or continue for more than 10 to 14 days, you may need to take antibiotics. A sinus infection can lead to chronic sinusitis if it does not respond to Home Treatment or antibiotics, or if it is not treated at all.

Prevention

Top of Page


  • Promptly treat nasal congestion caused by colds. See Colds.

  • Avoid cigarette, cigar, and pipe smoke in your home and workplace. Smoke irritates inflamed membranes in your nose and sinuses.

  • If you have allergies, avoid the things that trigger your allergy attacks.

Home Treatment

Top of Page


Home Treatment can often relieve early symptoms of sinusitis, such as facial pressure and stuffiness, and get your sinuses draining normally again so that you may not need antibiotic treatment.

  • Drink extra fluids to keep mucus thin. Drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water or juice per day.

  • Apply moist heat (a warm towel or gel pack) to your face several times a day for 5 to 10 minutes at a time.

  • Breathe warm, moist air from a steamy shower, a hot bath, or sink filled with hot water.

  • Increase the humidity in your home, especially in the bedrooms. Avoid cold, dry air.

  • Take an oral decongestant, use a decongestant nasal spray, or use a mucus-thinning agent (See Decongestants). Do not use a nasal spray for more than 3 days in a row. Avoid products that contain antihistamines unless your symptoms may also be related to allergies.

  • Take aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen to relieve facial pain and headache. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20.

  • Check the back of your throat for postnasal drip. If you see streaks of mucus, gargle with warm water to prevent a sore throat.

  • Blow your nose gently. Do not close one nostril when blowing your nose.

  • Salt water (saline) irrigation helps wash mucus and bacteria out of the nasal passages. Use nonprescription saline nose drops or a homemade solution (See Saline Nose Drops):

  • Use a bulb syringe and gently squirt the solution into your nose, or snuff the solution from the palm of your hand, one nostril at a time.

  • The salt water should go in through your nose and come out your mouth.

  • Blow your nose gently afterward. Repeat the salt water wash 2 to 4 times a day.

When to Call a Health Professional

Top of Page


  • If cold symptoms last longer than 10 to 14 days or worsen after the first 7 days.

  • If you have a severe headache that is different from a "normal" headache and is not relieved by acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen.

  • If you have increased facial swelling, or if your vision changes or gets blurry.

  • If nasal discharge changes from clear to coloured (yellow or green) after 5 to 7 days of a cold, and other symptoms (sinus pain, fever) worsen. If nasal discharge is coloured from the start of a cold, call if it lasts longer than 7 to 10 days.

  • If facial pain (especially in one sinus area or along the ridge between the nose and lower eyelid) persists after 2 to 4 days of Home Treatment. If you also have a fever and coloured nasal discharge, call in 1 to 2 days.

  • If sinusitis symptoms persist after you have taken a full course of antibiotics.

Top of Page