What are sinuses?

Sinuses are air-filled cavities located inside the face and skull. Each sinus is lined with tissue called the mucosal lining and connects to the nose. There are four pairs of sinuses in the face: the frontal sinuses, found above the eyebrows; the ethmoid and sphenoid cavities, found between the eyes aside the bridge of the nose; and the maxillary sinuses, which are located on top of the cheek bones.

Sinus infections, also called sinusitis, are caused when the tissue in the sinuses become inflamed, blocking drainage of mucus and other secretions. The held secretions then develop an infection, and is at risk of developing further infection. Symptoms of a sinus infection include:

  • Facial pain or tenderness, especially near sinuses
  • Discharge of thick, yellow-green mucus
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Fatigue

Other symptoms may vary depending on the infected sinus. These symptoms can include:

  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Coughing
  • Stuffy nose
  • Throat irritation
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Dizziness

Sinus infections can be caused by allergies, asthma, colds, or bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. Sinus infections are not contagious. The two most common types of sinus infections are:

Acute Sinusitis, which lasts for no more than four weeks and is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Acute sinusitis is most common in people with allergies, asthma, or lowered immune systems.

Chronic Sinusitis, also known as Rhinosinusitis, lasts for more than 12 weeks and can continue for months or years.


With proper treatment, sinusitis can usually clear up within two to four days. Treatments can include:

  • Over-the counter pain relievers or decongestants
  • Prescribed antibiotics (for bacterial infections)

If you are suffering from a sinus infection, be sure to consult with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications with potential side effects, or if you are on any current medications that should not be mixed with others.  

When dealing with sinusitis, be sure to:

  • Drink plenty of fluids to loosen up mucus and secretions
  • Blow the nose gently. Roughly or forcefully blowing the nose can cause mucus to push back into the cavities
  • Refrain from strenuous activities until fever, pain, or other acute symptoms subside
  • Elevate the head on pillows when sleeping to reduce stuffiness
  • Place either a warm or cold compress over affected areas (temperature depends on preference)
  • Use a humidifier or steam from hot water to open up the sinuses

If a sinus infection continues for more than a week, visit your healthcare provider. See a doctor  immediately if you are suffering from any of these symptoms:

  • Persisting fever
  • Blurred vision
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Vomiting
  • Continued pain that disrupts sleep
  • Red, tender, swollen areas of skin on the face
  • Inability to swallow or uncontrollable drooling
  • Development of a rash
  • If given antibiotics and not improving after 2 days

(Source: Mckinley Health Center)


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