Sinus infections afflict about 37 million Americans every year. Sinusitis is so widespread that Americans with the problem miss an average of four work days a year. There are over 500,000 sinus surgeries performed each year.


Sinusitis is an acute or chronic inflammation of the nasal sinuses. The nasal sinuses are the hollow cavities found within the cheek bones and near the eyes. The inflammation of the nasal sinuses is usually triggered by inadequate draining due to allergies, infections or structural problems of the nose such as narrow drainage passages or a deviated septum.

Chronic sinusitis

Chronic Sinusitis refers to inflammation of the sinuses that lasts for 4 months or more.

Allergies are frequently associated with chronic sinusitis. People with asthma have a particularly high frequency of chronic sinusitis. Inhalation of airborne allergens (substances that provoke an allergic reaction), such as dust, mold, and pollen, often set off allergic reactions. Allergic reactions often contribute to the frequency of sinus infections.

Damp weather and pollutants in the air and in buildings may also affect people with chronic sinusitis.

Chronic sinusitis treatment

It is often difficult to treat chronic sinusitis successfully. It is difficult because symptoms persist even after prolonged courses of antibiotics. In general, the treatment of chronic sinusitis involves antibiotics and decongestants.

Nasal sprays are occasionally used for long-term treatment for patients with chronic sinusitis. The long-term safety of nasal sprays is not fully understood, and the benefits and risks need to be balanced.

***For patients with severe chronic sinusitis, a doctor may prescribe oral steroids, such as prednisone. Because oral steroids can have significant side effects, they are prescribed only when other medications have not been effective.

What are the side effects of sinusitis treatments?

Many over-the-counter antihistamines cause drowsiness and decreased mental alertness. Decongestants can cause elevation of blood pressure, fast heart rate, and difficulty sleeping. Nasal steroids may cause nosebleeds and nasal crusts. Chronic steroid usage can cause bone thinning, predisposition to infection, diabetes, and cataracts.

Chronic sinusitis and home remedies

Sinus infection cannot be cured by home remedies. However, people can use home remedies to lessen their discomfort. Inhaling steam from a vaporizer or a hot cup of water can soothe inflamed sinus cavities. Another treatment is saline nasal spray, which can be purchased in a pharmacy. A hot water bottle; hot, wet compresses; or an electric heating pad applied over the inflamed area also can be comforting.

How to prevent chronic sinus infections

Simple changes in your lifestyle or home environment may help lower your risk for sinusitis. Some common ways to lower your risk of developing an infection are:

  1. In winter months, when the cold air outside and your heating system make the air inside your home abnormally dry, use a humidifier to keep home humidity at 45% to 50%. This will stop dry air from irritating the sinuses, and make them less of a target for infection. (Don’t forget to clean your humidifier as directed to avoid growth of mold).
  2. During summer months, if you swim, keep your head above water and avoid deep dives and somersaults under water.
  3. If you smoke, quit. Smoking cigarettes and cannabis can worsen your lung’s responses to allergens. Allergy management at all times of the year is very important.

Is Sinusitis contagious?

No. Sinusitis (chronic and acute) is not contagious. However, the cold that frequently precedes sinusitis may be spread to other family members.

What do the sinuses do?

Sinuses are very important. They help warm, moisten and filter the air in the nasal cavity and also add resonance to certain sounds.

Major signs of a sinus infection

The three major signs indicating sinusitis and/or a sinus infection are:

  1. You have a cold has lasted more than seven days and is accompanied by cough, fever, headache, toothache, facial pain, green or gray nasal drainage, or postnasal drip.
  2. You have lost your sense of smell and taste and have bad breath accompanied by chronic congestion.
  3. In children, increased irritability and vomiting occurs with gagging on mucus and/or a prolonged cough.

Tips on taking care of your body when you have sinusitis

  1. Get plenty of rest. Lying down can make your sinuses feel more stopped-up, so try lying on the side that lets you breathe the best.
  2. Sip hot liquids and drink plenty of fluids.
  3. Apply moist heat by holding a warm, wet towel against your face or breathing in steam through a cloth or towel.
  4. Talk with your doctor before using an over-the-counter cold medicine. Some cold medicines can make your sinus infection worse or cause other problems.
  5. Don’t use a nose spray with a decongestant in it for more than 3 days. If you use it for more than 3 days, the swelling in your sinuses may get worse when you stop the medicine.

Call a doctor!

Call your doctor when symptoms of allergies don’t clear with the usual allergy medication. Call your doctor for any of the signs or symptoms of sinusitis, including: pain or stuffiness in the cheeks or around the eyes; a continuing discharge from the nose that is yellow, green, bad-smelling, or tinged with blood; a headache that either is worse in the morning or gets worse when you bends forward. If you believe you may have a sinus infection, contact your doctor. Your doctor can prescribe medication to help you feel better.