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Sinusitis is an inflammation of the epithelium lining the paranasal sinuses and nasal cavities due to a bacterial, viral or fungal infection.


Sinusitis presents as a blocked nose with postnasal discharge, headache, pain behind the eyes, in the cheeks, jaw and sometimes teeth, redness of the eyes and nose, watery eyes and sore throat with cough. There may be hyposmia and a feeling of pressure behind the face, particularly when bending forward. Sometimes the patient may also have a fever, muscular pain and halitosis (foul smelling breath).

  • Shah says if you or your child has a fever, cough, are wheezing or a decreased appetite, see a doctor for an evaluation. Dr. Shah is also seeing bronchitis, where patients get a barky cough, wheezing and chest tightness. Dr.[wkow.com]
  • In younger children: A runny nose that lasts longer than seven to 10 days Discharge is usually thick green or yellow, but can be clear Nighttime cough Occasional daytime cough Swelling around the eyes Usually no headaches younger than 5 years of age In[luriechildrens.org]
  • The discharge is usually thick green or yellow, but can also be clear. nighttime cough occasional daytime cough swelling around the eyes children usually do not complain of headaches if less than five years of age older children and adults: runny nose[uhealthsystem.com]
  • Once your child is on the medication, symptoms should start to go away over the next 2 to 3 days—the nasal discharge will clear and the cough will improve.[healthychildren.org]
  • Symptoms may include: Younger children Runny nose Lasts longer than seven to 10 days Discharge is usually thick green or yellow, but can be clear Nighttime cough Occasional daytime cough Swelling around the eyes Usually no headaches younger than 5 years[stanfordchildrens.org]
Nasal Congestion
  • However these sprays should be used only for 2 to 3 consecutive days because more prolonged use can cause rebound nasal congestion with increased symptoms.[nationaljewish.org]
  • Symptoms include: nasal congestion facial discomfort nasal discharge headache fatigue Types of Sinusitis There are two main categories of sinusitis: acute and chronic.[americansinus.com]
  • Some of the most common symptoms of sinusitis are pain, tenderness, nasal congestion, and headache. The diagnosis is based on symptoms, but sometimes a computed tomography scan or other imaging tests are needed.[msdmanuals.com]
Common Cold
  • Symptoms of acute sinusitis nearly resemble those of the common cold. In fact, the common cold is frequently a cause of acute sinusitis.[sinussurgeryprocedure.com]
  • It may be a short-term, acute inflammation caused by bacterial infection following an infection such as the common cold.[allergy.org.au]
  • Conditions that can cause sinus blockage include: The common cold Allergic rhinitis , which is swelling of the lining of the nose Small growths in the lining of the nose called nasal polyps A deviated septum , which is a shift in the nasal cavity Types[webmd.com]
  • In the case of the common cold, the lining of the nose is erythematous and oedematous and there are clear or pale yellow nasal secretions ( Fig. 3 ).[nps.org.au]
  • "Headache and fever" is a common presentation to the urgent care and emergency department setting and can have many etiologies.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • It lasts a couple of days, she says, so she recommends rest, fluids and acetaminophen or ibuprofen for the fever.[wkow.com]
  • Hay fever treatment , including antihistamine nasal spray or tablets, is recommended when allergic rhinitis is contributing to sinusitis. Immunotherapy for ongoing hay fever is another treatment option.[mydr.com.au]
  • Blocked sinuses can be caused by the common cold, hay fever or nasal polyps (small lumps inside the nose).[who.int]
  • Younger kids often have: cold-like symptoms, including a stuffy or runny nose slight fever If your child develops a fever 5–7 days after cold symptoms begin, it could signal sinusitis or another infection (like bronchitis, pneumonia , or an ear infection[kidshealth.org]
  • Symptoms of acute sinusitis include increased pressure in the sinuses, anosmia (loss of smell), worsening of nasal congestion, thick discolored nasal discharge, fatigue, development of fever, halitosis and pain in the teeth.[sinussurgeryprocedure.com]
  • […] around your eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead that worsens when bending over Other signs and symptoms can include: Ear pressure Headache Aching in your upper jaw and teeth Reduced sense of smell and taste Cough, which might be worse at night Bad breath (halitosis[mayoclinic.org]
  • […] symptoms of sinusitis include: pain or pressure in your cheeks, forehead, and nose, or between your eyes headache nasal congestion fever coughing, which may be worse at night drainage in your throat reduced sense of smell and taste bad breath (called halitosis[familydoctor.org]
  • […] swelling around your eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead Reduced sense of smell and taste in adults or cough in children Other signs and symptoms can include: Ear pain Aching in your upper jaw and teeth Cough that might worsen at night Sore throat Bad breath (halitosis[mayoclinic.org]
Eye Pain
  • Pain and swelling are also common symptoms, especially under the eyes. Pain is usually worse on one side of the face.[raisingchildren.net.au]
  • The following are all common symptoms of sinusitis: A cold that lasts more than 10 days and is not getting better A headache with a feeling of pressure Pain and tenderness near your eyes and cheekbones, sometimes with swelling around your eyes Pain in[youngmenshealthsite.org]
  • Additional symptoms may include: facial tenderness; fever; tiredness; bad breath; headache; swelling around the eyes; pain in the upper jaw and/or teeth; cough; and nausea.[mydr.com.au]
  • Less commonly, the infection spreads to involve the eye itself, causing eye pain and disturbing vision. Less often, an infection can spread to tissues around the brain ( meningitis ) and cause severe headache and confusion.[merckmanuals.com]
  • Clinical symptoms at presentation included headache, fever, ptosis, ophthalmoplegia, and history of sinusitis with running nose (nasal discharge). None of the patients were immunocompromised or showed signs of meningitis.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • The most common ophthalmic presentation was proptosis (n 21, 61.7%), followed by epiphora (n 5, 14.7%), visual loss (n 4, 11.7%), diplopia (n 3, 8.8%), and dystopia (n 1, 2.9%) in addition to 1 patient having ptosis beside proptosis.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Sinus Pain
  • Decongestant may be prescribed to help drain the sinuses which may cause sinus pain or pressure. They are generally only recommended for short-term use.[nuh.com.sg]
  • Treating Related Symptoms of Bacterial Sinusitis Headache or sinus pain . To treat headache or sinus pain , try placing a warm washcloth on your child's face for a few minutes at a time.[healthychildren.org]
  • Treatment Nonprescription pain relievers, ice packs, or warm compresses may soothe sinus pain; in severe cases prescription pain medicine may be prescribed. Antihistamines and other allergy medications are used to treat allergic symptoms.[hopkinsmedicine.org]
  • "Coming out of sinus surgery What Finally Cured a Woman's 18-Year Stuffy Nose Tue, 16 Dec 2014 For more than 18 years, Nadia Campbell had no sense of taste or smell and lived with terrible sinus pain.[abcnews.go.com]
  • Sinusitis symptoms If your child has sinusitis, she might feel pressure or congestion over the area of an infected sinus. Pain and swelling are also common symptoms, especially under the eyes. Pain is usually worse on one side of the face.[raisingchildren.net.au]
Facial Swelling
  • Symptoms of invasive fungal sinusitis People with invasive fungal sinusitis usually are very ill, and may have some of the following symptoms: Fever Facial pain or numbness Facial swelling Cough Nasal discharge Headache Mental status changes Dark ulcers[upmc.com]
  • Symptoms of sinusitis include runny or stuffy nose, postnasal drip, pain or pressure around the eyes or cheekbones, earache, facial swelling, dizziness, headache , fever , sore throat , bad breath , tooth pain, or sensitive teeth.[emedicinehealth.com]
  • "Headache and fever" is a common presentation to the urgent care and emergency department setting and can have many etiologies.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Frontal sinusitis is characterized by pain or pressure in the forehead, which is sometimes described as a headache.[ucdenver.edu]
  • Does sinusitis cause headaches? Headache is a common problem that is often associated with sinusitis.[muschealth.org]
  • It includes painkillers for headache and facial pain, hot steam to open clogged up ostia and increased intake of warm fluids.[symptoma.com]
  • Frontal sinusitis causes headache over the forehead. Ethmoid sinusitis causes pain behind and between the eyes, tearing, and headache (often described as splitting) over the forehead.[merckmanuals.com]
Sinus Headache
  • Chronic Sinusitis Symptoms Patients who have chronic sinusitis may suffer one or more of the following symptoms: Chronic sinus headaches /facial pressure in the forehead, eyes or cheeks Nasal congestion and/or difficulty breathing through the nose Runny[sinusinstituteatlanta.com]
  • However, they may become infected, leading to sinusitis (sinus infection) with symptoms such as a blocked nose, post-nasal drip and even sinus headaches.[health24.com]
  • Sinusitis symptoms may include: 1 Sinus pressure and congestion Sinus Headache Facial pain Tenderness and swelling around the eyes, cheeks, nose and forehead Difficulty breathing through the nose Loss of the sense of smell or taste Yellow or green mucus[balloonsinuplasty.com]
  • Leighton hasn't had any sinus headaches since she received the treatment. "It took an hour and a half, and I really didn't feel any pain," she says. Now she can literally "smell the roses", without worrying about her sinuses.[abc7chicago.com]
  • Sinus headaches happen due to sinusitis , or an inflammation of your sinuses, the cavities in your skull that are connected to your nose, according to the Mayo Clinic.[merriam-webster.com]


Acute sinusitis is diagnosed clinically but its evaluation may include the following tests [7]:

  • Biopsy of paranasal sinuses
  • Nasal cytology
  • Testing for ciliary dysfunction
  • Complete blood count
  • ESR


Imaging studies are not required to diagnose sinusitis. In complicated cases, a CT scan and nasal endoscopy may be conducted.

Test results

Typically tests results are not awaited to confirm the diagnosis and start treatment because sinusitis is a clinical diagnosis. Nasal cytology may help identify the causative organism as viral or bacterial so that appropriate antibiotics or antivirals, respectively, may be prescribed.

  • The Penicillium genera, encompassing about 225 different species of fungi, are naturally present in the environment. These genera are poorly linked to human disease, except for Penicillium marneffei causing septicemia in immunocompromised hosts.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]


AVRS typically resolves within 10 days and ABRS may also resolve spontaneously within the first 10 days of infection, so patients who present with fewer than 10 days of symptoms in general should be managed with supportive care only [8]. It includes painkillers for headache and facial pain, hot steam to open clogged up ostia and increased intake of warm fluids. Antihistamines cause the sinuses to dry up but sometimes cause excessive drying, as well as have other side effects like drowsiness and xerostomia, so their use for the treatment of acute sinusitis is generally not recommended [9].

If the infection persists for more than a week or is very severe, mechanical irrigation with buffered hypertonic saline solution may help reduce the need for analgesics and improve overall patient comfort [10]. Irrigation is recommended for people suffering from frequent sinus infections.


Sinusitis has an excellent prognosis. Studies suggest that 40% to 69% of patients suffering from ABRS may clear their infection spontaneously [6]. Whatever the underlying cause, acute sinusitis persists for 3 to 10 days only and then resolves on its own. In some rare cases, it may progress to chronic sinusitis, which also has an excellent prognosis and is easily and effectively treated with antibiotics or antiviral drugs.


Sinusitis may be due to a viral infection, such as infection from Rhinovirus, Adenovirus, Influenza virus A and B, Parainfluenza virus, Coronavirus or Respiratory syncytial virus resulting in acute viral rhinosinusitis (AVRS). It may also be caused by a bacterial infection, such as from Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae or Pseudomonas aeruginosa causing acute bacterial rhinosinusitis (ABRS). Acute viral upper respiratory tract infections are considered to be the most important risk factor for the development of ABRS [1].

Some fungi have also been implicated in the etiology of sinusitis but fungal sinusitis is a rare condition. Whatever the causative factor may be, the infection can be primary, affecting the paranasal sinuses directly, or it may be secondary, a result of an upper respiratory tract infection. The blocked sinuses have a negative sinus pressure and a reduced partial pressure of oxygen which makes the cavity ideal for the microorganisms to settle and multiply.

Chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) is defined as an inflammatory condition involving the lining epithelium of the paranasal sinuses, which persists for at least 12 weeks or longer [2]. It is characterized by persistent nasal discharge or nasal blockage, headache and facial pain.



Sinusitis is an extremely common condition with an incidence of over 24 million cases every year in the United States [3].


Sinusitis affects young and old alike. It does not have a predisposition to any particular age group.


It occurs equally in both sexes but infectious sinusitis is more common in females because they are more prone to close contact with children having infections.

Sex distribution
Age distribution


The paranasal sinuses develop as outpouchings of the nasal cavity, with the first sinuses appearing between the 3rd and 4th months of gestaton [4]. They are air-filled cavities extending from the skull to the alveolar process and are lined by pseudostratified ciliated columnar epithelium having mucus producing goblet cells. They include the frontal sinus, anterior and posterior ethmoid sinus, maxillary sinus and sphenoid sinus. All sinuses drain into the nasal cavity via openings called ostia. Ciliary activity is necessary for drainage of secretions from the sinuses into the nose, particularly from the maxillary sinus because the ostia are located high up on the medial walls of this sinus [5].

If any one or more of these paranasal sinuses become blocked and congested, the normally sterile mucus is prevented from draining into the nasal cavity via the ostia. The filling up of the sinuses with mucus results in negative sinus pressure which promotes the development of an infection. The viral, bacterial or fungal pathogens inhabit the congested sinuses and sinusitis develops. Some allergins such as pollen grains or animal fur may cause the sinuses to become irritated resulting in excessive mucus production which then blocks up the cavities causing sinusitis.


Sinusitis may be prevented by intake of appropriate fluids and good oral hygiene. Upper respiratory tract infections should be promptly and properly treated


Sinusitis, or more appropriately rhinosinusitis, is the inflammation of the mucosa of the paranasal sinuses which presents as features similar to influenza. It is a common household occurrence and affects people of all ages, races and ethnicity. Paranasal sinues are hollow bony cavities that help reduce the weight of the skull as well as humidify air during respiration. If any of these sinuses become blocked, the mucus produced by the goblet cells present in these sinuses is unable to drain out, the nasal cavity becomes congested and sinusitis ensues. Commonly, the condition is due to external pathogens, as discussed below.

Patient Information


Sinusitis is a condition in which the lining membrane of paranasal sinuses, which are hollow air-filled cavities present in the skull, become infected and congested with mucus.


Sinusitis may be viral, bacterial or fungal or it may be due to an upper respiratory tract infection. Sometimes allergens like pollen grains and animal fur may cause overproduction of mucus which may become infected resulting in sinusitis.

Signs and symptoms

It presents with a blocked and congested nose, thick, postnasal discharge, headache, pain behind the eyes, in the jaws and teeth, red watery eyes and fever. There may also be sore throat and cough.


Diagnosis of sinusitis is purely clinical. Laboratory tests may help in identifying the causative agent.


Treatment is mainly supportive as most cases of sinusitis resolve by themselves. However, it may be treated with antibiotics or antiviral drugs.



  1. Revai K, Dobbs LA, Nair S, Patel JA, Grady JJ, Chonmaitree T. Incidence of acute otitis media and sinusitis complicating upper respiratory tract infection: the effect of age. Pediatrics. Jun 2007;119(6):e1408-12 
  2. Slavin RG, Spector SL, Bernstein IL, et al. The diagnosis and management of sinusitis: a practice parameter update. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2005; 116:S13.
  3. Anon JB. Upper respiratory infections. Am. J. Med, Apr 2010. 123 (4 Suppl): S16–25. 
  4. Cherry JD, Mundi J, Shapiro NL. Rhinosinusitis. In: Feigin and Cherry’s Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, 7th, Cherry JD, Harrision GJ, Kaplan SL, et al. (Eds), Elsevier Saunders, Philadelphia 2014. p.193.
  5. Wald ER. Rhinitis and acute and chronic sinusitis. In: Pediatric Otolaryngology, 2nd, Bluestone CD, Stool SE, Sheetz MD (Eds), Saunders, Philadelphia 1990. p.729.
  6. Falagas ME, Giannopoulou KP, Vardakas KZ, et al. Comparison of antibiotics with placebo for treatment of acute sinusitis: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Lancet Infect Dis 2008; 8:543. 
  7. Slavin RG, Spector SL, Bernstein IL, Kaliner MA, Kennedy DW, Virant FS, et al. The diagnosis and management of sinusitis: a practice parameter update. J Allergy Clin Immunol. Dec 2005;116(6 Suppl):S13-47
  8. Tan T, Little P, Stokes T, Guideline Development Group. Antibiotic prescribing for self limiting respiratory tract infections in primary care: summary of NICE guidance. BMJ 2008; 337:a437.
  9. Chow AW, Benninger MS, Brook I, et al. IDSA clinical practice guideline for acute bacterial rhinosinusitis in children and adults. Clin Infect Dis 2012; 54:e72.
  10. Kassel JC, King D, Spurling GK. Saline nasal irrigation for acute upper respiratory tract infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2010; :CD006821.

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