Sinusitis is a medical condition defined as an inflammation of the sinuses. It is usually caused by an infection either from a bacteria, fungus, or virus that enters the body and sinus cavity. Sinusitis is a common medical condition with a variety of successful treatment options, though it can be chronic and continue recurring over and over again in some people.

Causes of Sinusitis

Sinusitis typically occurs from one of three conditions; a common cold or allergy condition causing excess mucus blocking the opening of the sinuses, small hairs in the sinus which prevents mucus from moving out, or a deviated septum, nasal bone spur, or nasal polyp which can block the opening of the sinus. Sinusitis may be acute where the symptoms last up to 4 weeks and is caused by bacteria, or chronic which lasts longer than 3 months and is usually caused by a fungus or bacteria. Risk factors for sinusitis include allergic rhinitis, cystic fibrosis, activities that change the altitude such as scuba diving or flying, day care (for children), large adenoids, smoking, or a weak immune system from chemotherapy or HIV.

Symptoms of Sinusitis

A variety of signs and symptoms are common among people with sinusitis, many of which are symptoms after a cold that never go away. These include bad breath, loss of smell, a cough that is worse at night, fatigue, fever, headache, nasal discharge, stuffy nose, or a sore throat. There are also other symptoms to look out for in children including a cold or other respiratory illness that doesn’t improve, a high fever and nasal discharge for more than 3 days, or nasal discharge that has lasted 10 days or more and isn’t improving.

Diagnosing Sinusitis

Diagnosing sinusitis starts with a physical examination where the doctor looks for signs of polyps in the nasal cavity, looks in the sinus for inflammation, and taps over a sinus area to look for infection. A variety of tests will also be performed to confirm the diagnosis of sinusitis including a nasal endoscopy, CT scan of the sinuses, MRI of the sinuses, blood tests to look for poor immune function, ciliary function tests, allergy testing, nasal cultures, nasal cytology, or sweat chloride tests.

Treating Sinusitis

There are a number of things you can do on your own to help treat sinusitis. You can apply a warm washcloth to your face several times a day, drink plenty of water to thin the mucus, inhale steam from your shower up to 4 times a day, use a humidifier, use a nasal saline spray, or use a Neti pot for flushing your sinuses. You can also reduce sinus pain and pressure by avoiding flying, avoiding sudden changes in temperatures and extremely high or low temperatures, not bending over with your head down, and taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

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