Sinusitis is an inflammation or swelling of the tissue lining the sinuses. Healthy sinuses are filled with air. But when they become blocked and filled with fluid, germs can grow and cause an infection.
Conditions that can cause sinus blockage to include:
- The common cold
- Allergic rhinitis, which is swelling of the lining of the nose caused by allergens
- Small growths in the lining of the nose called nasal polyps
- A deviated septum, which is a shift in the nasal cavity
Types of Sinusitis
You may hear your doctor use these terms:
Acute sinusitis usually starts with cold-like symptoms such as a runny, stuffy nose and facial pain. It may start suddenly and last 2-4 weeks.
Subacute sinusitis usually lasts 4 to 12 weeks.
Chronic sinusitis symptoms last 12 weeks or longer.
Recurrent sinusitis happens several times a year.
What are the symptoms of a sinus infection?
The symptoms of sinusitis are similar to those of a common cold. They may include:
- a decreased sense of smell
- stuffy or runny nose
- headache from sinus pressure
It may be difficult for parents to detect a sinus infection in their children. Signs of an infection include:
- cold or allergy symptoms that don’t improve within 14 days
- a high fever (above 102°F or 39°C)
- thick, dark mucus coming from the nose
- a cough that lasts longer than 10 days
Symptoms of acute, subacute, and chronic sinus infections are similar. However, the severity and length of your symptoms will vary.
Who is at risk for a sinus infection?
Anyone can develop a sinus infection. However, certain other health conditions and risk factors can increase your chances of developing one, such as:
- a deviated nasal septum, when the wall of tissue that runs between your right and left nostrils displaces unevenly to one side
- a nasal bone spur (a bone growth in the nose)
- nasal polyps, usually noncancerous growths in the nose
- a history of allergies
- recent contact with mold
- weak immune system
- tobacco smoking
- recent upper respiratory infection
- cystic fibrosis, a condition that causes thick mucus to build up in your lungs and other mucus membrane linings
- dental infection
- airplane travel, which can expose you to a high concentration of germs