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Acute Sinusitis (Sinus Infection)

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Sinusitis (sinus infection)

Sinusitis is swelling of the sinuses, usually caused by an infection. It's common and usually clears up on its own within 4 weeks. But medicines can help if it's taking a long time to go away.

Check if it's sinusitis

Sinusitis is common after a cold or flu.

The main symptoms of sinusitis include:

  • pain, swelling and tenderness around your cheeks, eyes or forehead
  • a blocked or runny nose
  • a reduced sense of smell
  • green or yellow mucus from your nose
  • a high temperature

Other symptoms include:

  • a headache
  • toothache
  • bad breath
  • a cough
  • a feeling of pressure in the ears

You may also snore at night and sound nasal when you speak.

Young children may also be irritable, have difficulty feeding and breathe through their mouth.

What are the sinuses?

How you can treat sinusitis yourself

You can often treat mild sinusitis without seeing a GP by:

  • getting plenty of rest
  • drinking plenty of fluids
  • taking painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (do not give aspirin to children under 16)
  • avoiding things that trigger your allergies
  • not smoking
  • cleaning your nose with a salt water solution
How to clean your nose with a homemade salt water solution

If you have a high temperature or you do not feel well enough to do your normal activities, try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people until you feel better.

A pharmacist can help with sinusitis

A pharmacist can advise you about medicines that can help, such as:

  • decongestant nasal sprays or drops to unblock your nose (decongestants should not be taken by children under 6)
  • salt water nasal sprays or solutions to rinse out the inside of your nose

They can also provide other treatments if you need them, without you seeing a GP.

Non-urgent advice:See a GP if:

  • you have sinusitis and are very unwell
  • painkillers do not help or your symptoms get worse
  • your symptoms do not get better after 3 weeks
  • you keep getting sinusitis

Treatment for sinusitis

If a GP thinks your sinusitis needs treatment, they may prescribe medicines such as:

Rarely, you may need antibiotics. This is not common as sinusitis is usually caused by a virus, not bacteria.

The GP may refer you to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist if you:

  • still have sinusitis after 3 months of treatment
  • keep getting sinusitis
  • only have symptoms on 1 side of your face

The specialist may recommend surgery for some people.

Surgery for sinusitis

Surgery to treat chronic sinusitis is called functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS).

FESS is carried out under general anaesthetic (where you're asleep).

The surgeon can widen your sinuses by either:

  • removing some of the blocked tissue
  • inflating a tiny balloon in the blocked sinuses, then removing it
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