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Acute sinusitis is a common condition affecting up to 10% of UK adults. Symptoms can vary in severity, ranging from a painful condition to a mild irritation.
Usually, acute sinusitis is a self-limiting condition that does not need antibiotics, but persistent or severe cases may need them. Some cases of chronic sinusitis can even require surgery.
Although there are many causes of facial pain, if you have persistent facial pain it may be worth seeing a GP to learn if you have viral or bacterial acute sinusitis to get the right treatment.
Sinuses are the hollow cavities in your skull that connect to the inside of your nose. Sinusitis is a common condition that causes the lining of your sinuses and nasal passages to become inflamed. This swelling stops mucus from draining properly into your nose and throat. Symptoms may include face pain or pressure, a blocked nose, headache, and fever.
Sinus pain can be due to viral or bacterial infection or due to an autoimmune condition. Viruses are the most common cause of acute sinusitis. Viral infections can be contagious and are spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Bacterial acute sinusitis is not contagious and affects only around 2% of cases.
Acute sinusitis is common after the cold or flu. Most cases of acute sinusitis clear up in 2 to 3 weeks without any treatment. Most cases can be managed at home with remedies from the pharmacy.
Contrary to popular belief, the difference between acute and chronic sinusitis is the length a person has the condition, not the severity in symptoms. Keep a record of when your symptoms start to help with future diagnosis. We can help with:
How do you know if you have a sinus infection? And what does acute sinusitis feel like?
Sinuses are a connected system of air-filled cavities around the nasal passages in your face. When these become swollen or blocked, it is known as acute sinusitis or a sinus infection.
It is common to get acute sinusitis after having a cold or flu. Common acute sinusitis symptoms include congestion and blockage with any two of the following:
For signs of acute sinusitis in young children, see Chapter 7.
Sinus pain in the eye and face are common sinus pressure symptoms and could indicate blocked sinuses. People with acute sinusitis usually experience discomfort in their face, especially when bending forwards. This is usually accompanied by a feeling of pressure or fullness. However, facial pain is not always due to acute sinusitis and can have many other causes including toothache, trauma, headache and cellulitis (skin infection).
To be diagnosed with chronic sinusitis, at least two of the following chronic sinusitis symptoms must be present for a least 12 weeks:
Acute sinusitis complications are rare but can include the following:
If you think that you or your child might be seriously ill, call 999 for an ambulance or visit A&E immediately.
Often, sinusitis will clear up on its own within 2 to 3 weeks. This is known as acute sinusitis. However, in some cases the inflammation in the nose and sinuses will persist for longer than this. This is called chronic sinusitis.
Others might experience acute sinusitis that keeps coming back, also known as recurrent acute sinusitis. How your sinusitis is managed depends on what type of sinusitis you have. We can help with:
What type of sinusitis do you have? And how is it managed?
Acute sinusitis (also called acute rhinosinusitis or ARS) is when the membranes that line your nose and surrounding sinuses become infected for a short amount of time. This makes it difficult for mucus to drain from your nose and sinuses and can make your face feel uncomfortable.
Chronic sinusitis or chronic rhinosinusitis (also known as CRS) is when your sinuses become swollen and inflamed for at least 12 weeks. Chronic cases of sinusitis are common. They are usually a result of an infection, growths in your sinuses, or a deviated nasal septum.
Recurrent acute sinusitis (RARS) is defined as when you have 4 or more significant episodes of acute sinusitis in a year which last longer than 10 days. In most cases, your GP will be able to manage recurrent acute sinusitis but a specialist referral might be necessary if your symptoms persist.
In cases of a severe sinus infection, you might experience intense or extreme sinus pain. You should visit your GP if your symptoms are severe and painkillers are not helping or your symptoms are becoming even worse. Symptoms of complications of sinusitis may need to be seen by your GP or A&E.
If you are unsure about whether your sinusitis symptoms are severe enough to see a GP, it’s usually worth talking it through with them and they can advise you.
Most cases of acute sinusitis can be managed within primary care by your GP and pharmacist. However, if you have a severe and systemic infection or any complications with your acute sinusitis, it might be necessary for you to be referred to hospital for treatment. You might also be referred to have your acute sinusitis managed by a specialist if your GP believes you’re at a high level of risk or if your treatment isn’t working.
Most episodes of acute sinusitis will clear up on their own within two to three weeks. However, there are some things that you can do to help relieve your symptoms and speed up this process.
Acute sinusitis can be treated in many different ways. There’s plenty of things you can do at home to help deal with your sinusitis. We can help with:
What treatment is there for acute sinusitis? And how can you clear blocked sinuses?
Acute sinusitis can often be treated at home. Try the following acute sinusitis treatment:
There are many different over-the-counter medicines that you can try to help relieve the symptoms of your sinus infection. Popular medications for acute sinusitis that can be bought from your local pharmacy include:
Only use one type of antihistamine at a time. If a medication is not working for you after 7 days then speak with your pharmacist who can recommend another.
Do not use nasal decongestant sprays such as Otrivine (xylometazoline) for longer than three to four days in a row. Nasal steroid sprays like Pirinase (Fluticasone propionate), are safe to use long term.
Blocked sinuses can be treated with nasal corticosteroid spray. This can be purchased over-the-counter at a pharmacy. This spray helps to reduce the sinus and intranasal inflammation. By reducing this inflammation, your sinuses can drain and become cleared.
Sinus pain can be treated in a variety of ways. Over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can help to relieve some of the pain. Placing a warm, moist flannel over your sinuses is another way of relieving the symptoms of sinus pain and pressure.
Most cases of acute sinusitis are viral so antibiotics will not help with nasal congestion symptoms. However, in cases of bacterial acute sinusitis, antibiotics can help to quickly fight the infection. Your GP will be able assess your type of acute sinusitis and prescribe you with antibiotics.
Chronic sinusitis (CRS) is a term which covers a number of conditions and is usually subdivided into those with (called CRSwNP) and without (CRSsNP) nasal polyps.
It can be difficult to have sinusitis for a long period of time. This common condition is known as chronic sinusitis and is a struggle for many people.
Unfortunately, there is no single cure, but there are lots of different treatment options available to manage your chronic sinusitis. We can help with:
How to treat chronic sinusitis? And should you have surgery?
Chronic sinusitis treatment involves:
Sinus surgery is rare and only considered when other treatments fail and you are suffering with long-term sinusitis or it keeps coming back. This surgery can help to remove tissue or shave away at a polyp which is obstructing your sinuses. Sinus surgery removes the obstruction and improves the drainage of the sinuses as well as allowing the surgeon to reshape the sinuses to improve the access to the sinuses for topical therapies such as sprays or drops.
Having sinus surgery is not a guaranteed cure for sinusitis and can sometimes make you even more susceptible to the condition.
While many might see sinus surgery as a cure for sinusitis, unfortunately this is not always the case. While it might help many people who are suffering from sinusitis, it can also make some others more susceptible to the condition. As acute sinusitis can have many different causes, there is not a single cure for it. However, there are many different treatment options to relieve your symptoms.
Acute sinusitis can often be treated at home without prescription medication. You can help to relieve your symptoms and drain your sinuses using things you might have in the house or over-the-counter medication from your local pharmacy.
Simple things like resting and stopping smoking can all also help to fast-track your acute sinusitis recovery. We can help with:
How can you treat acute sinusitis at home? And should you smoke with acute sinusitis?
There are many natural ways to drain sinuses. Home remedies for acute sinusitis include:
Smoking cigarettes has been shown to damage your sinuses, increasing your risk of both acute and chronic sinusitis. Smoking damages your sinuses in a similar way to how it damages your lungs, by preventing your cilia (lining) from working. When your cilia fail to work, mucus can build up in your sinuses, allowing bacteria to thrive. This makes you more susceptible to a sinus infection.
Acute sinusitis can be caused by a number of different factors. However, it is usually caused by viral infections, similar to those that cause the common cold or flu.
By learning about what causes a sinus infection, you can better understand how to prevent acute sinusitis. We can help with:
What causes acute sinusitis? And how can you prevent acute sinusitis?
Sinus infections can be caused by:
Viral infections are the most common cause of acute sinusitis. This is usually a result of catching the common cold. The symptoms of viral acute sinusitis will typically last between 7 and 10 days.
Bacterial acute sinusitis is when you get acute sinusitis as the result of a bacterial infection. This is much less common than viral acute sinusitis. Treatment of bacterial acute sinusitis will usually involve a course of antibiotics after being diagnosed by a GP.
You are more likely to develop acute sinusitis if you:
Tips for acute sinusitis prevention include:
If your child is suffering with acute sinusitis, there are some things that you can do to help relieve their symptoms, including at-home children’s sinus relief and children’s sinus medication.
It’s also important to remember that acute sinusitis is common in children and they will often recover within a few days on their own. Often, parents are advised to wait a few days and keep an eye on their child’s symptoms. We can help with:
Does your child have acute sinusitis? And what signs are there to look out for?
Signs of a sinus infection in toddlers and young children include:
These symptoms are in addition to the symptoms listed in Chapter 1.
The most common complication of acute sinusitis in children is that it can develop into chronic sinusitis. Chronic sinusitis has similar symptoms to acute sinusitis but lasts longer.
Other complications of acute sinusitis in children are rare but children are more likely to have complications than adults. It’s possible for a sinusitis infection to spread to the eye, bones, blood or brain which can be very serious. If your child experiences swelling of the eye or cheek with acute sinusitis, report this to your GP immediately.
Acute sinusitis can be contagious in toddlers if the infection is viral, but not if the infection is bacterial. It’s possible for children to pass on a sinus infection similar to how they would pass on a cold or flu, by sneezing or coughing near another person.
A sinus infection can be treated in children and toddlers by:
You should first take your child to see a pharmacist who will be able to advise you on which medicines are best for your child. Depending on your child’s symptoms, they might suggest a nasal spray or decongestant. Decongestants should not be used in children under the age of 6.
If your child’s symptoms do not improve after a week and painkillers aren’t helping, you should take your child to see a GP. You should also take your child to see a GP if they keep getting acute sinusitis.
It can be difficult to prevent acute sinusitis in children as it is easily spread. However, there are some things that parents can do to reduce the chances of their children getting acute sinusitis. This includes:
Acute sinusitis in babies can be worrisome for parents, especially since it can be tricky to tell the difference between sinus infections in babies and the cold or flu. It’s important to know what signs to look out for.
While babies do not develop sinuses in the forehead and behind the nose until they are older, they can still get infections in their sinuses behind the eyes and cheeks. We can help with:
Does your baby have acute sinusitis? And when should you see a GP?
It is possible for babies to get acute sinusitis. Although sinuses do not develop in the forehead and behind the nose until a child is older, babies are born with sinuses behind their eyes and cheek which can still become infected.
Sinus infection treatments for babies include:
It can be difficult to tell if your baby has a sinus infection when they can’t tell you how they are feeling, especially as the symptoms are very similar to the common cold or flu. However, there are some signs that you can look out for:
Parents can help to reduce the chances of their baby getting a sinus infection if they:
If your baby has any of the following, you should urgently take them to see a GP:
Pregnancy comes with morning sickness, tiredness and back pain. It can be exhausting for the body to also have to deal with a sinus infection. Pregnancy comes with changes to your blood vessels, immune system, and membranes in the nose.
Luckily, there’s some things you can do to reduce the chances of getting acute sinusitis while pregnant. We can help with:
How can you treat acute sinusitis while pregnant? And what can you take for sinus infections?
Getting a sinus infection can feel like the last thing you need while pregnant. Here are some natural ways you can clear your sinuses when pregnant:
Before taking decongestants or antihistamines, you should first consult with your GP who will be able to advise you on which medications are appropriate for your stage in pregnancy.
Acute sinusitis will not harm your baby. However, you might need to be more careful when taking medications for acute sinusitis when pregnant as some might cause harm to your baby. Talk to your pharmacist or GP first before using decongestants or antihistamines.
If your symptoms are not improving, you should consult with your GP. Your doctor will be able to diagnose you and prescribe you with the best treatment for you and your baby.
Acute sinusitis is difficult to prevent as it can be very common. When you are pregnant, changes to your blood vessels and membranes in the nose can increase your chances of a sinus infection. However, there are some things you can do to help prevent acute sinusitis while pregnant:
With same day private GP appointments in over 150 locations across the UK, Medicspot can help you with a sinus infection.
Using our unique clinical stations, you can get seen by a GP at your local pharmacy via video consultation. Medicspot has diagnostic devices so our doctors can also provide a clinical examination. We can help with:
How can you get a private GP appointment? And can you get a same day appointment with Medicspot?
Our doctors can provide same day treatment at your local pharmacy. Simply book online, have your consultation with one of our expert doctors and pick up any prescriptions from the same location. Medicspot private GPs can examine you with a range of diagnostic devices.