Home General Info & Awareness What Is Sinusitis? A Look At Sinus Infections & Treatment

What Is Sinusitis? A Look At Sinus Infections & Treatment

by InvisiblyMe

Sinusitis can be surprisingly uncomfortable and unpleasant, but what exactly is sinusitis? Here’s everything you need to know about the sinuses, mucus, symptoms of sinus infections and how to treat them.

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What Are Sinuses?

Your sinuses are basically cavities, or air-filled sacs, that sit just behind the forehead and cheekbones. The two main functions of the sinuses are to filter the air you breathe in, and to generate mucus. “Sinusitis” is essentially referring to a sinus infection, which comes with inflammation, swelling and mucus.

A woman's face, with her hands up against the temples as though she's in pain. A digital overlay of red shows areas of pain and congestion that might be indicative of facial pain, trigeminal neuralgia, migraine, sinus headache or sinusitis.

The Role Of Mucus 

Mucus helps to lubricate the tissues, but it also serves to grab and remove unwanted particles, like dust, bacteria, micro-organisms and allergens when you breathe. Mucus is predominantly made up of water, with other helpful additions like sugars, molecules and proteins that manage and remove potentially harmful particles. 

In the nose, mucus picks up particles and helps to expel them. In the lungs, mucus acts as flypaper to trap bacteria, at which point the tiny hairs (cilia) push the mucus out of the lungs. This can be coughed up or harmlessly brought up without your awareness and swallowed. Sounds gross, right? That might be so, but it’s a magical process that keeps your body protected and healthy.

Too much mucus, or mucus that’s more unpleasantly thick and sticky, can happen as a result of inflammation, allergies and infections. You might also find yourself with a post-nasal drop or congestion. 

With sinusitis and inflammation, the nose can’t always drain mucus effectively. This means it builds up, blocks up, and creates pressure throughout the sinuses around your eyes, cheeks and forehead. 

The Causes Of Sinusitis

Sinusitis can be short term and clear up in a couple of weeks, or it can be chronic and continue for several months or more. It can occur after a cold or flu, but it can also develop without, and it can affect any person of any age.

There are various causes of sinusitis, the most common of which is a viral infection. Other causes include bacterial infections and fungal infections, but even an infected tooth can cause it.

What Are The Symptoms Of Sinusitis? 

Symptoms of a sinus infection and the resulting inflammation it causes can include the likes of : 

  • Mild to severe pressure, tenderness and pain around the cheeks, eyes, side of the nose and/or forehead
  • A “sinus headache”
  • Congestion, which can lead to a reduced sense of smell
  • Jaw pain, toothache and bad breath
  • Pressure in the ears
  • High temperature / fever 
  • Increased nasal mucus, particularly yellow or green
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What Are The At Home Treatments For Sinusitis? 

For those with infections, particularly if you feel very unwell, it’s often recommended to stay home and away from others to prevent the spread. 

There are a few things you can do to help your sinuses and manage the symptoms by yourself, but you may need to give it time for the sinus infection to clear up. If there are underlying causes that need treating, those will need to be dealt with too. 

Here are a few suggestions for at home and over-the-counter treatments for sinusitis : 

Use A Saline Rinse

A saline nasal wash uses a mix of water and salt. You can buy nasal douches to spray the solution into the nose or something called a ‘neti pot’. My preference is a product made by NeilMed, which is basically a plastic squeeze bottle with special nozzle to make using it much easier. You can make your own saline solutions or buy pre-made solutions for convenience. NeilMed sell kits with the bottle and a number of pre-made solution sachets, as well as boxes of solutions separately when you need a top-up.

Medical Nasal Spray

An OTC sinus spray should contain an active agent like Xylometazoline hydrochloride to help relieve some of the pressure and congestion. This might make you feel more comfortable and allow you to breathe a little more easily. It’s important not to overuse these, to follow the instructions and limit use to 7 days (or as advised by your doctor). Sinus sprays can make the problem worse with continued and prolonged use.

A man is using a nasal spray, the type that can be used for sinusitis or allergies.

Natural Sea Water Sprays

An alternative to medical sprays are sea water options, like those by Sterimar. A popular brand, Sterimar specialises in “natural and effective” products with “no side effects”, harnessing the power of 100% natural sea water containing oodles of marine minerals, copper salts and trace elements. The sprays help to decongest and cleanse airways, reduce germs for cold and flu prevention, rebalance your sinuses, add moisture to dry tissues, and help you breathe better.

There are a few varieties but the Congestion Relief and Breathe Easy are ones I’ve tried and would recommend. They come in 50ml and 100ml sizes, where you can often get better value for money with the latter.

Decongestant and Sinus Capsules

Similar to a sinus spray, capsules and tablets designed for sinusitis may help with the congestion and discomfort. A Sterimar sea water spray is a natural alternative to OTC sinusitis sprays.

OTC Pain Relief

Paracetamol and aspirin are often recommended for basic relief.

Anti-Histamines

If your symptoms are caused by allergies like dust or pollen, try to limit your exposure to potential triggers and consider anti-histamines.

Rest and Recuperate

Your body needs a little TLC to fight infection so get plenty of rest, fluids and a balanced diet.

Steam & Warmth

Steam from a facial sauna, or having your face to a bowl of warm water with a towel over your head, can help to loosen things up. A warm flannel on your face can likewise ease some pressure (though some may find cold preferable for pain relief).

Should I See The Doctor For Sinusitis?

Most cases of sinusitis will clear up on their own in a couple of weeks with management at home, but some people will experience chronic or recurrent sinus infections. 

The NHS suggests speaking to a doctor if your symptoms don’t improve after three weeks, if sinusitis keeps recurring, you feel very unwell or your symptoms get worse. Medications might be prescribed, like steroid drops and sprays, antibiotics or antihistamines. A referral to an ENT specialist may be requested. Imaging, biopsies and CT scans can be used to investigate the symptoms further and evaluate other potential causes like polyps.

In the more extreme cases, a surgical procedure called functional endoscopic sinus surgery may be undertaken to remove obstructions and widen the sinuses.  

A woman is holding a tissue up to her nose. There's an overlaid digital diagram to show where the sinuses and congestion are that can be found with sinusitis and sinus infections. The post title is underneath : What is sinusitis? What you need to know about sinus infections and treatments.

Please note I am not a doctor and this post does not replace professional medical advice. If you feel unwell, you have concerns or any queries, please speak to your GP or pharmacist. If you experience other symptoms that may be a cause for concern, from visual disturbance to meningitis symptoms, please seek immediate medical attention.

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Have you ever dealt with sinusitis?

Caz  ♥

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Caz  ♥

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11 comments

Looking for the Light June 4, 2024 - 4:49 pm

Hey love, got your em, very bad place. will write soon. Double hugs.

Reply
Darnell June 4, 2024 - 5:48 pm

This is good info Caz. I’ve had something for the past 10 days that is similar. I’m starting to feel better but it’s good to know I can do something. As always we appreciate all the help we can get. Be well as can be, my blogger buddy!

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Comedy Plus June 4, 2024 - 5:50 pm

A miserable thing to endure. You’ve got great advice on managing this awful illness.

Have a fabulous day and week, Caz. Hugs. ♥

Reply
Nancy Homlitas June 4, 2024 - 7:02 pm

This is a thorough rundown on how one can be proactive with their sinus problems-especially if they have to deal with it very often. Great post, Caz. 🙂

Reply
James V Viscosi June 6, 2024 - 2:48 am

In my younger days I had pretty severe allergies and boy oh boy was I familiar with all those varieties of mucus. Fortunately after years of shots I got over it, and have not been prone to sinus infections since. Knock wood!

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Carolyn Page June 6, 2024 - 3:27 am

Great info, Caz. Fortunately, that particular condition does not affect me – touch wood. I do know of friends who suffer, more so in the colder months. Their constant clearing throat, blowing nose, looking a little puffy and/or ill is a sad sight to see.
Hoping life is good… 💖 xoxoxo

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The Oceanside Animals June 7, 2024 - 3:17 am

Java Bean: “Ayyy, suddenly that ‘Run with Mucus’ joke from the Mel Brooks movie seems a little bit different …”

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Blanca June 7, 2024 - 5:59 pm

Very informative and interesting post, Caz. Some years ago I suffered two acute sinus infections and I had to go to the doctor’s to treat them, as the symptoms were only getting worse. I had to take a course of antibiotics both times. The intense headache I was feeling at the time was unverable.

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Unwanted Life June 7, 2024 - 10:07 pm

I’d never really thought about what sinuses are before, but to find out they’re basically cavities, or that sit not just behind our foreheads, it also our cheekbones was pretty mind blowing. The forehead makes sense, but behind the cheekbones just seems really weird.

Getting an infection in your sinuses after having a cold or flu would be pretty frustrating. I had a chest infection after catching COVID and it took forever to clear. Far long that I was COVID positive.

I don’t think I’ve ever had sinusitis before. I do have a deviated septum that causes a few issues though, but not as painful as sinusitis sounds.

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Despite Pain June 9, 2024 - 4:33 pm

Great post Caz. Sinusitis can be extremely painful. You’ve listed some really helpful tips. X

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Kymber Hawke June 16, 2024 - 12:13 am

Hi, Caz!

Sinusitis is horrible, but I like how you explain what mucous is doing and why you get infections. These are all good things to know. 🌺🩷

Reply

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