Acute Sinusitis

What is Acute Sinusitis?

Sinusitis is inflammation of the sinus passages. It is considered acute sinusitis (acute rhinosinusitis) when it does not completely clear up within 30 days. It is usually caused by a viral infection such as a cold, but it can be caused by a dental abscess or allergies.

Mucous builds up in the sinus passages instead of draining away. Bacteria accumulates, and infection-fighting white blood cells and excess mucous cause pressure and pain.

What are the Symptoms of Acute Sinusitis?

There are many symptoms of acute sinusitis.

Symptoms include
  • Green or yellow nasal discharge
  • Pressure in ears
  • Stuffy nose
  • Aching in area of teeth and upper jaw
  • Facial puffiness
  • Head pain
  • Diminished sense of smell
  • Reduced sense of taste
  • Bad breath
  • Cough
  • Tiredness

If symptoms include a high fever, severe pain, redness or swelling near the eyes or forehead, unusual vision problems, confusion and/or stiffness in the neck, medical treatment should be sought immediately.

Acute Sinusitis Causes

Acute sinusitis usually occurs when an individual has the common cold – which itself is a viral infection that affects millions each year in America alone. Occasionally, this condition is caused by a bacterial infection instead of viral.

A person can be at greater risk of developing acute sinusitis if they have any of the following conditions or risk factors:

  • hay fever
  • allergies that directly affect the sinuses
  • nasal passage abnormalities like a deviated septum, nasal polyps or tumors
  • cystic fibrosis
  • immune system disorders like HIV or AIDS
  • infected teeth (sometimes bacteria from the infection will spread into the sinus cavity and create problems)

How is Acute Sinusitis Treated?

Acute sinusitis is diagnosed through a medical exam, endoscopy, imaging and/or allergy testing. Non-prescription medication and home treatments usually remedy the condition.

Treatment includes
  • Steam therapy
  • Hot beverages
  • Saline solution or other liquid decongestant
  • Oral decongestant
  • Corticosteroids
  • Oral pain reliever
  • Allergy injections

If acute sinusitis does not clear up through symptom treatment and nasal cultures, antibiotics may become necessary.

Acute Sinusitis Prevention

Acute sinusitis is a common condition in children and adults which usually clears up within a week to ten days of starting up and the person can go back to their normal routines. Most of the time, it can be treated without medical intervention.

Many of the suggested methods for preventing acute sinusitis are methods a person should use as common sense preventative measures for staying healthy. They include:

  • treating congestion that might develop quickly so it does not have a chance to turn into an infection
  • staying away from people they already know are sick with colds or upper respiratory viral infections so they do not become infected
  • frequent hand washing to help stop the spread of bacteria and viruses that are going around
  • avoiding secondhand smoke as much as possible
  • using a humidifier to moisten the air around them if they know it is dry
  • consider immunizations for respiratory conditions
  • keeping teeth healthy by brushing them and employing other dental hygiene methods

Those with elevated risk factors can prevent acute sinusitis from creating greater issues for them by knowing the symptoms and treating them as soon as they recognize the symptoms are occurring.

Last Reviewed:
September 11, 2016
Last Updated:
April 08, 2019