Sinusitis symptoms and treatment

Sinusitis – sometimes simply known as a sinus infection – is a common condition, often following a period when you’ve had a cold or flu.

It usually occurs when you have blocked sinuses or they fill with fluid, swelling in size and leading to an infection. You’ll know about it as your upper face normally feels painful, worsening when you move your head. Where the pain appears can depend on which sinuses are swollen.

The good news is that using decongestants is a common sinusitis treatment to ease pain and other symptoms.

Read on to discover what sinusitis is, its causes, symptoms and treatments.

  • What is sinusitis?

  • What causes sinusitis?

  • Sinus infection symptoms

  • Sinusitis treatment

  • FAQs

What is sinusitis and what causes a sinus infection?

Sinusitis is a common condition where the linings of your sinuses become inflamed or swollen. Often referred to as a sinus infection – as in most cases an infection causes swelling – it can lead to pain and discomfort around your face but usually clears up on its own within a couple of weeks.

Sinus is a Latin word that simply means a curve or hollow cavity. Your sinuses produce a thin liquid called mucus. This helps protect your body by trapping dirt particles and germs, then flowing away to guard against infection in such sensitive areas.

Viral Infections and responses to allergens can cause excess mucus production, leading to blocked sinuses and possible bacterial infection.

Where are your sinuses?

Sinuses are hollow spaces in the skull and face bones filled with air that connect to the nasal cavity. Sinusitis affects the paranasal sinuses. These are four pairs of sinuses located in different bones across your face and skull.

What causes sinusitis?

A viral infection usually causes sinusitis after having a cold or flu. The virus spreads from the upper airways to your paranasal sinuses, causing excess mucus to be created.

As the viral infection spreads, it can cause the lining of your sinuses to swell and become inflamed. The mucus can become thick here, forming a build-up of bacteria and germs in your sinuses that leads to infection.

With blocked sinuses, the mucus can’t drain into your nose through the small channels as normal. This prevents the germs and bacteria from leaving your system, which can lead to various uncomfortable sinusitis symptoms.

Usually, a sinus infection will go away within two to three weeks.

Some other possible sinus infection causes can include:

  • Allergies such as allergic rhinitis, asthma and hay fever

  • Fungal infection

  • Nasal polyps (growths inside your nose)

  • Tooth infection

  • Weakened immune system

Sinus infection symptoms

Sinusitis symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the condition and how long it lasts. There are three main types of sinusitis:

  • Acute sinusitis – Symptoms usually last between two to three weeks when caused by a cold or seasonal allergies.

  • Subacute sinusitis – More commonly caused by seasonal allergies or bacterial infections, subacute sinusitis can last for up to three months.

  • Chronic sinusitis – The longest type of sinus infection, symptoms of chronic sinusitis often go on for more than three months. Symptoms can be less severe, and the exact cause of chronic sinusitis is unclear. But there are links between persistent allergies, nasal polyps and structural nasal problems, smoking and a weakened immune system.

Symptoms of sinusitis often overlap with those of a common cold. If you have a common cold and develop some, or all, of the following sinus infection symptoms, then you may have sinusitis:

Sinus headache

One of the most common types of sinusitis pain is a sinus headache. Swollen sinuses can create more pressure around your cheekbones, nose and forehead that can result in a sinus infection headache.

Symptoms of a sinus headache include the pain getting worse when you strain or suddenly move your head. It can be hard to tell the difference between a sinus headache and a migraine or tension headache, as many symptoms overlap.

If you have a fever, facial swelling and some or all of the below symptoms, it’s more likely a sign of sinus infection.

Nasal discharge

A runny nose is a common symptom of sinusitis, with a cloudy green or yellow coloured discharge. It can be thick and sticky due to the infection.

A blocked nose

A build-up of excess mucus can cause a blocked sinus and nose. Similar to the common cold, you might find it harder to breathe.

Sinusitis pain and tenderness around your face

The areas around your cheeks, eyes and/or forehead – where the four pairs of paranasal sinuses are located – may ache due to inflamed sinuses creating extra pressure.

A high temperature

If your temperature rises above 38ºC (100.4ºF), it can be a sign of fever related to sinusitis. Your brain’s response to a sinus infection can be to reset your body temperature higher in an effort to fight it off.


Drainage from sinus infections and additional pressure can cause sinus tooth pain. Typically, you might experience toothache in your upper back teeth and those closest to the sinuses.

A reduced sense of smell

A common symptom of a blocked nose and blocked sinuses is a reduced or complete loss of smell, which may affect your taste as well.

Bad breath (halitosis)

Excess mucus can have a foul odour, dripping down from the nose to the back of your throat. This can leave a bad taste in your mouth and cause bad breath.


Your body works harder to fight off a sinus infection and the various symptoms of sinusitis. Dealing with breathing difficulties, aches, and pains can tire you out.

When to see a doctor about sinusitis

Most of the time, sinusitis should clear up by itself within two to three weeks, without needing any medical attention. However, you should see a doctor about a sinus infection if:

  • Your sinusitis symptoms are severe

  • Symptoms don’t improve or get worse after medication

  • Symptoms fail to improve at all after one week

  • Your sinus infection keeps returning

Sinusitis treatment

Sinus infection treatment can vary depending on the type and severity you’re experiencing. In most cases, you can relieve mild sinusitis pain yourself without the need to see a GP.

Using sinus medication such as over-the-counter decongestants may also help ease your symptoms.

How to treat a sinus infection yourself

With acute sinusitis especially, there are a few things you can do to try to tackle it without having to see your doctor. These include:

  • Getting plenty of rest

  • Drinking a lot of fluids

  • Cleaning the inside of your nose with a saltwater solution

  • Taking painkillers to relieve pain and high temperature

  • Applying warm packs to your face, soothing pain and encouraging mucus to drain from your sinuses

How to treat sinusitis with SUDAFED®

Over-the-counter decongestants can help clear your sinuses, unblock your nose and enable you to breathe easier, relieving sinus pressure and pain.

At SUDAFED® we have more than 30 years’ experience developing clinically proven congestion treatments. These include a range of products to clear sinuses.

All SUDAFED® products contain one of three active ingredients that tackle congestion. They each work to reduce swelling, helping to return your sinuses to the normal flow of air and mucus.

  • Pseudoephedrine – narrows blood vessels to reduce swelling and congestion.

  • Phenylephrine – reduces swelling within nasal passages to improve breathing through your nose.

  • Xylometazoline – contracts swollen blood vessels to clear blocked sinuses. Learn how each of the following products can be used as an effective treatment for sinusitis.

SUDAFED® Sinus Ease Nasal Spray

Simply spray directly into your nose for fast sinusitis relief that can help you breathe easier within minutes. Its active ingredient is xylometazoline hydrochloride, which can offer up to 10 hours of congestion relief. Point the nozzle up each nostril and squeeze the bottle, using two or three times a day on each nostril.

Discover SUDAFED® Sinus Ease Nasal Spray.

SUDAFED® Sinus Max Strength Capsules

Combining phenylephrine hydrochloride, paracetamol and caffeine, these max-strength capsules ease sinus pain, pressure and congestion. Each ingredient works to reduce different symptoms. Phenylephrine hydrochloride helps to relieve congestion and soothe swelling in the nose and mouth, whilst paracetamol helps reduce fever, aches, pains and headaches. The caffeine helps to combat tiredness and fatigue related to sinusitis. Take two capsules every 4-6 hours, a maximum of four doses in 24 hours, for fast sinusitis relief.

Discover SUDAFED® Sinus Max Strength Capsules.

SUDAFED® Sinus Pressure & Pain Tablets

Pseudoephedrine hydrochloride reduces nose and sinus congestion, while the ibuprofen in these tablets provides inflammation, pain and sinus headache relief. Simply take one or two tablets every four to six hours to help ease the discomfort of sinus problems you’re experiencing.

Discover SUDAFED® Sinus Pressure & Pain Tablets.


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