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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Overview of sinusitis (sinus infection or inflammation)

Tirohanga whānui ki te pokenga pakohu ihu (pokenga, whakawaikura rānei o te ihu o roto)

Illustration showing the position of four sinuses, frontal sinus, ethmoid sinus, maxillary sinus and nasal cavitySinusitis means an infection or inflammation of the sinuses.

Your sinuses are tiny spaces located in your cheeks and forehead and around your eyes.

Sinusitis is usually caused by a viral infection and gets better within 1 or 2 weeks. When it lasts less than 3 months, it is called acute sinusitis.

If you get sinusitis that lasts more than 3 months, it is called long-term sinusitis. Long-term sinusitis needs different treatment.

Symptoms of sinusitis

People with a sinus infection (acute sinusitis) have a blocked or runny nose, pain in their face and sometimes a headache.

In a more severe bacterial infection you may get:

Causes of sinusitis

A viral infection of the lining of your sinus is the commonest cause of sinusitis. Germs (bacteria) can cause a sinus infection though this is much less common.

Allergies can also cause sinus symptoms.

Treating sinusitis

As most sinusitis is not caused by bacteria, you will not usually need antibiotics.

Things that may help include:

If your symptoms are more severe, you may need a course of antibiotics.

If your sinus symptoms do not improve after three months, you may have developed long-term sinusitis. This will need treating differently.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed October 2023.


Page reference: 86153

Review key: HISIN-86153