Sinus Problems

Signs & Symptoms   |    Causes   |    Treatment   |

Questions to Ask   |    Self-Care/Prevention

Image of women suffering from sinus problems.

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Your sinuses are behind your cheekbones and forehead and around your eyes. Healthy sinuses drain almost a quart of mucus every day. They keep the air you breathe wet. Your sinuses can’t drain right if they are blocked, infected, or swollen. Sinus problems include:

•  A sinus infection. This can be acute or chronic.

•  Sinus congestion without an infection.

Illustration of sinus problems.

Signs & Symptoms

For a Sinus Infection


•  Fever.

•  Green, yellow, or bloody-colored nasal discharge.

•  Foul-smelling or tasting postnasal drip.

•  Severe headache that doesn’t get better when you take an over-the-counter pain reliever. The headache is worse in the morning or when bending forward.

•  Pain between the nose and lower eyelid. Cheek or upper jaw pain.

•  A feeling of pressure inside the head. Stuffy nose.

•  Swelling around the eyes, nose, cheeks, and forehead.

•  Cough that worsens at night.

•  Fatigue.

For sinus congestion without an infection, drainage is clear and there is no fever.


•  Bacterial, viral, or fungal infection. Sneezing hard with your mouth closed or blowing your nose too much with a cold.

•  Irritants like tobacco smoke, air pollutants, etc. Hay fever or other allergies.

•  A nasal deformity. Sinuses that don’t drain well.


Sinus congestion without an infection does not need an antibiotic and can be treated with self-care. A decongestant helps break up the congestion.


An acute sinus infection usually clears up in 2 weeks with an antibiotic, a decongestant, and nose drops or a nasal spray. When this is not the case, the problem may be a chronic sinus infection which takes longer to treat and/or may need further investigation to diagnose the cause.


An antifungal medicine helps treat a fungal infection in the sinuses. Surgery may be needed to drain the sinuses. Surgery can be done to enlarge a sinus passage that is too narrow to allow proper drainage.

Questions to Ask

Self-Care / Prevention

•  Use a cool-mist humidifier especially in the bedroom. Put a humidifier on the furnace.

•  Put a warm washcloth, warm or cold compress over the sinus area of your face. Use the one that helps most for the pain.

•  Drink plenty of liquids.

•  Take an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine for pain as directed on the label.

•  Take an OTC decongestant or an OTC pain reliever with a decongestant (e.g., Tylenol Sinus). {Note: Some persons should not take decongestants.}

•  Use nose drops only for the number of days prescribed. Repeated use of them creates a dependency. Don’t share nose drops with others. Throw the drops away after treatment.

•  Nasal washes with salt water. Find out about this technique from the National Jewish Health.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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