More than 37 million Americans suffer from at least one episode of acute sinusitis each year.

  • Health care providers report more than 18 million office visits and 1.6 million hospital outpatient visits annually.
  • Americans spend $5.8 billion each year on health care costs related to sinusitis.
  • People suffering from sinusitis miss an average of four days of work each year.


Sinuses are hollow spaces in the human body. There are four pairs of cavities, or sinuses, known as paranasal sinuses. They are located within the skull or bones of the head surrounding the nose.

  • Each sinus has an opening into the nose for the free exchange of air and mucus. The primary functions of sinuses are to warm, moisten, and filter the air in the nasal cavity. Each sinus is joined with the nasal passages by a mucous membrane lining. Anything that causes swelling in the nose such as an infection or an allergic reaction can affect the sinuses.
  • Most cases of acute sinusitis start with a common cold and can last up to four weeks or less. Viral colds do not cause symptoms of sinusitis, but they do inflame the sinuses. Most healthy people harbor bacteria in their upper respiratory tracts with no problems until the body's defenses are weakened or drainage from the sinuses is blocked by a cold or other viral infection. Sometimes fungal infections can cause acute sinusitis.
  • At least two-thirds of sinusitis cases are caused by bacteria due to two germs that can also cause otitis media in children as well as pneumonia and acute worsening of chronic bronchitis.
  • Some experts think chronic sinusitis is an infectious disease, but others are not certain. It is an inflammatory disease that often occurs in people with asthma. Scientific studies have shown a close relationship between having asthma and sinusitis. As many as 75 percent of people with asthma also get sinusitis. Some studies state that up to 80 percent of adults with chronic sinusitis also had allergic rhinitis.


A headache when you wake up in the morning is typical of a sinus problem.

  • Other symptoms of acute sinusitis include: thick nasal or postnasal drainage, discomfort in the cheeks/forehead, nasal congestion, cough, earaches, neck pain, weakness, tiredness, swelling (of the eyelids and tissues around the eyes), loss of smell, ache in the upper jaw/teeth, and fever.
  • A diagnosis of chronic sinusitis is made when sinusitis symptoms persist for more than 12 weeks despite medical treatment.


  • If prone to chronic sinusitis, damp weather, cigarette smoke, or pollutants can affect you.
  • Warm moist air may alleviate sinus congestion. Experts recommend a vaporizer or steam from a pan of boiled water. Humidifiers should be used only when a clean filter is in place. Stand in a hot, steamy shower twice a day.
  • Place a warm compress over your sinuses for 15 minutes, four times a day.
  • Drinking alcohol causes nasal and sinus membranes to swell.
  • Swimming in pools treated with chlorine irritates the lining of the nose and sinuses.
  • Peppermint tea opens clogged sinuses. The FDA approved peppermint as a nasal decongestant.
  • About 25 percent of people with chronic sinus problems have an underlying dental infection.
  • Milk and milk products contain a protein called casein which may stimulate mucous production.
  • Electrostatic filters are helpful in removing allergens from the air


American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Entnet, Blended Medicine by Michael Castleman, CDC - National Center for Health Statistics, and Washington and Shady Grove Adventist Hospitals.

These Health Tips are for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.