Sinusitis, or a sinus infection, occurs when the sinuses and
nasal passages become inflamed. If you or your child is diagnosed with
sinusitis, the infection does not need to be treated with antibiotics
unless you or your child has acute bacterial sinusitis, which is caused
by bacteria. Acute bacterial sinusitis can last up to 4 weeks and
subacute bacterial sinusitis can last 4 to 12 weeks, occurring less than
4 times per year.
Acute viral sinusitis, caused by a virus, typically lasts for
less than 4 weeks and occurs less than 3 times per year. Acute viral
sinusitis usually occurs after having an upper respiratory infection.
Chronic sinusitis typically lasts more than 4 weeks and occurs
more than 4 times per year. If you are diagnosed with chronic sinusitis,
you should visit a specialist for evaluation. Chronic sinusitis can be
caused by nasal polyps or tumors, allergies, or respiratory tract
infections (viral, bacterial, or fungal), among other reasons.
Causes of a Sinus Infection
Most sinus infections are caused by a virus
Sinus infections are rarely caused by bacteria
Other causes of sinusitis include:
Pollutants (airborne chemicals or irritants)
Structural problems within the nasal cavity
A weak immune system
Signs and Symptoms of a Sinus Infection
Postnasal drip (mucus drips down the throat from the nose)
See a Healthcare Provider if You or Your Child has:
Temperature higher than 100.4° F
Symptoms that last more than 10 days
Multiple episodes of sinusitis in the past year
Symptoms that are not relieved with over-the-counter medicines
Your healthcare provider can determine if you or your child has
sinusitis and if treatment is needed. If your child is younger than
three months of age and has a fever, it’s important to always call your
healthcare provider right away.
Antibiotics are Needed When…
Sometimes antibiotics may be needed if the sinus infection is
likely to be caused by bacteria. By asking about your symptoms and
doing a physical examination, a healthcare provider can determine if
you or your child needs antibiotics.
Antibiotics Will Not Help if…
When sinusitis is caused by a virus or irritation in the air
(like cigarette smoke), antibiotics will not help it get better. Acute
sinusitis will almost always get better on its own. It is better to
wait and take antibiotics only when they are needed. Taking antibiotics
when they are not needed can be harmful, and may lead to unwanted side
effects like diarrhea, rashes, nausea, and stomach pain. More severe
side effects may rarely occur, including life-threatening allergic
reactions, kidney toxicity, and severe skin reactions.
Each time you or your child takes an antibiotic, the bacteria
that normally live in your body (on the skin, in the intestine, in the
mouth and nose, etc.) are more likely to become resistant to
antibiotics. Common antibiotics cannot kill infections caused by these
resistant germs. Learn more about antibiotic resistance.
If symptoms continue for more than 10 days, schedule a
follow-up appointment with a healthcare provider for re-evaluation to
avoid any complications.
How to Feel Better
Rest, over-the-counter medicines and other self-care methods
may help you or your child feel better. For more information about
symptomatic relief, visit the Symptom Relief
section of this website or talk to your healthcare provider or
pharmacist. Remember, always use over-the-counter products as
directed. Many over-the-counter products are not recommended for
children younger than certain ages.
Preventing a Sinus Infection
Practice good hand hygiene
Keep you and your child up to date with recommended immunizations
Avoid close contact with people who have colds or other upper respiratory infections
Avoid smoking or exposure to second hand smoke and do not expose children to second hand smoke