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Sinusitis and Sinus Surgery

Have you ever had a cold or allergy attack that wouldn’t go away? If so, there’s a good chance you actually had sinusitis. Experts estimate that 37 million people are afflicted with sinusitis each year, making it one of the most common health conditions in America. That number may be significantly higher, since the symptoms of bacterial sinusitis often mimic those of colds or allergies, and many sufferers never see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

WHAT IS SINUSITIS?

Acute bacterial sinusitis is an infection of the sinus cavities caused by bacteria. It usually is preceded by a cold, allergy attack, or irritation by environmental pollutants. Unlike a cold, or allergy, bacterial sinusitis requires a physician’s diagnosis and treatment with an antibiotic to cure the infection and prevent future complications.

Normally, mucus collecting in the sinuses drains into the nasal passages. When you have a cold or allergy attack, your sinuses become inflamed and are unable to drain. This can lead to congestion and infection.  The sinus infection is may be bacterial if it persists for 10 days or longer, or if the symptoms worsen after starting to improve.

WHEN DOES ACUTE SINUSITIS BECOME CHRONIC?

When you have frequent sinusitis, or the infection lasts three months or more, it could be chronic sinusitis. Symptoms of chronic sinusitis may be less severe than those of acute; however, untreated chronic sinusitis can lead to further medical complications.

WHEN SHOULD A DOCTOR BE CONSULTED?

Because the symptoms of sinusitis sometimes mimic those of colds and allergies, you may not realize you need to see a doctor. If you suspect you have sinusitis, review these signs and symptoms. If you suffer from three or more, you should see your doctor.

What are the symptoms of sinusitis vs. a cold or allergy?

SIGN/ SYMPTOM SINUSITIS ALLERGY COLD
Facial Pressure /Pain Yes Sometimes Sometimes
Duration of Illness Over 10-14 days Varies Under 10 days
Nasal Discharge Whitish or colored Clear, thin, watery Thick, whitish or thin
Fever Sometimes No Sometimes
Headache Often Sometimes Sometimes
Pain in Upper Teeth Sometimes No No
Bad Breath Sometimes No No
Coughing Sometimes Sometimes Yes
Nasal Congestion Yes Sometimes Yes
Sneezing No Sometimes Yes

CAN CHILDREN SUFFER FROM SINUS INFECTIONS?

The sinuses are not fully developed until age 20, however, children can still suffer from sinus infections. Sinusitis is difficult to diagnose in children because respiratory infections are more frequent, and symptoms can be subtle. Unlike a cold or allergy, bacterial sinusitis requires a physicians diagnosis and treatment with an antibiotic to prevent future complications.

The following symptoms may indicate a sinus infection in your child:

  • a cold lasting more than 10 to 14 days, sometimes with low-grade fever
  • thick yellow-green nasal drainage
  • post-nasal drip, sometimes leading to or exhibited as sore throat, cough, bad breath, nausea and/or vomiting
  • swelling around the eyes


If these symptoms persist despite appropriate medical therapy, care should be taken to seek an underlying cause. The role of allergy and frequent upper respiratory infections should be also be considered.