What Are the 4 Main Symptoms of Sinusitis?

Reviewed on 5/16/2022

Sick woman lying on a couch and pinching her nose due to sinus pain, one of the symptoms of sinusitis.
The four main symptoms of acute sinusitis include runny or stuffy nose, postnasal drip, congestion, and pain or pressure feeling in the face.

Sinusitis (also called a sinus infection) is an inflammation of the sinuses and nasal cavity. 

There are two types of sinusitis:

  • Acute sinusitis
    • Has a sudden onset 
    • Lasts less than eight weeks, or 
    • Happens no more than three times per year, with each occurrence lasting 10 days or less
  • Chronic sinusitis
    • The most common type
    • Lasts long-term, longer than eight weeks, or
    • Happens more than four times yearly, and symptoms last more than 20 days

Symptoms of a sinus infection vary and depend on the cause, whether the sinus infection is acute or chronic, and what parts of the sinuses are affected.

The four main symptoms of acute sinusitis include:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Postnasal drip 
  • Congestion
  • Pain or pressure feeling in the face
    • Around or under the eye(s)
    • Headache in the temple or behind the eye
    • Earache, or feeling of fullness in the ears
    • Across the cheekbone
    • Around the upper teeth
    • On one or both sides of the face
    • Symptoms worsen when coughing or straining

Other signs and symptoms of acute sinusitis include:

Symptoms of chronic sinusitis may include those of acute sinusitis, but the symptoms last longer and/or are more severe. Additional symptoms of chronic sinusitis may include:

  • Pain/pressure in the face that worsens 
    • In the late morning 
    • When wearing eyeglasses
    • When leaning forward
  • Increased cough at night
  • Increased facial discomfort throughout the day 
  • Chronic sore throat 
  • Chronic bad breath (halitosis)
  • Chronic toothache or increased tooth sensitivity

Are Sinus Infections Contagious?

Causes of sinus infections include:

  • Viruses (most common cause)
    • Viruses that commonly cause sinusitis include:
      • Rhinoviruses
      • Influenza viruses
      • Parainfluenza viruses
  • Bacteria
    • Bacteria that commonly cause sinusitis include:
      • Streptococcus pneumoniae
      • Haemophilus influenzae
      • Moraxella catarrhalis
      • Streptococcus pyogenes
      • Staphylococcus aureus (chronic sinusitis)
      • Anaerobic bacteria (Prevotella and Porphyromonas, Fusobacterium and Peptostreptococcus spp.) (chronic sinusitis)
  • Allergens or pollutants
  • Fungal infection

How Do You Get a Sinus Infection?

  • Viruses are usually transmitted from person to person when an infected individual coughs or sneezes, by close personal contact with an infected person, and by touching contaminated surfaces and objects.
  • Viruses are also often able to survive on surfaces for several hours and can be transmitted when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touches their mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • Bacteria can be transmitted through the air, in the same way as viruses. Bacteria can also be spread through poor hygiene and contact with contaminated water, food, or animals.

What Is the Treatment for Sinusitis?

The most common cause of sinusitis is viruses so a sinus infection is usually treated with home remedies to relieve symptoms, such as: 

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers to reduce pain
  • Decongestants or saline nasal sprays
    • Talk to your child’s pediatrician before giving pain medicines, decongestants, or any cough and cold medicines to children
  • Rinse the nose and sinuses with salt water a few times a day 
  • Warm compresses over the nose and forehead to help relieve sinus pressure
  • Inhaling steam from a bowl of hot water or shower

If home remedies do not relieve symptoms, a steroid nasal spray may be prescribed in some cases to reduce the swelling in the nose. 

If symptoms of a sinus infection do not improve after 10 days, or you have symptoms that include fever and severe pain, antibiotics may be needed.


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Reviewed on 5/16/2022
Image Source: iStock Images