Sinus Infection: Symptoms and Treatment

Are you experiencing nasal congestion or runny nose? Have the symptoms been present for over a few days? You may be suffering from a common sinus infection.

A common cold can lead to sinusitis, the inflammation or swelling of your sinuses. The sinuses are normally filled with air, but if they become blocked with excessive mucous, a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection may result. This sinus blockage produces many uncomfortable symptoms.

Symptoms of Sinus Infection

If you have been experiencing nasal congestion and other cold-like symptoms for more than a few days, you may have a sinus infection or sinusitis. This condition may go away by itself, but if your symptoms are more severe or persistent it should be treated with antibiotics. The most common sinusitis symptoms include:

Stuffy Nose

A congested or stuffy nose is a classic symptom of a sinus infection. Although you may experience a stuffy nose with a cold, you may have sinusitis if it lasts for more than a few days. It is caused by the inflammatory response in the lining of the sinuses that is elicited by the infection. This causes blood to rush to the nose and sinuses causing the tissues to swell, leading to nasal congestion.

Yellow or Greenish Nasal Discharge

Clear or whitish nasal discharge (mucus) is commonly associated with a common cold. Alternatively, yellowish or green mucus that runs down the nose and throat may indicate a sinus infection. Discoloration of the nasal discharge is caused by the accumulation white blood cells, which is a sign that your body is trying to fight an infection. This is very similar to the pus that is found in an infected wound.

Pain or Pressure in the Face

Another common symptom of a sinus infection is pressure and pain around your face, often located on the forehead, cheeks, and nasal bones. Pain and general heaviness in the face result from the clogged sinuses located in these areas. The small holes connecting the sinuses to the nasal passageways are clogged because they are unable to properly drain mucus. As this mucus accumulates, your face will feel heavy, and the increased pressure on your nerves may result in pain.

This sinus pressure and facial pain may get worse when you move or change the position of your head.

Persistent Headaches

The feeling of heaviness, fullness, and pressure in your head can turn into constant headaches. This is caused by tightening of the muscles around your forehead. This type of headache is characteristic of tension headaches that result from persistent muscle contraction.

Cough and Phlegm

Coughing is another common sinus infection symptom that comes with yellow or greenish phlegm. When you have sinusitis mucus accumulates at the back of the throat, causing irritation and triggering cough. This usually occurs in the morning or evening, when the mucus drains from the sinuses into the throat. This mucus is coughed out as phlegm to clear your throat.


If you have a low-grade fever in addition to the aforementioned symptoms, your sinuses may be infected and inflamed. A fever indicates infection as it is the body's way of fighting it by killing the bacteria or virus. This is the immune system's reaction to an infection.

Bad Breath

You may be wondering why you have bad breath, but if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as cough, nasal congestion, and headaches, it may be due to sinus infection. Bad breath related to sinusitis is produced by the mixture of odors from mucus and bacteria that accumulate at the back of the throat and sinuses. This may also occur if you are taking antibiotics for a sinus infection that causes dryness of the mouth.

Cannot Smell or Taste

It may not be a serious matter, but when you seem to have lost your sense of taste or smell it may be very uncomfortable. It can also lead to a loss of appetite. This may happen during a sinus infection because the inflammation interferes with the air movement in your sinuses, which helps volatile molecules to send signals to the brain indicating smell and taste.

Tooth Pain

Toothaches related to sinus infection are usually bilateral. It is a referred type of pain originating from the sinuses, resulting from the pressure build-up in the head. If you feel a dull pain in your teeth, combined with other symptoms including headaches, nasal congestion, and stuffiness, then you may have a sinus infection.

Home Treatment Tips for Sinus Infection

There are some home remedies to treat your sinus infection, which include:

Steam Inhalation

Boil some water until it produces steam. Cover the top of your head with a towel or cloth and lean over the vapors. Inhale the steam for around 10 minutes. Going into a steamy shower or a hot bath will produce the same result, which helps relieve nasal congestion and headaches.

You can also use moist heat with a hot, damp towel on your face for 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat this procedure several times a day.

Saltwater Nasal Washes

Use saltwater nasal washes to spray the nasal passages and wash out mucus and debris. Saline nose drops can be bought from a pharmacy, but you can also make your own saltwater solution at home. Gargling with warm salt water may also help clear out mucus and bacteria at the back of your throat.

Over-the-Counter Medications

You may take over-the-counter medications, such as pain relievers and nasal decongestants to relieve symptoms including fever, headaches, and nasal congestion. However, you should follow recommended dosages and avoid using these for more than three days, as side effects may occur. If your symptoms are not relieved or become worse, it may be necessary to see a doctor.


Sinusitis symptoms, particularly coughing and constant blowing of your nose, can cause dehydration. You can avoid this by keeping yourself hydrated with lots of fluids, including water, lemon juice, and apple cider mixed with water.

Herbs and Oils

Home remedies using herbs and oils like Oregon grapefruit, oregano, and olive oil are effective for many people. A few drops of olive oil can be rubbed over the painful sinuses to help drain them of mucus. Oregon grapefruit extract may be taken orally while oregano oil may be added in drops to water or juice to relieve symptoms.

Avoid Smoking, Dry Air, and Alcohol

To avoid making your symptoms worse, avoid smoking cigarettes or tobacco, which irritate the inflamed membranes in your nose and sinuses. Avoid breathing dry air by using a humidifier at home and at work to increase the moisture in the air. Finally, avoid drinking alcoholic drinks that can increase the swelling of the tissue lining the nose and sinuses.

When to Seek Medical Help

Untreated sinus infections can sometimes damage the sinuses and lead to chronic sinusitis. Rarely, other complications may also occur, such as ear infections, loss of vision, or even meningitis (infection of the brain and spinal cord membranes).

If these symptoms persist beyond 10 days (fever, headache, or colored nasal discharge) you may need to seek medical help. The doctor may prescribe a course of antibiotics to stop the infection and relieve your symptoms.