March 27, 2023

Stuffy, runny nose, feeling of heaviness in the cheekbones, headaches… The least we can say is that the sinusitis is nothing pleasant. These infections of viral or bacterial origin can reach different sinuses and be acute or chronic. What difference does it make? Answers.

Definition: what is acute sinusitis?

Sinusitis means sinus inflammation, due to an undesirable microorganism. Concretely, the mucous membrane that lines the sinuses is infected by a virus or bacteria. This is why a distinction is made between viral sinusitis and bacterial sinusitis.

How long does acute sinusitis last?

Acute sinusitis usually lasts one to two weeks. But in some cases, symptoms can persist for up to four weeks.

Acute or chronic sinusitis: what’s the difference?

As stated above, sinusitis is said to be “acute” when it lasts less than a month.

We are talking about chronic sinusitis when symptoms persist for more than three months and greatly disrupt the daily lives of patients. Note: chronic sinusitis is often acute sinusitis that is poorly managed.

What are the different forms of sinusitis?

acute sinusitis can reach multiple sinuses : the maxillary sinuses, the frontal sinuses, the ethmoid sinuses and/or the sphenoid sinuses. Sinusitis is therefore classified according to the affected sinuses:

  • maxillary sinusitis (the most frequent): it can manifest itself from the age of 5 to 6 years, often following an inflammation of the nasal cavities, as is the case in the context of a nasopharyngitis of viral origin.

And frontal, ethmoidal and sphenoidal sinusitis, of bacterial origin, much rarer:

  • Frontal sinusitis: it usually appears after the age of 10 and is manifested by a high feverrunny nose, unilateral, throbbing pain localized above one eye.
  • Sphenoid sinusitis: rather rare in children (the sphenoid sinuses developing between 10 and 15 years old), it results in headaches behind the eye, spreading to the back of the head. High fever and runny nose are often associated.
  • Ethmoid sinusitis (also known as acute ethmoiditis in children): manifested by swelling of a single eyelid and pain in the eye associated with runny nose and high fever.

When do we speak of pansinusitis?

Pansinusitis is inflammation of multiple sinuses, in other words to several sinusitis. The maxillary and frontal sinuses can for example be affected, or the ethmoid, sphenoid and maxillary sinuses, etc.

Painful sinuses, runny nose, cough, fever, headache… What symptoms should alert?

Acute sinusitis shares many symptoms, but some remain specific depending on the type of infected sinus.

Symptoms of acute maxillary sinusitis

Acute maxillary sinusitis is most often viral. His symptoms settle in less than three days following a nasopharyngitis which becomes complicated:

  • a nasal congestion with clear or purulent discharge from both nostrils;
  • a pain and an feeling of heaviness under the eyes and/or on the cheekbones;
  • of the headache diffuse, more or less moderate;
  • of the fever and a feeling of unease ;
  • a cough and sneezing.

Symptoms of frontal sinusitis

Frontal sinusitis is characterized by:

  • a high fever (over 38.5°C);
  • a unilateral nasal discharge ;
  • and an throbbing pain above one eye.

Symptoms of sphenoid sinusitis

Symptoms of sphenoid sinusitis usually include:

  • a high fever (over 38.5°C);
  • a runny nose at the back of the nose (i.e. the mucus falls into the throat);
  • and deep headache behind the eyewhich radiate to the top of the head, especially at night.

Symptoms of Ethmoid Sinusitis

Ethmoid sinusitis results in:

  • a high fever (over 38.5°C);
  • a unilateral nasal discharge ;
  • and swelling (edema) of only one eyelid, accompanied by pain.

Note: regardless of the type of sinusitis, rare symptoms can sometimes occur:

  • a wet cough ;
  • a bad breath ;
  • a loss of smell (anosmia);
  • of the difficulty swallowing ;
  • a photophobia.

How contagious are they?

The contagiousness of symptoms depends on the type of sinusitis: viral sinusitis is easily transmittedas for bacterial sinusitis, it is transmitted mainly by direct contact with soiled secretions.

Acute viral or bacterial sinusitis: what are the causes?

In the majority of cases, sinusitis affects the maxillary sinuses and complicates a cold or nasopharyngitis. Bacterial complications of sinusitis are possible if left untreated.

A tooth infection (caries, abscess, etc.) can also cause sinusitis: the presence of anaerobic germs increases the production of mucus in the sinuses and blocks the nasal cavities, causing the symptoms mentioned above.

In case of cystic fibrosissinusitis can occur due to poor drainage of mucus, due to abnormalities in the cells of the mucous membrane that lines the nose.

There are many risk factors:

  • a upper respiratory tract infection ;
  • a tooth infection (decayabscess, etc.);
  • the fact of live in an environment where the air is humid and/or polluted ;
  • the fact of don’t blow your nose when you have a stuffy nose;
  • the fact of to smoke or be a victim of passive smoking ;
  • a deviated nasal septum ;
  • the presence of nasal polyps repeat ;
  • the cocaine use nasally;
  • them regular swimming sessions in a treated pool (the chlorine irritates the nasal mucosa);
  • a facial trauma causing obstruction of one or more sinuses;
  • I’exposure to irritating chemicals (such as formaldehyde);
  • a chronic allergy (including allergic rhinitis or hay fever);
  • etc

Is sinusitis dangerous? How do you know if it is getting worse?

Sinusitis can be very painful, but mostly remain benign. Except in certain cases, when they impact not only the sinuses, but also the eyes or the meninges. Thus, the frontal, ethmoidal and sphenoidal sinusitiswhich are much rarer, should be given special attention to avoid complications.

The main complication of sinusitis is the spread of bacterial infection. Signs that should lead to prompt consultation:

  • your suborbital pain persists and worsens;
  • they are present on one side only and they are pulsatile;
  • they increase when you lower your head and at night, when you sleep;
  • your runny nose gets worse and the mucus becomes purulent;
  • your nasal discharge is unilateral.

More rarely, complications are cerebral (brain abscess, meningitis) which can cause severe headaches and confusion.

In rare casessinusitis can also be complicated by an infection of the bones that contain the sinuses, or even by a sepsis (extremely rare).

When to contact emergencies (15 or 112)?

  • Your fever exceeds 38.5° C, you have visual disturbancessensitivity to light, intense headacheseven nausea and vomiting;
  • Your child has a high fever with severe fatigue, swelling around the eye and purulent discharge.

How to prevent acute sinusitis?

If you suffer from nasopharyngitis, follow these tips to prevent it from getting worse and leading to sinusitis:

  • ventilate your rooms regularly (at least ten minutes, morning and evening);
  • hold a temperature of 18°C ​​to 20°C at your home and, if necessary, humidify your interior ;
  • quit smoking and do not expose yourself to tobacco smoke (which leads to a decrease in the defense capacity of the respiratory wall and chronic inflammation);
  • blow your nose as often as necessary (one nostril at a time);
  • avoid swimming in the pool or the dive until recovery.

In case of’tooth abscess or tooth decay, consult your dentist without delay, because any dental infection can be complicated by sinusitis.

As for sinusitis of allergic origin, it is “enough” to avoid exposure to allergenic substances to limit their effects. Anti-allergic drugs or anti-asthmatic can also bear fruit.

Acute infectious sinusitis: prevention also involves barrier gestures

Respect for barrier gestures is essential to prevent sinusitis of infectious origin. The rules are simple:

  • wash your hands regularly with soap or a hydroalcoholic solution (especially after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, but also before meals or their preparation);​​​
  • cough or sneeze into the crease of your elbow or in a disposable tissue;
  • limit direct contact with those around you (no hugs, handshakes, etc.) and wear a mask if necessary;
  • etc

Treatment: how to treat acute sinusitis? What antibiotics to take?

In case of acute sinusitis, it is first essential to unclog the nose. The inhalations are highly recommended, as is the regular nose wash (with saline, thermal water or salt water).

These few recommendations will also relieve your sinuses:

  • apply warm, moist towels on the affected sinuses;
  • hydrate sufficiently and throughout the day;
  • avoid them temperature changes too abrupt;
  • use a air humidifier to avoid too dry air;
  • avoid tobacco use and limit exposure to irritants ;
  • don’t tilt your head down to avoid further pain.

How to treat acute sinusitis of viral origin?

Acute sinusitis of viral origin most often heals spontaneously and do not require specific treatment. To relieve symptoms and make them easier to resolve, follow the tips above.

In case of pain, bet on of the painkillers, available in pharmacies without a prescription. Antibiotics are unnecessary, since the infection is viral, not bacterial.

How to treat acute bacterial sinusitis?

In the event of acute sinusitis of bacterial origin, lifestyle and dietary modifications will not suffice. To overcome the symptoms, your doctor will prescribe you antibiotics (most often penicillin). In case of severe pain, he can also prescribe corticosteroids in addition or vasoconstrictor drugs taken orally or nasally.

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