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Sinuses are cavities in our face bones that open up into the nose, helping to control the water content and temperature of the air reaching our lungs. The body’s response to irritants or bugs (inflammation) can lead to sinusitis: a swelling and irritation of the lining of the sinuses.

Viral infections, such as the common cold, can cause the lining of the nose to swell, blocking the small opening from the sinuses to the nose. Fluid inside the sinuses may build up, which can make you feel bunged up and stuffy.

Sinusitis can be acute (resolving within 12 weeks) or chronic (lasting longer than 12 weeks). The most common symptoms include a blocked or runny nose, pain and tenderness in the face and a raised body temperature. Additional symptoms are headache, cough, pressure in your ears, feeling generally unwell, bad breath, tiredness and reduced taste and smell.

The symptoms of sinusitis usually get better on their own without treatment and antibiotics are unlikely to help.

So what can you do to get better?

  • Rest, applying warm face packs and washing out the nose with a steady stream of saline solution (available from your pharmacy) may help relieve your symptoms
  • Drink plenty of fluids to replace those lost from sweating and a runny nose. Get some rest until you feel better – we usually know when we’re well enough to return to normal activities.
  • Paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin can help reduce the symptoms of sinusitis. Avoid giving aspirin to children under the age of 16 and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. A decongestant preparation for your nose (for a maximum of one week) can help if a blocked nose is the problem.

Seek medical advice if your symptoms signs include:

  • You develop a high temperature (above 39°C or 102.2°F), which can be a sign of a different type of infection
  • You’re confused or disorientated
  • You’re at high risk of complications because you suffer other medical conditions
  • You suffer severe pain or discomfort in your face
  • Your nose produces lots of thick green/yellow fluid.

More information can be found on the NHS website: