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Sinus and Sinusitis


Although you cannot prevent all sinus disorders-any more than you can avoid all colds or bacterial infections-you can do certain things to reduce the number and severity of the attacks and possibly prevent acute sinusitis from becoming chronic.

  • You may get some relief from your symptoms with a humidifier, particularly if room air in your home is heated by a dry forced-air system.
  • Air conditioners help to provide an even temperature.
  • Electrostatic filters attached to heating and air conditioning equipment are helpful in removing allergens from the air.
If you are prone to getting sinus disorders, especially if you have allergies, you should avoid cigarette smoke and other air pollutants. If your allergies inflame your nasal passages, you are more likely to have a strong reaction to all irritants.

If you suspect that your sinus inflammation may be related to dust, mold, pollen, or food-or any of the hundreds of allergens that can trigger an upper respiratory reaction-you should consult your doctor. Your doctor can use various tests to determine whether you have an allergy and its cause. This will help you and your doctor take appropriate steps to reduce or limit your allergy symptoms.

Drinking alcohol also causes nasal and sinus membranes to swell.

If you are prone to sinusitis, it may be uncomfortable for you to swim in pools treated with chlorine, since it irritates the lining of the nose and sinuses.

Divers often get sinus congestion and infection when water is forced into the sinuses from the nasal passages.

You may find that air travel poses a problem if you are suffering from acute or chronic sinusitis. As air pressure in a plane is reduced, pressure can build up in your head blocking your sinuses or eustachian tubes in your ears.

Therefore, you might feel discomfort in your sinus or middle ear during the plane's ascent or descent. Some health experts recommend using decongestant nose drops or inhalers before a flight to avoid this problem.


At least two-thirds of sinusitis cases caused by bacteria are due to two organisms that can also cause otitis media (middle ear infection) in children as well as pneumonia and acute exacerbations of chronic bronchitis.

NIAID is supporting multiple studies to better understand the basis for infectivity of these organisms as well as identifying potential candidates for future vaccines strategies that could eliminate these diseases.

A project supported by NIAID is developing an advanced "sinuscope" that will permit improved airway evaluation during a medical examination especially when surgical intervention is contemplated.

Scientific studies have shown a close relationship between having asthma and sinusitis. As many as 75 percent of people with asthma also get sinusitis. Some studies state that up to 80 percent of adults with chronic sinusitis also had allergic rhinitis.

NIAID conducts and supports research on allergic diseases as well as bacteria and fungus that can cause sinusitis. This research is focused on developing better treatments and ways to prevent these diseases.

Scientists supported by NIAID and other institutions are investigating whether chronic sinusitis has genetic causes. They have found that certain alterations in the gene that causes cystic fibrosis may also increase the likelihood of developing chronic sinusitis. This research will give scientists new insights into the cause of the disease in some people and points to new strategies for diagnosis and treatment.

Another NIAID-supported research study has recently demonstrated that blood cells from patients with chronic sinusitis make chemicals that produce inflammation when exposed to fungal antigens, suggesting that fungi may play a role in many cases of chronic sinusitis. Further research, including clinical trials of antifungal drugs, will help determine whether, and for whom, this new treatment strategy holds promise.


National Library of Medicine
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20894
1-888-FIND-NLM (1-888-346-3656) or 301-594-5983

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
555 East Wells Street, Suite 1100
Milwaukee, WI 53202-3823
1-800-822-ASMA (1-800-822-2762)

Joint Council of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
50 N. Brockway, Suite 3-3
Palatine, IL 60067

American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Inc.
One Prince Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-3357

NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services.

NIAID supports basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose, and treat infectious and immune-mediated illnesses, including HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, illness from potential agents of bioterrorism, tuberculosis, malaria, autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies.

News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site

Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892

What are Sinuses and Symptoms of Sinusitis

Causes of Sinusitis

Diagnosis and Treatment

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