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Acute sinusitis

Acute or sudden sinusitis is a common condition caused by a viral or bacterial infection.

Symptoms of acute sinusitis

The following symptoms are commonly associated with sinusitis:

• stuffy nose
• nasal discharge: mucus, slime
• feeling of pressure and possibly pain in the cheeks
• loss of the sense of smell
• cough

All of these symptoms are also heavily associated with common flu, and the presence of any of the symptoms is not enough to confirm the diagnosis of sinusitis.

Diagnosis of acute sinusitis

The diagnosis of sinusitis is based on the symptoms listed above and their duration. Acute sinusitis is possible if:

• the symptoms do not subside in 10 days
• symptoms that are uncommonly intense last for at least 3–4 days
• the symptoms become worse after a milder period
• the eyelids or forehead are clearly swollen.

According to the latest studies, the best way to make a diagnosis is through an examination performed by a doctor.

“Discharge in the middle meatus of the nose or the pharynx detected by a doctor is a more reliable way of diagnosing sinusitis than the presence of symptoms. Sinus ultrasound or inflammation marker tests (CRP) can be performed to support the diagnosis, but they alone are not enough to make a reliable diagnosis,” says otorhinolaryngologist and rhinosurgery specialist Timo Koskenkorva from Mehiläinen Oulu.

Treatment of acute sinusitis

Most cases of acute sinusitis subside spontaneously.

The treatment of infections that only involve mild symptoms can be symptomatic, involving, for example, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), nasal corticosteroid sprays, nasal congestion sprays or tablets that relieve stuffiness in the nose. In the case of more severe symptoms, the infection can be treated with antibiotics, in addition to the aforementioned options.

If the feelings of pressure are intense or the infection persists and a microbiological sample is required, it may be necessary to perform an antral lavage. The lavage provides quick relief in intense feelings of pressure.

If a doctor suspects the presence of complications caused by the acute sinusitis based on eye symptoms, for example, they can refer the patient to specialised healthcare through the emergency clinic, if necessary.

Acute sinusitis in children

If a child has a cold, they are likely to produce discharge in the nasal passages and the paranasal sinuses. This condition is called rhinosinusitis, and it does not require treatment. The maxillary sinuses of children continue developing until the child becomes a teenager, and the structure of the sinuses also changes as the child grows. Because of the structure, discharge is not commonly accumulated in the cavities. That is why very young children, in particular, are unlikely to suffer from acute bacterial sinusitis. If you believe that your child might have sinusitis, it is recommended to seek a doctor’s attention.