Book an appointment

Worried about the coronavirus?
Here’s what you should know

Sofie Wise

Jillian Stenzel

Read more posts by this author.

About Author — A Nevada-bred traveler & food nerd who dances & eats spinach, sometimes simultaneously. She writes from wherever her curiosity demands, and is passionate about spreading the wisdom of better health.

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

Recurring Sinus Infections

Sinusitis is diagnosed in nearly 30 million Americans every year, making it one of the most common health conditions in the United States.

Struggling with frequent sinus infections is known as recurrent sinusitis. Recurrent sinusitis is defined by three or more acute infections in a year.

Untreated acute sinusitis further damages the mucous membranes, making you more vulnerable for another infection.

Allergens, a weakened immune system or structural abnormalities, such as a deviated septum, are also big contributors to recurrent infection.

Acute Sinusitis is temporary inflammation of the sinuses, usually either bacterial or viral, following a cold or allergies.

Swelling of mucous membranes causes congestion and prevents mucus drainage. This allows pressure to build in the face, causing pain, discomfort and inflammation in the sinuses.

In acute sinusitis, symptoms usually worsen, peak and eventually vanish.

Acute infections last up to four weeks, subacute infections last four to 12 weeks, and chronic sinus infections last 12 weeks or longer.

Read: Get Sinus Infection Medication Online

Why Are Sinuses Susceptible to Infection?

Acute sinusitis often follows the cold virus. The reason for this is not usually the cold virus itself, but the inflammation caused by the cold virus.

More than 85% of people with colds suffer from inflammation in the sinus cavities. The inflammation and congestion caused by a cold will obstruct the sinuses, creating an environment in the sinus cavities hospitable for bacterial growth, as mucus will not drain and eliminate such pathogens as it would normally.

Inflammation and congestion of nasal passages is known as rhinitis, and is such a common precursor to sinusitis that doctors often refer to many cases of sinusitis as rhinosinusitis.

Where is My Sinus Infection?

This diagram shows the different sinus cavities in the head and face.
  • The maxillary sinuses (behind the cheekbones) are the most common sites.
  • The ethmoid sinuses (between the eyes) are the second most common sites affected by colds.
  • The frontal (behind the forehead) and sphenoid (behind the eyes) sinuses are involved in about a third of cold-related cases.

Why Do I Keep Getting Sinus Infections?

If you have more than three infections per year, you suffer from recurring sinusitis.

Some people are more prone to recurring sinusitis than others. What could be causing your repeated infection?

Untreated acute sinusitis

Acute sinusitis, if not treated properly, may result in the damaging of the mucous membranes, which makes you more at-risk for future infections.

Allergies and asthma

The risk for non-infectious inflammation is significantly higher for those with allergies and asthma.

This inflammation, though not caused by sinusitis, can make you more vulnerable to a sinus infection due to swollen mucous membranes which create a breeding ground for unwanted bacteria, resulting in a bacterial sinus infection.

This continued and frequent inflammation makes those with asthma and allergies more likely to have repeated acute infections.

Read: Antibiotics for Sinus Infection

Weakened immune system

Having a weak immune system will make recovery from an acute infection more difficult, and cause you to be more vulnerable to infection the next time, particularly if you had to take antibiotics.

Antibiotics will destroy your bacterial infection as well as beneficial bacteria in the microbiome which is needed to prevent sickness in the future. Unnecessary antibiotics can create a vicious cycle of repeated infection, so it’s important to only take antibiotics if your doctor is confident that the infection is indeed bacterial and will not likely go away with care and rest.

Structural abnormalities

Structural abnormalities can also be the cause of frequent sinus infections, such as:

  • Nasal polyps – small, benign growths in the nasal passages will prevent the passage of mucus and obstruct natural drainage and airflow. Polyps themselves may exist as a result of a former sinus infection which caused an overgrowth of the nasal membrane.
  • Deviated septum – when the center part of your nose- the septum- is slightly shifted to one side, this is known as a deviated septum. This is a common structural abnormality which blocks or obstructs sinus openings, preventing necessary mucus drainage. A deviated septum may be congenital or the result of injury or facial trauma, such as a broken nose.
  • Narrow sinus openings – those with anatomically smaller sinus openings are more susceptible to issues with mucus drainage problems and more likely to suffer from recurring infection.

Chronic Sinusitis Symptoms

Chronic sinusitis symptoms may vary in severity, but most people will experience the same general symptoms. These include:

  • Low grade fever – a low grade fever may or may not be present in those suffering from chronic sinusitis.
  • Acute sinusitis symptoms – These last for more than 12 weeks and occur throughout the year, including non-allergy seasons.
  • Impacted quality of life – The most common is extreme fatigue throughout the day.

How Can I Stop Recurring Sinus Infections?

Treatment for chronic sinus infections should be discussed with a doctor, but can include:

Lifestyle changesQuitting smoking and limiting your exposure to allergens and pollution is extremely important if you suffer from recurrent sinusitis. These risk factors are particularly damaging for those who have damaged mucus membranes from repeated sinus infections. Getting an in-home air purifier or certain indoor plants is one way to purify your air at home if moving cities is not an option.

Antibiotics – Antibiotics are the first line of treatment for bacterial sinus infections. Bacterial sinus infections are typically diagnosed by the length of time you’ve had symptoms without improvement. Bacterial sinus infections tend to last longer than viral infections. A doctor will prescribe you antibiotics after diagnosing your sinus infection as bacterial.

Home remedies – When antibiotics and traditional methods have failed and you still suffer from frequent sinus infections, various home remedies exist with a lot of anecdotal, and in some case research-based, evidence to back them up. Essential oils in particular have been studied for antimicrobial properties, which may be powerful tools in solving the problem of recurrent infection.

Nasal wash – washing nasal passages with a large volume of salt water using something called a neti pot is one method recommended in conventional and alternative treatments for sinusitis. This process is also known as sinus irrigation.

Nasal steroid spray – a steroid spray will reduce the irritation and swelling caused by recurrent sinusitis, which will help break the cycle of repeated infection.

Surgical intervention – Surgical intervention, while a last resort, may be necessary to restore quality of life in someone who has tried everything but continues to suffer from recurring or chronic infection. Surgery for deviated septum will restore normal function of nasal passages. If you don’t have a deviated septum or any structural abnormality, but still need surgical intervention to combat recurrent sinusitis, a balloon sinuplasty is a minimally invasive surgery that dilates the sinus cavity to relieve obstruction and possibly irrigate any infection out of the affected sinus.

When to Contact a Doctor

If you exhibit any symptoms of sinus infection for several weeks, make an appointment with your doctor or a PlushCare doctor, as soon as possible.

You should also contact a doctor if you experience any pressure or pain in your upper face, accompanied with postnasal drip, nasal discharge, bad breath that isn’t related to dental issues, or a high fever that lasts several days.

If left untreated, your sinus infection can pose more serious health issues, including:

  • Changes to vision and potential blindness
  • Changes to the personality
  • Seizures
  • Meningitis
  • Osteomyelitis, or Pott’s puffy tumor, a condition indicating an infection of the frontal bone in the forehead (this is mainly limited to children)

Sinus infections, particularly those caused by viruses, will generally clear up on their own.

Treatments for other sinus infections are available and mainly center around a course of antibiotics. However, even if you have a simple acute sinus infection, you should consider consulting your doctor or visit an urgent care center for relief from any uncomfortable symptoms.

See a Doctor Online For Sinus Infection Treatment

At PlushCare our doctors commonly treat sinus infections. You can have a virtual appointment with a top doctor who will diagnose your sinus infection and develop a treatment plan, including any necessary medications, such as antibiotics.

Click here to book an appointment and get sinus infection relief in as little as 15 minutes.

Read More About Sinus Infections

Sources Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology. Accessed March 25, 2020 at Sinus Infection. Accessed March 25, 2020 at Chronic Sinusitis. Accessed March 25, 2020 at

Sinus Infection

How Long Does a Sinus Infection Last?

How Long Does a Sinus Infection Last? The sinuses are small cavities located at different areas throughout the head, serving the purpose of protecting the nose and related structures from pollutants and microorganisms. When subject to an infection, the sinuses can become inflamed, causing pain, headaches, clogged or runny nose, and fever. There are a […]

Leah McCabe
Sinus Infection

Sinus Infection While Pregnant: When to Call a Doctor

Sinus Infection While Pregnant Pregnancy comes with its own set of challenges that can make dealing with a sinus infection much harder than normal. For one, you’re more likely to get sick, as pregnancy suppresses the immune system. These natural changes in immunity exist to strike a balance between the mother’s health and protecting the […]

Jillian Stenzel
Sinus Infection

Best Antibiotic for Sinus Infection

Best Antibiotic for Sinus Infection Sinusitis, or a sinus infection, can arise from numerous causes. Sinus infections can be caused by a virus, bacterial infection, or allergic reaction. Any infection which manifests symptoms that persist for over a week is probably bacterial. Antibiotics for sinus infection are available and usually clear the condition within five […]

Leah McCabe
Sinus Infection

Sinus Infection vs. Cold: What’s the Difference?

Sinus Infection vs. Cold vs. Allergies: What’s the Difference? Sinus infections, colds, and allergies all come with similar overall symptoms—coughing, sneezing, congestion, and the general discomfort of feeling unwell. Knowing whether you are suffering from allergies, sinus infection, or cold can help you recover and receive the treatment and medication you need, while giving you […]

Alexa Englehart
Sinus Infection

Are Sinus Infections Contagious?

Are Sinus Infections Contagious? If you have a sinus infection you may be wondering, are sinus infections contagious? It’s a good question, no one wants to get other people sick, or get sick themselves being around an infected person. So, let’s get to the bottom of this and figure out if sinus infections are contagious, […]

Leah McCabe