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"Do nasal congestion and headache mean I have a sinus infection?"

Answer: Sinus symptoms are commonly thought of as an infection caused by viruses and bacteria and occasionally funguses. However, many people have non-infectious inflammation caused by allergies or environmental irritants and sensitivities. Some medications, including overuse of nasal decongestant sprays and side effects of some blood pressure medications, can also cause non-infectious sinus symptoms.

The most common cause of acute sinusitis is a viral infection causing upper respiratory symptoms. Symptoms associated with acute sinusitis regularly occur with the common cold. They include yellow nasal drainage, reduced sense of smell, nasal obstruction, facial pressure or pain, fever, headache, bad breath, dental pain, cough and fatigue. If symptoms last longer than 10 days, an acute bacterial sinusitis is more likely and a medical evaluation is recommended.

Acute sinusitis is common, and smoking increases the risk of sinusitis. Follow these steps to help prevent sinus infections:

  • Stop smoking.
  • Wash hands regularly.
  • Treat allergies to reduce nasal inflammation.
  • Avoid or change medications that may cause nasal and sinus inflammation.
  • Treat underlying medical problems causing inflammation.