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The Mag Health: Dr FORSTER - What can I do to relieve sinusitis? Dr George Forster answers your questions.

Byline: Dr George Forster

Q CAN you tell me more about sinusitis? I believe I may be suffering from it.

GARY, Great Barr

A SINUSITIS is the infection of the sinuses -the air-filled spaces in the bones of the skull that open into the nose.

The sinuses are lined with a membrane that produces mucus, the slimy secretion that keeps the nasal passageways moist and traps dirt particles.

Sinusitis may be a short illness (acute sinusitis) or a condition that continues for months or years (chronic sinusitis).

Chronic sinusitis is relatively uncommon -affecting around one in 1,000 UK people.

Acute sinusitis is more common, affecting approximately three in 1,000 and it generally comes on after a cold.

If the membrane that lines the nasal passages and sinuses swells up it can block mucus drainage, causing a build-up which in turn leads to the pressure and pain of sinusitis.

Bacteria orfungi are more likely to grow in sinuses that can't drain properly, and bacterial infection often causes more inflammation and pain.

People who have allergybased asthma often suffer from sinusitis as well. Indeed, any problem with the nose that blocks the drainage holes can produce sinusitis.

Tooth and gum infections can spread to the sinuses and swimming, air pollution and smoking can aggravate it.

The main symptom of sinusitis is a throbbing pain and pressure over the cheeks, forehead or the bridge of the nose and it can be made worse by bending forwards. The jaw, neck and ears can also be affected.

Sinusitis can also cause a high temperature, weakness, tiredness, loss of taste and sense of smell and a cough that produces mucus.

The condition can be treated at home. Rest, breathing in steam from a bowl of hot water, and over-the-counter medicines can really help -check with your pharmacist.

Ibuprofen or paracetamol helps to relieve pain and lower temperature. Decongestants and menthol both help to reduce the swelling in the nose and allow the sinuses to drain.

Note that decongestants should not be used for more than a week, as prolonged use can actually make nasal blockage worse.

If you don't feel any better within the week see your GP -they may prescribe antibiotics. And if you're prone to sinusitis there are ways to reduce the chances of developing it. Keep the air humid at home, use an airfiltering vacuum cleaner, remove pets, have a course of anti-allergy injections, stop smoking, drink less alcohol and use a decongestant spray or tablets before diving or swimming.

Dr George Forster, scientific advisor at Thinktank, Birmingham (, is happy to answer all your health and wellbeing questions. Write to Dr Forster, Sunday Mercury, Weaman Street, Birmingham, B4 6AY or send your e-mails to
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:May 16, 2004
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