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  • Acute (<4 weeks)
    • Acute viral
    • Acute bacterial (0.5-2% of cases)
  • Subacute (4-12 weeks)
  • Chronic (>12 weeks)
  • Other causes
    • Fungal infections
    • Allergies

Clinical Features

  • Defined as 2 or more of the following:
    • Blockage or congestion of nose
    • Facial pain or pressure
    • Hyposmia (diminished ability to smell)
    • Anterior or posterior nasal discharge lasting <12wk
  • Additional symptoms:
    • Tooth pain
    • Fever
    • Sinus pressure while bending forward to changing head position

Differential Diagnosis


  • Consider CT only for toxic patients (to rule-out complication)


<10 days of symptoms

  • Symptomatic treatment b/c most likely viral
    • Analgesia
    • Mechanical irrigation with buffered, hypertonic saline
    • Topical glucocorticoids - Flonase
    • Dexamethasone 10mg PO x1 dose
    • Zicam
    • Topical decongestants (e.g. oxymetazoline for no more than 3d)
    • Antihistamines
    • Mucolytics
  • Avoid antibiotics

>10 days of symptoms

  • Suspicious for bacterial origin especially with:
    • No clinical improvement after 10 days
    • Severe symptoms or high fever and purulent nasal discharge or facial pain lasting for at least 3–4 consecutive days at the beginning of illness
    • Onset with newly worsening that were initially improving (‘‘doublesickening’’)
  • Acute bacterial sinusitis[1]

IDSA Guidelines 2012[2]

  • Highlights identifying factors for acute bacterial vs. viral rhinosinusitis
  • Treat with antibiotics if any of these:
    • Purulent discharge and pain on face or teeth > 10 days without improvement
    • Severe symptoms or fever > 39 plus symptoms > 3 days
    • "Double sickening" - sinusitis symptoms at end of initially improving URI that lasted > 5 days

Antibiotic Failure

  • Obtain culture
  • Consider nosocomial bacterial sinusitis (e.g. after prolonged nasotracheal inbutation)
  • Consider foreign body
  • Consider fungal treatment


  • Typically outpatient


See Also


  1. Chow AW, Benninger MS, Brook I, et al. IDSA clinical practice guideline for acute bacterial rhinosinusitis in children and adults. IDSA Guidelines. 2012; Clinical Infectious Diseases e1-e41.
  2. Chow AW et al. IDSA clinical practice guideline for acute bacterial rhinosinusitis in children and adults. Clin Infect Disease (2012) 54:e72-112.