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Acute and chronic sinusitis are caused by different factors1 which means that there are different ways to try and prevent and treat them.2,3 


Top tips for preventing acute sinusitis

As acute sinusitis is most often caused by an infectious virus and sometimes by a bacteria,4 prevention strategies include:

Hand washing

When in contact with those who are sick, washing your hands thoroughly and regularly, either with soap or an alcohol-based rub, can prevent the spread of the virus or bacteria.2


Recent research has taught us that people who get an average of less than five hours’ sleep per night in the week before facing a common cold virus (which can lead to sinusitis) are more likely to get infected than those who have slept an average of more than seven hours per night.5


Average hours of sleep per night and risk of infection5


Sinusitis may be caused by the common cold virus,9 or the flu virus,6 so it’s important to realise that the amount of regular sleep we get also profoundly affects how we respond to the flu vaccination.7

If you get seven to nine hours’ sleep per night in the week before having the flu vaccination, you will develop a powerful antibody response post vaccination (i.e. your immune system will be stronger and you are much less likely to catch the flu). If, on the other hand, you only get four to six hours’ sleep per night in the week before, you will produce only about half the number of antibodies post vaccination and are therefore much more likely to catch the flu.7  

In a nutshell, getting enough sleep helps fight against infection and illness.7

Top tips for preventing chronic sinusitis

As chronic sinusitis is more likely to be caused by allergies8 or environmental, genetic or anatomical factors3 than by a virus or bacteria, strategies for prevention include:

Smoking cessation

Smoking may cause chronic sinusitis1 so try to quit if you are struggling with recurrent sinus congestion.3

Air quality

Evidence suggests that allergies may play a significant role in causing chronic sinusitis and shows that the risk is reduced by using a high-quality air filtration device.8 Minimise exposure to common allergens such as household dust, dust mites and animal dander (flakes of skin in their fur) and be aware that carpeting and feather bedding may also play a role in allergic sinusitis.8

Dietary factors

Specific foods may exacerbate allergies or sensitivities in certain individuals.8 Consider consulting a dietician if you have eliminated other possible causes for your chronic sinusitis.


What can I do to treat my sinusitis?

Whether your sinus congestion and other symptoms are a result of acute or chronic sinusitis, following various tips at home can help you feel better and symptoms can be treated with various over-the-counter (OTC) medications.

  1. Ah-See KW and Evans AS. Sinusitis and its management. BMJ 2007; 334:358-361.
  2. BMJ Best Practice. Acute sinusitus. Last updated: 01 Mar 2019. Available at: accessed May 2019.
  3. BMJ Best Practice. Chronic sinusitis. Last updated: 21 Mar 2018. Available at: accessed May 2019.
  4. Scheid DC and Hamm RM. Acute bacterial rhinosinusitis in adults: part 1. Evaluation. Am Fam Physician; 70(9):1685-1692.
  5. Prather AA et al. Behaviourally assessed sleep and susceptibility to the common cold. Sleep 2015; 38(9):1353-1359.
  6. Harvard Health Publishing. Influenza: how to prevent and treat a serious infection. Last updated: 04 Dec 2017. Available at: Last accessed May 2019.
  7. Walker M. Why we sleep: the new science of sleep and dreams. Penguin Random House. 2017.
  8. Helms S and Miller AL. Natural treatment of chronic rhinosinusitis. Altern Med Rev 2006; 11(3):196-207.
  9. Hallet R and Naguwa SM. Severe rhinosinusitis. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol 2003; 25:177-190.