Health Condition

Sinus Congestion

About This Condition

Sinus congestion (also called nasal congestion or rhinitis) involves blockage of one or more of the four pairs of sinus passageways in the skull.

The blockage may result from inflammation and swelling of the nasal tissues, obstruction by one of the small bones of the nose (deviated septum), or from secretion of mucus. It may be acute or chronic. Acute sinus congestion is most often caused by the common cold. Sinus congestion caused by the common cold is not discussed here. Chronic sinus congestion often results from environmental irritants such as tobacco smoke, food allergens, inhaled allergens, or foreign bodies in the nose.

Sinus congestion leads to impaired flow of fluids in the sinuses, which predisposes people to bacterial infections that can cause sinusitis. At least two serious disorders have been associated with chronic nasal congestion: chronic lymphocytic leukemia and HIV.1,2 For this reason, chronic nasal congestion lasting three months or more should be evaluated by a medical professional.


Sinus congestion typically causes symptoms of pressure, tenderness, or pain in the area above the eyebrows (frontal sinus) and above the upper, side teeth (maxillary sinus). Other symptoms include nasal stuffiness sometimes accompanied by a thick yellow or green discharge, postnasal drip, bad breath, and an irritating dry cough.

Other Therapies

Surgery may be used to unblock the sinuses and drain thick secretions if drug therapy is ineffective or if structural abnormalities are involved.


1. Amir R, Dowdy YG, Goldberg AN. Chronic rhinitis: a manifestation of chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Am J Otolaryngol 1999;20:328-31.

2. Lin RY, Lazarus TS. Asthma and related atopic disorders in outpatients attending an urban HIV clinic. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 1995;74:510-5.

3. Schulz V, Hansel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy, 3rd ed. Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag, 1998, 146-7.

4. Hu Y, Liu J. 200 cases of chronic rhinitis treated by acupuncture at nei ying xiang. J Tradit Chin Med 1997;17:53-4.

5. Ogle KA, Bullock JD. Children with allergic rhinitis and/or bronchial asthma treated with elimination diet: a five-year follow-up. Ann Allergy 1980;44:273-8.

6. Rowe AH, Rowe A Jr. Perennial nasal allergy due to food sensitization. J Asthma Res 1965;3:141-54.

7. Derlacki EL. Food sensitization as a cause of perennial nasal allergy. Ann Allergy 1955;13:682-9.

8. Davison HM. The role of food sensitivity in nasal allergy. Ann Allergy 1951;9:568-72.

9. Benninger, MS. The impact of cigarette smoking and environmental tobacco smoke on nasal and sinus disease: a review of the literature. Am J Rhinol 1999;13:435-8.

10. Annesi-Maesano I, Oryszczyn MP, Neukirch F, Kauffmann F. Relationship of upper airway disease to tobacco smoking and allergic markers: a cohort study of men followed up for 5 years. Int Arch Allergy Immunol 1997;114:193-201.

11. Leroyer C, Malo JL, Girard D, et al. Chronic rhinitis in workers at risk of reactive airways dysfunction syndrome due to exposure to chlorine. Occup Environ Med 1999;56:334-8.

12. Macknin ML, Mathew S, Medendorp SV. Effect of inhaling heated vapor on symptoms of the common cold. JAMA 1990;264:989-91.

13. Georgitis JW. Nasal hyperthermia and simple irrigation for perennial rhinitis. Changes in inflammatory mediators. Chest 1994;106:1487-92.

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The information presented by TraceGains is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2020.