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Sinus Infection? 13 Unexpected Causes

Health.com     First Posted: 03/26/11 12:51 PM ET   Updated: 05/26/11 06:12 AM ET

Sinus infections, the cause of untold misery, strike about 37 million people in the U.S. each year.

On the surface of things, the cause of sinus trouble is clear. Teeny holes that connect your nasal passages to your sinuses (basically a collection of hollow, moist cavities that lurk beneath your nose, eyes, and cheeks) get blocked. Then gunk builds up in your sinuses, germs may grow, and you feel, well, hideous.

But the cause of the blockage is sometimes trickier to figure out. Here are 13 things that can cause an acute sinus infection (the most common type) and, in some cases, lead to a chronic sinus infection.

Viruses
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Most sinus infections start with a cold. Colds are caused by a virus, which can make nasal tissue swell, blocking the holes that normally drain sinuses.

If your sinus infection is caused by a virus, antibiotics won't help since these drugs kill only bacteria. Your symptoms will probably get better after about a week or so. A decongestant can help, but don't use it for more than four or five days to avoid becoming dependent.

The best defenses against these sinus infections are the same things that protect against colds and the flu. In other words, get a flu shot, wash your hands, and don't chill with the visibly ill.

More from Health.com:
10 Sinus Infection Symptoms
14 Tips for Treating Kids' Colds
12 Vaccines Your Child Needs
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Filed by Nicholas Miriello  |