Environmental Allergy

Beyond a Sinus Infection

disabled girl with her dog

Article by Dr. Michael Martucci | Allergy Partners of Northern Colorado

When Is a Sinus Infection More Than “Just” a Sinus Infection?

Of course, go figure, it is Friday at 6:00 PM and all the doctor's offices have closed. I had been putting off going to the doctor in hopes that my symptoms would improve. It all started a few weeks ago with sneezing, nasal congestion and runny nose. That pesky ragweed, I thought to myself. As the week went on, I started to experience cough and green mucous discharge coming from my nose. This had started to become a recurring thing over the past year, 5 times to be exact. I was always told it is just a cold and to drink plenty of fluid and rest. I was starting to feel like I would never get better as antibiotics seemed to help, but never completely resolved my symptoms. Should I call the on-call doctor, go to urgent care, Google it, or just keep feeling sick. I needed answers.

What Are Sinuses?

Sinuses are air-filled spaces located behind the bones of the upper face, including the cheeks, nose and forehead. The lining of the sinuses is made up of cells with tiny hairs on their surfaces called cilia. Other cells in the lining produce mucus. The mucus traps germs and pollutants and the cilia push the mucus out through narrow sinus openings into the nose.


When the sinuses become inflamed or infected, the mucus thickens and clogs the openings to one or more sinuses. Fluid builds up inside the sinuses causing increased pressure, pain and headaches. Also, bacteria may become trapped and infect the lining of the sinuses.

Chronic vs. Acute

Sinusitis may be chronic-long-lasting and frequently returning-or may be acute. Acute sinusitis lasts less than 2-3 weeks and occurs less than three times a year. Acute sinusitis is extremely common and is typically caused by a viral infection. It may also be triggered by allergies, air pollution, cigarette smoke, dental infections and/or nasal polyps. It typically does not require treatment with antibiotics and resolves on its own.


Chronic sinusitis and acute sinusitis have similar signs and symptoms. Distinguishing factors for more severe disease include length of infection, frequency of infections and difficult to treat infections. Red flags are raised with family history, persistent, complicated or unusual infections. These warning signs prompt further evaluation by your Allergy Partners Physician.


The Immune Deficiency Foundation recommends screening for a possible immune deficiency if you have had more than 4-5 sinus infections in a year. It is important to distinguish between allergies, infection and antibody deficiencies. This can be done with skin testing and/or blood tests. There are several different treatment options depending on the cause of your sinus infection.

If you are unsure what is triggering your sinus symptoms and unclear where to turn, contact your Allergy Partners physician who will listen, diagnose, treat and ultimately have you feeling your best.

Allergy Partners

Evaluation & Treatment of:

Allergic Rhinitis | Asthma | Food Allergies | Eczema Hives | Sinus Problems | Stinging Insect Allergies Immune Deficiencies | Chronic Cough | Drug Allergies Recurrent Infections | Eosinophilic Esophagitis

Dr. Martucci completed his Fellowship in Allergy, Asthma and Immunology at National Jewish Health in Denver, Colorado. He is board certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology and the American Board of Internal Medicine

Click here to view the Beyond a Sinus Infection Poster.