For lots of people, sinus infections -- or sinusitis -- and asthma go together. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, as many as half of all people with moderate to severe asthma also have chronic sinusitis.
Along with all the problems caused by asthma, having sinusitis can be tough to handle. It can make you feel sick and miserable. Without good treatment, it can last for months or even years. What's worse, one condition can worsen the other. Sinusitis has been associated with more severe cases of asthma. So, not only does having asthma increase the odds of getting a sinus infection, but a sinus infection can make your asthma harder to control.
For many people, asthma attacks may happen more often in the winter.
"There are two challenges for people with asthma in the winter. One is that they spend more time inside. The other is that it’s cold outside," says H. James Wedner, MD, an asthma expert at Washington University in St. Louis.
While you’re indoors, you breathe in asthma triggers such as mold, pet dander, dust mites, and even fires in the fireplace. When you venture out, you could have an asthma attack from inhaling the cold air...
But there's good news. There are lots of treatments available for both sinus infections and asthma. And studies show that treating one condition often helps relieve the symptoms of the other. The key is to treat both conditions aggressively.
What Is Sinusitis?
While there are many sinuses in the body, the term is often used to refer to the paranasal sinuses. These are a group of four hollow cavities in your face, near the cheeks and eyes. They're connected to the nasal passageways and help warm up, moisten and filter the air you breathe in. Sinusitis is the swelling or infection of these sinuses.
Just like the lining of your nose, the sinuses can become irritated and swollen by allergens, viruses, or bacterial infection. Common triggers of sinusitis include:
A cold or viral infection
Air pollution and smog
Dry or cold air
When the tissue in the sinuses gets irritated, it produces mucus. If enough mucus and trapped air builds up, you feel painful pressure in the sinuses. These are the familiar signs of a sinus headache.
Symptoms of sinusitis vary, depending on which sinuses are affected. But some common signs are pain in these areas:
Upper jaw and teeth
Area around the eyes
Neck, ear, and on the top of the head
Severe sinusitis can also cause:
Thick yellow or green mucus
Bad-tasting postnasal drip
Usually, sinus infections are caused by viruses, like a cold virus. But if the sinuses have been blocked for too long, bacteria can invade, causing a secondary infection. Having multiple sinus infections can lead to chronic (long-term) sinusitis.