What is a Nose Infection?

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  • Written By: J.L. Drede
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2019
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A nose infection is an inflammation of either the sinus cavity or nasal passages. It is more commonly referred to as a sinus infection or nasal infection. An infection of the nose may be an acute infection that occurs suddenly, or it may be chronic, which is long-term and sometimes recurring.

One of the most common symptoms of a nose infection is a headache with pressure, which is usually in the front of the face above the nose and eyes. Other typical symptoms include facial tenderness, especially along the eyes, nose, and cheek areas. Sometimes this tenderness may be focused on one side of the face and head. Commonly, a nose infection is accompanied by nasal congestion and a fever with a recurring cough as well.

Additional symptoms of a nose infection can include post-nasal drip with a sore throat, painful or swollen cheekbones, and a persistent low-grade fever. For many, the symptoms of a nasal infections are worse early in the morning and clear up as the day goes on. Since lying down can sometimes make the symptoms worse, a sinus or nose infection can making sleeping difficult for some.


There are several causes for nose infections, the most common being a viral infection in the upper respiratory system. These viral infections often damage the lining of the sinuses, which in turn causes the lining to become inflamed. Once the lining is inflamed, the nasal passage becomes blocked and bacteria begins to build up in the sinus cavity, causing an infection.

Although less common, a sinus infection can also be caused by an allergic reaction or pollutants in the air. In some people, these can cause the sinuses to become clogged like a viral infection can, causing blockage and in turn an infection of the nose or nasal cavity. In very rare cases, a fungus can cause a nose infection, but this tends to happen only in those with already weakened immune systems from other diseases such as AIDS or diabetes.

Treatment for clearing a sinus infection involves keeping the sinuses open and promoting drainage. Many over-the-counter nasal sprays and decongestants can accomplish this, although sometimes a doctor may prescribe some oral or intranasal steroids if the congestion is especially severe. Antibiotics like penicillin may also be used to help clear the bacteria out of the nose.

A nose infection is usually not a serious condition, and in most cases it goes away slowly over the course of several days or weeks. In some cases, though, an infection of the sinuses can spread to other parts of the body, including the brain. In these cases, the infection is very serious and may even be fatal. Symptoms of a nose infection spreading to the brain can include sudden personality changes, severe headaches, and even seizures. If any of these symptoms occur, medical treatment should be sought immediately.


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