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Inflammation Key to the Asthma-Sinus Connection

People with asthma frequently experience problems with their sinuses. And more than half of those who have chronic sinusitis also suffer from asthma.

Is there a connection? Each condition is marked by inflammation, which is to blame for both the symptoms of asthma—cough, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and wheezing—and sinusitis. Researchers speculate inflammation in the lungs or sinuses affects both. As a result, people with lung symptoms likely will eventually get symptoms in the nose, and vice versa. Plus, sinusitis can trigger asthma attacks.

What is sinusitis?

Sinusitis occurs when air-filled spaces behind the nose, forehead, cheeks, and eyes become inflamed and blocked with mucus. Often, infection results.

Symptoms usually occur after a cold that fails to improve or gets worse after five to seven days. They include:

  • Cough, often at night

  • Headache and pressure behind the eyes, or in the teeth or face

  • Stuffy or runny nose

  • Sore throat

  • Fever

  • Fatigue

  • Loss of smell

  • Bad breath

People with asthma who experience sinus problems should talk with their doctor about treatment. Studies show that resolving sinusitis often improves asthma and may decrease the need for asthma medication.

How you can protect yourself

Those with asthma need to be vigilant about colds and the flu. Viral respiratory infections often worsen asthma. Some prevention tips:

  • Avoid smoke and pollution.

  • Drink plenty of fluids.

  • Take decongestants for upper respiratory infections.

  • Get help for allergies.

  • Use a humidifier to increase moisture in nose and sinuses.

Online Medical Reviewer: Bass, Pat F. III, MD, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 6/30/2013
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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