Very common and very painful, sinusitis can affect anyone – and even the Duchess of Cornwall suffers, and is said to have had it on her wedding day to the Prince of Wales.

[Read more: What’s the difference between hay fever and a sinus infection?]

The Duchess has suffered from the infection repeatedly, and has had to cancel engagements because of it. But what is this condition that blights the life of Royalty, and many others?

What are the sinuses?

The sinuses are a connected system of hollow cavities in the skull, behind the cheekbones and forehead and connecting to the inside of the nose. They’re normally empty except for a thin layer of mucus, and their function is to filter and humidify the air we breathe, lighten the weight of the head, and maximize voice quality.

They’re lined with a thin membrane that produces mucus which is normally drained into the nasal cavity. The mucus helps carry and eliminate pollutants like dust, dirt and microorganisms.

What is sinusitis?

The tissue lining of the sinuses can become swollen or inflamed if someone picks up a viral, fungal or bacterial infection, or has an allergy. This leads to the sinus drainage system becoming blocked with mucus, resulting in symptoms including:

- Pain and tenderness around the cheeks, eyes and/or forehead
- Blocked nose
- Sinus headache
- Mucus from the nose
- A high temperature
- Toothache
- Loss of smell or taste
- Bad breath
- Feeling of fullness in the ears

[Read more: What is postnasal drip and what can you do about it?]

Sinusitis treatment

The NHS says mild sinusitis can often be treated just by taking painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve the pain.

It can also help to soak a flannel in warm water and regularly hold it against your forehead and cheeks for a while. Inhaling steam may also help unblock the passages.

Regularly cleaning the inside of your nose with a salt water solution may help unblock it.

When a cold turns into sinusitis, it means the blocked nasal passages have led to a secondary infection caused by bacteria, and you may need antibiotics.

And if the sinusitis lingers or keeps returning, it’s classed as chronic and you may need to see an ENT specialist. The specialist may recommend nasal irrigation and decongestants, steroids or even surgery if the sinusitis is aggravated by a physical condition such as nasal polyps or a deviated septum.

LloydsPharmacy pharmacist Anshu Bhimbat says sinusitis usually improves within a couple of weeks, but he recommends visiting a pharmacy to get painkillers, and a nasal decongestant recommended by the pharmacist, as nasal decongestants shouldn’t be taken for longer than a week and they can interact with some medications.

“When you’re at home you can press a warm flannel on your face to help soothe the pain and it’s also a good idea to clean the inside of your nose with a saline solution,” he advises.

“If the symptoms don’t clear up within a couple of weeks, see your GP as you may require antibiotics.”

How to prevent sinusitis

- Bathe nasal passages daily
- Drink plenty of water to help thin the mucus
- Inhale steam
- Avoid dry environments
- Sleep with your head elevated to help drain mucus
- Avoid anthistamines unless they’ve been prescribed, as they can make mucus thicker

What are your tips for dealing with sinusitis? Tell us in the Comments section below