Sinusitis

  • Alternative Names

    Acute sinusitis; Sinus infection; Sinusitis - acute; Sinusitis - chronic; Rhinosinusitis


    Treatment

    SELF CARE

    Try the following measures to help reduce congestion in your sinuses:

    • Apply a warm, moist washcloth to your face several times a day.
    • Drink plenty of fluids to thin the mucus.
    • Inhale steam 2 - 4 times per day (for example, sitting in the bathroom with the shower running).
    • Spray with nasal saline several times per day.
    • Use a humidifier.

    Be careful with over-the-counter spray nasal decongestants. They may help at first, but using them for more than 3 - 5 days can actually worsen nasal congestion.

    Also, for sinus pain or pressure:

    • Avoid flying when you are congested.
    • Avoid temperature extremes, sudden changes in temperature, and bending forward with your head down.
    • Try acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

    MEDICATIONS AND OTHER TREATMENTS

    Antibiotics are usually not needed for acute sinusitis. Most of these infections go away on their own. Even when antibiotics do help, they may only slightly reduce the time you or your child is sick. Antibiotics may be prescribed sooner for:

    • Children with nasal discharge, possibly with a cough, that is not getting better after 2 - 3 weeks
    • Fever higher than 102.2° Fahrenheit (39° Celsius)
    • Headache or pain in the face
    • Severe swelling around the eyes

    Acute sinusitis should be treated for 10 - 14 days. Chronic sinusitis should be treated for 3 - 4 weeks. Some people with chronic sinusitis may need special medicines to treat fungal infections.

    At some point, your doctor will consider other prescription medications, further testing, or referral to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) or allergy specialist.

    Other treatments for sinusitis include:

    • Allergy shots (immunotherapy) to help prevent the disease from returning
    • Avoiding allergy triggers
    • Nasal corticosteroid sprays and antihistamines to decrease swelling, especially if there are nasal polyps or allergies

    Surgery to clean and drain the sinuses may also be necessary, especially in patients whose symptoms fail to go away after 3 months, despite medical treatment, or in patients who have more than two or three episodes of acute sinusitis each year. An ENT specialist (also known as an otolaryngologist) can perform this surgery.

    Most fungal sinus infections require surgery. Surgical repair of a deviated septum or nasal polyps may prevent the condition from returning.


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    Expectations (prognosis)

    Sinus infections are usually curable with self-care measures and medical treatment. If you are having recurrent attacks, you should be checked for underlying causes such as nasal polyps or other problems, such as allergies.


    Complications

    Although very rare, complications may include:

    • Abscess
    • Bone infection (osteomyelitis)
    • Meningitis
    • Skin infection around the eye (orbital cellulitis)

    Calling your health care provider

    Call your doctor if:

    • Your symptoms last longer than 10 - 14 days or you have a cold that gets worse after 7 days
    • You have a severe headache, unrelieved by over-the-counter pain medicine
    • You have a fever
    • You still have symptoms after taking all of your antibiotics properly
    • You have any changes in your vision during a sinus infection

    A green or yellow discharge does not necessarily indicate a sinus infection or the need for antibiotics.