How is sinusitis treated?

Sinusitis is treated in several ways, each depending on how severe the case of sinusitis is.

A simple sinusitis infection is treated with:

  • Decongestants.
  • Over-the-counter cold and allergy medications.
  • Nasal saline irrigation.
  • Drinking fluids (sinusitis is a viral infection and fluids will help).

If symptoms of sinusitis don't improve after 10 days, your doctor may prescribe:

  • Antibiotics (for seven days in adults and 10 days in children).
  • Oral or topical decongestants.
  • Prescription intranasal steroid sprays. (Don't use non-prescription sprays or drops for longer than three to five days — they may actually increase congestion).

Long-term (chronic) sinusitis may be treated by focusing on the underlying condition (typically allergies). This is usually treated with:

  • Intranasal steroid sprays.
  • Topical antihistamine sprays or oral pills.
  • Leukotriene antagonists to reduce swelling and allergy symptoms.
  • Rinsing the nose with saline solutions that might also contain other types of medication.

When sinusitis isn't controlled by one of the above treatments, a CT scan is used to take a better look at your sinuses. Depending on the results, surgery may be needed to correct structural problems in your sinuses. This is most likely to happen if you have polyps and/or a fungal infection.

What complications are associated with sinus infection?

Although it does not happen very often, untreated sinus infections can become life-threatening by causing meningitis or infecting the brain, eyes, or nearby bone. Meningitis is an infection of the membranes (meninges) that cover the brain and spinal cord.

Do I need antibiotics for every sinus infection?

Many sinus infections are caused by viruses, the ones that cause the common cold. These types of infections are not cured by antibiotics. Taking an antibiotic for a viral infection unnecessarily puts you at risk for side effects related to the antibiotic. In addition, the overuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance, which may make future infections more difficult to treat.

Are complementary and alternative therapies useful for treating sinusitis?

You might find acupressure, acupuncture or facial massage helpful in reducing symptoms of sinusitis, including pressure and pain. They might also help you to relax. These treatments do not usually have unwanted side effects.

Is there a right way to blow your nose?

If you have a stuffy nose, trying to force yourself to blow your nose could make it worse. The best thing to do is to blow one side of your nose at a time gently into a tissue. You might want to first use some type of nasal rinse to loosen any material in your nose before blowing. Make sure you dispose of the tissue and then clean your hands with soap and water or an antimicrobial sanitizer.

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