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 do not improve after 10 days, your doctor may prescribe:

  • Antibiotics (for 7 days in adults and 10 days in children)
  • Oral or topical decongestants
  • Prescription intranasal steroid sprays (Do not use non-prescription sprays or drops for longer than 5 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 pills
  • Leukotriene antagonists (pain killers)
  • Rinsing the nose with saline irrigations (sometimes medications will be added to the irrigations)

When sinusitis is not controlled by one of the above treatments, a CT scan is used to take a better look at the sinuses. Depending on the results, surgery may be needed to correct structural problems in the sinuses.

What is the harm in getting an antibiotic for a common cold?

The common cold is caused from a viral infection. 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.

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