Sinusitis | Treatment

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How is acute sinusitis treated?

Treatment for sinusitis depends on the cause.

You can use a saline nasal spray, which will clean out your nasal passages and help clear congestion. Your doctor may recommend a prescription nasal spray that helps treat inflammation.

If you have sinus pain or pressure, your doctor may prescribe or recommend a decongestant to help your sinuses drain. Decongestants are generally only recommended for short-term use.

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (one brand name: Tylenol) and ibuprofen (some brand names: Advil, Motrin) can ease headache and sinus pain.

If your case of sinusitis is very severe and your doctor thinks the cause is bacterial, he or she may prescribe an antibiotic. You may take an antibiotic for 10 to 14 days, but you will usually start feeling better a couple of days after you start taking it. It is important to take antibiotics exactly as your doctor tells you and to continue taking it until it is completely gone, even after you’re feeling better.

If allergies are causing your sinusitis, your doctor may treat the allergy. Then the sinusitis will usually clear up on its own.

FDA Warning

The. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises against the use of ear candles. Ear candles can cause serious injuries and there is no evidence to support their effectiveness. For more information, please visit the FDA Web site.

Tips on taking care of sinusitis

  • Get plenty of rest. Lying down can make your sinuses feel more stopped-up, so try lying on the side that lets you breathe the best. You can prop yourself up with a pillow.
  • Sip hot liquids and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Apply moist heat by holding a warm, wet towel against your face or breathing in steam through a cloth or towel. This will relieve sinus pressure and help open your sinus passages.
  • Talk with your doctor before using an over-the-counter cold medicine. Some cold medicines can make your symptoms worse or cause other problems.
  • Don’t use a nasal spray with a decongestant in it for more than 3 days. If you use it for more than 3 days, the swelling in your sinuses may get worse when you stop using the medicine.
  • Avoid alcohol, which can worsen swelling in the sinuses.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 04/14
Created: 09/00

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