Your sinuses are chambers in your skull around your nose and eyes. They are filled with air. Sinusitis is an infection of these chambers that makes them swollen or inflamed.
Many cases of sinusitis clear up on their own. Most of the time, you do not need antibiotics if your sinusitis lasts for less than 2 weeks. Even when you do use antibiotics, they may only slightly reduce the time you are sick.
Your health care provider is more likely to prescribe antibiotics if your sinusitis lasts longer than 2 weeks or recurs often.
Your provider may also refer you to an ear, nose, and throat doctor or an allergy specialist.
Finding ways to keep mucus thin will help it drain from your sinuses and relieve your symptoms. Drinking plenty of clear fluids is one way to do this. You can also:
Use a humidifier to keep the air in your room moist.
You can buy nasal sprays that relieve stuffiness or congestion without a prescription. They may help at first, but using them for more than 3 - 5 days can cause your symptoms to get worse.
Other tips to relieve your symptoms are to avoid:
Allergies that are not well-controlled can make sinus infections harder to treat.
Antihistamines and nasal corticosteroid sprays are 2 types of medicine that work well for allergy symptoms.
You can do many things to limit your exposure to triggers, things that make your allergies worse.
Do not self treat by taking leftover antibiotics you may have at home. If your health care provider prescribes antibiotics for your sinus infection, follow these general rules for taking them:
Watch for common side effects of antibiotics. Some of these are:
Reduce stress and get enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep makes you more likely to get sick.
Other things you can do to prevent infections:
Call your doctor if:
Wilson JF. In the clinic. Acute sinusitis. Ann Intern Med. 2010 Sep 7;153(5):ITC31-15; quiz ITC316.
Rosenfeld RM, Andes D, Bhattacharyya N, Cheung D, Eisenberg S, Ganiats TG, et al. Clinical practice guideline: adult sinusitis. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2007;137:S1-S31.
Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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