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Allergies Health Center

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Sinusitis - Treatment Overview

Sinusitis is treated with medicines and home treatment, such as applying moist heat to your face. The goals of treatment for sinusitis are to:

  • Improve drainage of mucus and reduce swelling in the sinuses.
  • Relieve pain and pressure.
  • Clear up any infection.
  • Prevent the formation of scar tissue, and avoid permanent damage to the tissues lining the nose and sinuses.

For more information, see Home Treatment and Medications.

At first while being treated for acute or chronic sinusitis, you may begin to feel better from antibiotics and home treatment, but sometimes your symptoms become worse and additional treatment may be needed.

Sinusitis: Should I Take Antibiotics?

For acute sinusitis

Short-term (acute) sinusitis usually lasts less than 4 weeks. Up to two-thirds of people with acute sinusitis improve on their own without antibiotic treatment.1 Sinus infections are commonly caused by viral infections, which do not respond to antibiotics. Talking with your doctor will help you determine whether treatment with antibiotics is needed for your acute sinus infection.

Most people recover completely when treated with an antibiotic for acute sinusitis that is caused by a bacterial infection. The number of days you take antibiotics depends on the antibiotic and how bad the infection is. When you are prescribed an antibiotic, be sure to take it until it is gone, even if you feel better. Always take an antibiotic exactly as your doctor tells you, or the infection may not go away completely.

For chronic sinusitis

Sinusitis that lasts 12 weeks or longer is called chronic sinusitis. It is more difficult to treat and responds more slowly to antibiotics than acute sinusitis.

Antibiotic therapy is usually recommended for chronic sinusitis and may require a longer course of treatment. You may need to try more than one antibiotic. A corticosteroidnasal spray that reduces inflammation and swelling of the lining of the nasal passages may also be used during treatment.

In some people, a sinus infection may be caused by a fungus or a bacterium other than those normally associated with sinusitis. People who have an impaired immune system are at risk for these unusual infections. It also may include people who must use an oral or inhaled corticosteroid medicine (such as prednisone). Fungal sinusitis, which accounts for a significant number of chronic sinusitis cases, does not respond to antibiotic treatment and may need treatment with antifungal medicines, corticosteroids, or surgery.

Surgery may be required if you have taken antibiotics for an extended period of time but still have symptoms or when complications (such as infection of facial bones) are likely.

Sinusitis: Should I Have Surgery?
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