The right treatment for a sinus infection depends on whether the infection is caused by bacteria or a virus. Experts from the CDC say antibiotic therapy is not necessary unless a person has an acute infection caused by bacteria. If the infection is caused by a virus, it usually goes away on its own, though people with sinus infections may use over-the-counter medicines to treat symptoms.
The CDC explains most sinus infections are caused by viruses; however, WebMD states that 90 percent of adults are prescribed a course of antibiotics for their sinus infections. This is a serious problem because overuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance.
For those who want to avoid antibiotics, it is possible to treat the symptoms of a sinus infection while the immune system fights off the offending organism. For congestion, MedlinePlus recommends using a humidifier and inhaling steam two to four times per day. Drinking clear fluids thins out mucus, making it easier for the mucus to drain. There are also drugs available to clear mucus out of the nasal passages. These drugs are called decongestants. Acetaminophen relieves pain and fever associated with a sinus infection, but it does not control inflammation like ibuprofen does, according to eMedicineHealth.
In people who are otherwise healthy, high-dose amoxicillin is the drug of choice for treating sinus infections, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. If the infection does not clear up, a doctor may prescribe an antibiotic designed to treat several different types of bacteria.