Medical treatments for sinus infections (or sinusitis) can include antibiotics, painkillers, decongestants, allergy medicines, steroids or even surgery, according to WebMD. Nonmedical or at-home treatments can include using a humidifier, breathing steam, applying warm heat to the face, using nasal saline solution, performing a saltwater flush of the sinuses, increasing fluids and resting. It will be important to note, however, that most sinus infections resolve on their own and the National Institutes for Health's MedlinePlus recommends self-care treatments to ease nasal congestion and to make the symptoms more bearable. It is recommended that patients avoid abusing over-the-counter medicines, because overuse of these medications can actually exacerbate symptoms in the long run.
The treatment options recommended by a doctor for a sinus infection can depend on numerous factors, such as if the sinus infection is acute or chronic, as well as if the sinus infection was caused by a bacterial infection or other source, as stated by WebMD. Antibiotics are prescribed for bacterial sinus infections. However, they are ineffective for sinus infections that are caused by viral infections. While painkillers do not treat the actual case of sinusitis, they can help to relieve pain associated with the condition. It is important to realize that over-the-counter painkillers are not ideal for long-term relief. The same rule applies for decongestants, which can help for a short time to remove mucus from the sinuses but can actually make congestion worse if overused. Allergy medications are widely used, since many cases of sinusitis are caused by the body's reaction to allergens. In more serious cases, steroids can be prescribed (which reduce swelling in the nasal passages) or surgery can be performed (in which the nasal passages are enlarged).
According to MedlinePlus, sinusitis is considered "acute" if the symptoms lasts for no more than 4 weeks, and "chronic" if the symptoms lasts for three months or longer. Sinusitis often develops after a bout of cold. Its symptoms include losing the sense of smell, cough worsens at nighttime, fever, headache, fatigue and nasal drips.
MedlinePlus advises the following self-care techniques to ease the symptoms in individuals with sinusitis.
- Warm compresses to the face several times a day
- Increased water intake
- Steam inhalation several times a day
- Nasal flushing
- Using a humidifier
- Using nasal saline sprays