Sinus Infection


Medically reviewed by Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Sinusitis Treatment

Sinus infections are typically self-limiting and clear up on their own. Because of this, many prescribers will often opt to recommend watchful waiting and delayed antibiotic treatment.

It is rare to develop complications of bacterial infections that pass beyond the nasal cavity into the central nervous system, orbit, or surrounding tissues. Treatment with antibiotics11 may have a shorter course of illness but it could also cause you to experience more adverse events.

There are a number of options for treating both the symptoms and underlying causes of a sinus infection. The approach you take for treating your sinusitis will largely depend on the type of sinus infection you have.

If you have sinusitis as a result of a bacterial infection, your healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics to help kill the invading bacteria. Similarly, antiviral medications may help get rid of the flu virus and its resulting symptoms. Acute viral rhinosinusitis (AVRS) should be managed with supportive care.

There are no treatments to shorten the clinical course of the disease. If your sinusitis is caused by a fungus, your healthcare provider may prescribe antifungal medication to target the infection.

Generally, acute sinusitis only requires 5–7 days of treatment, while it may take 3–4 weeks to successfully treat a chronic sinus infection.

Aside from taking prescribed or over-the-counter medications, you can use some at-home remedies to treat some of the symptoms caused by a sinus infection.

As with any illness, it’s important to take care of yourself when you have a sinus infection: get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, and stay at home until you have sufficiently recovered.

Is there a sinusitis cure?

While there is no “cure” for sinusitis itself, there is a variety of medication12 available for treating the underlying causes of a sinus infection. Antivirals, antibiotics, and antifungal prescriptions may address the multiple forms of pathogens that cause infections leading to sinusitis.

However, antibiotics aren’t always a quick, go-to treatment for sinusitis. Often providers may recommend riding out the infection and letting it clear up on its own.

Some over-the-counter treatments for sinus infections include:

  • Saline nasal spray (Ayr)
  • Antihistamine (anti-allergy) nasal spray (Flonase)
  • Nasal spray containing oxymetazoline, a decongestant (Afrin)

May be prescribed

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If your sinus infection is caused by a bacterial infection, your healthcare provider may prescribe an antibiotic to help treat the illness. In the case of sinusitis, antibiotics are most frequently prescribed to children with a cough or nasal discharge that doesn’t improve after 2–3 weeks or to individuals with sinusitis that’s accompanied by severe eye swelling, headache, facial pain, or a fever higher than 102.2°F (39°C).

Sinus infection remedy

Some at-home remedies can help alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms of a sinus infection.

In order to reduce congestion and pressure in your sinuses, you can try:

  • Applying a warm washcloth to your face whenever pressure relief is needed
  • Drinking lots of fluids to help thin built-up mucus
  • Inhaling steam multiple times a day or as needed (you can sit in the bathroom with a hot shower running or place a towel over your head while leaning over a bowl of steaming water)
  • Using a sterile saline nasal spray to loosen mucus in the sinuses
  • Running a humidifier to moisturize a dry indoor environment
  • Using a Neti pot or saline rinse to flush the sinuses of mucus and infection

Sinusitis prevention

You can take a number of precautions to avoid catching the germs that cause sinus infections13 (and to help slow the spread of these germs, if you do get sick):

  • Maintain good hygiene: Washing your hands frequently with warm, soapy water is one of the best ways to prevent many common illnesses. Generally, you should wash your hands after coughing or sneezing and before eating or preparing food. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Stay at home when you are sick, and keep children out of school, daycare, or other group activities if they have a sinus infection. Densely crowded areas such as schools, workplaces, and public transportation can harbor viruses and bacteria.
  • Avoid close contact: Do not hug, kiss, or shake hands with others when either of you are sick.
  • Practice respiratory etiquette: Cover your nose and mouth with your elbow (not your hand) when coughing or sneezing. Always use a tissue when possible.
  • Disinfect surfaces: Disinfect kitchen and bathroom surfaces and frequently used objects (such as toys and doorknobs), especially when you or your family members are sick.
  • Don’t share drinking glasses, utensils, or food with people close to you when either of you are sick.
  • Take care of yourself: Eating well, sleeping sufficiently, and getting exercise may help keep you from catching sinusitis or speed up the rate of your recovery.
  • Get vaccinated: Receiving the yearly influenza vaccine will reduce your risk of catching a flu that may lead to a sinus infection.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to increase your body’s moisture and help you fight off your infection.
  • Take decongestants when you have respiratory infections to prevent the buildup of mucus in your sinuses.

Sinus infection medicine

Sinus infections on their own do not usually require prescription medication—they generally go away on their own.

However, your healthcare provider may prescribe an antiviral or antibiotic if the underlying infection causing your sinus infection is serious enough to warrant treatment.

If the medication prescribed by your healthcare provider is unsuccessful in treating your infection, he or she may recommend you for more testing or referral to an ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor) or an allergy specialist.

Disclaimer: The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

If you are in crisis or you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.