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Credit: NIAID

Sinusitis Treatment

Acute Sinusitis

Medications can help ease the symptoms of acute sinusitis. Healthcare providers may recommend pain relievers or decongestants—medicines that shrink the swollen membranes in the nose and make it easier to breathe. Decongestant nose drops and sprays should be used for only a few days, as longer term use can lead to even more congestion and swelling of the nasal passages. A doctor may prescribe antibiotics if the sinusitis is caused by a bacterial infection.

Chronic Rhinosinusitis

Chronic rhinosinusitis can be difficult to treat. Medicines may offer some symptom relief. Surgery can be helpful if medication fails.


Nasal steroid sprays are helpful for many people, but most still do not get full relief of symptoms with these medicines. Saline (salt water) washes or nasal sprays can be helpful in chronic rhinosinusitis because they remove thick secretions and allow the sinuses to drain. Doctors may prescribe oral steroids, such as prednisone, for severe chronic rhinosinusitis. However, oral steroids are powerful medicines that can cause side effects such as weight gain and high blood pressure if used long-term. Oral steroids typically are prescribed when other medicines have failed. Desensitization to aspirin may be helpful for patients with aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease. During desensitization, which is performed under close medical supervision, a person is given gradually increasing doses of aspirin over time to induce tolerance to the drug.


When medicine fails, surgery may be the only alternative for treating chronic rhinosinusitis. The goal of surgery is to improve sinus drainage and reduce blockage of the nasal passages. Sinus surgery usually is performed to

  • Enlarge the natural openings of the sinuses
  • Remove nasal polyps
  • Correct significant structural problems inside the nose and the sinuses if they contribute to sinus obstruction

Although most people have fewer symptoms and a better quality of life after surgery, problems can recur, sometimes after a short period of time.

In children, problems can sometimes be eliminated by removing the adenoids. These gland-like tissues, located high in the throat behind and above the roof of the mouth, can obstruct the nasal passages.

Last Updated May 15, 2015