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How Is Sinusitis Treated?

After diagnosing sinusitis and identifying a possible cause, your healthcare provider can suggest various treatments.

Acute sinusitis

If you have acute sinusitis, your healthcare provider may recommend the following:

  • Antibiotics to control a bacterial infection, if present
  • Pain relievers to reduce any pain
  • Decongestants (medicines that shrink the swollen membranes in the nose and make it easier to breathe)

Even if you have acute sinusitis, your healthcare provider may choose not to use an antibiotic because many cases of acute sinusitis will end on their own. However, if you do not feel better after a few days, you should contact your healthcare provider again.

Follow your healthcare provider's instructions on how to use over-the-counter or prescription decongestant nose drops and sprays. You should use these medicines for only a few days, as longer term use can lead to even more congestion and swelling of your nasal passages.

If you suffer from nasal allergies, such as hay fever, along with sinusitis, your healthcare provider may recommend medicine to control your allergies. This may include a nasal steroid spray that reduces the swelling around the sinus passages and allows the sinuses to drain.

If you have asthma and then get sinusitis, your asthma may worsen. You should contact your healthcare profvider, who may change your asthma treatment.

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Chronic rhinosinusitis

Healthcare providers often find it difficult to treat chronic rhinosinusitis successfully. They have two options to offer patients: medicine and surgery.


  • Nasal steroid sprays are helpful for many people, but most people still do not get full relief of symptoms with these medicines.
  • A long course of antibiotics is occasionally recommended by doctors, but results from clinical research do not support this kind of antibiotic use.
  • Saline (saltwater) washes or saline nasal sprays can be helpful in chronic rhinosinusitis because they remove thick secretions and allow the sinuses to drain.
  • Oral steroids, such as prednisone, may be prescribed for severe chronic rhinosinusitis. However, oral steroids are powerful medicines with significant side effects, and these medicines typically are prescribed when other medicines have failed.

Research is needed to develop new, more effective treatments.


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. Nasal surgery usually is performed to accomplish the following:

  • 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 even 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.

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Last Updated April 03, 2012