Acute Sinusitis

Sinusitis is an inflammation of mucus membranes lining the sinuses. The most common cause is a viral infection. Allergies, or less commonly, a bacterial or fungal infection, can also result in sinusitis.

What are the symptoms of a sinus infection?

The most common symptoms of sinusitis include:

  • Nasal congestion which impairs breathing through the nose
  • Pain, pressure, or swelling around the forehead or cheeks
  • Aching in the upper jaw or teeth
  • Thick greenish discharge from the nose or down the back of the throat
  • A fever may be present
  • Bad breath may be present
What should I do for symptoms of sinusitis?
  • The Infectious Disease Society of America advises against using anticiotics if symptoms have been present for less than 10 days, since the predominant cause of sinusitis is viral infection.
  • Decongestants such as pseudoephedrine can help reduce mucus membrane swelling and promote sinus drainage.
  • Decongestant sprays such as Afrin and neosynephrine, or the generic equivalent, can quickly reduce congestion by acting locally on the nasal mucus membranes, but their use should be limited to 3 or 4 days to avoid rebound congestion.
  • Nasal irrigation can help decrease sinus pressure and pain. 
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) can be used for pain.
  • Nasal steriods such as Flonase or Nasacort can be used to decrease swelling of the nasal mucus membranes within a few days.
What symptoms of sinusitis should I seek medical attention for?
  • Symptoms last more than 7 days
  • You have symptoms that start to improve and then worsen
  • Symptoms abruptly worsen
  • You're not sure what to do
When are antibiotics used?

Antibiotics aren't always needed to treat acute sinusitis. Most cases of bacterial sinusitis will improve without antibiotics, but they may be indicated for severe, recurrent, or persistent illness.

If antibiotics are prescribed, then it is critical to take the entire course of medication. Generally, this means you will need to take them for 7 to 10 days - even after your symptoms improve. Your symptoms may return if you stop taking them early.