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Treating Sinus Infections and How Long Symptoms Last

Treating a Sinus Infection

Decreasing inflammation and relieving symptoms are the two main goals for treating a sinus infection. Most treatments do not shorten the course of the illness.
Some different options for treating sinusitis include:
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®), naproxen (Aleve®), or acetaminophen (Tylenol®), for pain relief and/or fever.
  • Irrigating the nose with a non-medicated saline solution or spray several times a day. This helps clear the nasal passages and decreases the need for pain medicine (see Nasal Irrigation).
  • Nasal decongestants and steroid nasal sprays to reduce congestion.
Most sinus infections do not require antibiotics. The majority of sinus infections are caused by a virus, and antibiotics have no effect on viruses. However, these medicines will be prescribed if the healthcare provider suspects a bacterial sinus infection. Antibiotics can control a bacterial infection and decrease the chance of complications.
(Click Sinusitis (Sinus Infection) Treatment for more details on treating an acute sinus infection. You can also read more about medicines used to treat this condition by clicking Sinus Infection (Sinusitis) Medicines.)

How Long Do Symptoms Last?

Most people with acute viral sinusitis get better on their own within 7 to 10 days. Many cases of acute bacterial sinus infections also get better on their own or with the help of antibiotics.
If your symptoms are not getting better, or if they come back, you should be seen again by your healthcare provider. It is possible that the antibiotic did not completely eliminate the infection. A different antibiotic or further testing may be recommended.
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Sinus Infections (Acute and Chronic)

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