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  • Sinusitis is an inflammation (swelling) of the lining of your sinuses. Sinuses are hollow spaces inside the skull that are located behind the bones of your forehead, cheeks, and eyes. They are lined by mucous membranes that contain cilia (small hairs). Cilia helps mucus drain into the nose through small openings called ostia. With sinusitis, the ostia may be blocked or the cilia may not be working properly, preventing mucus from draining properly. Germs, such as bacteria and viruses, grow in the mucus causing an infection. Sinusitis may be acute, subacute, chronic, or recurrent. Acute sinusitis signs and symptoms last less than four weeks. Subacute sinusitis lasts from four to 12 weeks, while chronic sinusitis lasts longer than 12 weeks. Recurrent sinusitis happens when you have three or more episodes of acute sinusitis in one year. Sinusitis usually starts during or just after a cold. Sinusitis may also be caused by diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, and infections near your sinuses, such as an ear or gum infection. Problems with the structure of your sinuses or nose, such as polyps (growths), and allergies may also cause sinusitis.
    Picture of a normal nose
  • Sinusitis is diagnosed based on symptoms present and how long you have had them. Sinusitis is usually considered when symptoms have not improved after seven days. You may feel pain, pressure, or swelling around the forehead, cheeks, or eyes. You may have a headache or face pain that is worse when you lean forward, fever, chills, or other cold symptoms. Discharge from your nose may be thick and yellow or green-colored. You may also have a dry cough or tooth pain. You may have an endoscopy, culture, computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or x-rays of the sinuses to diagnose sinusitis. Treatment includes antibiotic medicines to fight infection, and medicines to treat fever and headache. Sinus surgery may be done if the sinusitis does not improve with medicines or you have an obstruction. Diagnosing and treating sinusitis as soon as possible may relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of life.


Take your medicine as directed:

Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your primary healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your primary healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics that were given to you for another illness.
  • Decongestant: A decongestant is medicine that relieves congestion, such as that of mucus membranes. It should not be used for longer than three days.
  • Steroids: This medicine may be given to decrease inflammation.
  • Do not stop taking antibiotics or steroids without first talking to your caregiver.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

Avoid the spread of germs:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Carry germ-killing gel with you. You can use the gel to clean your hands when there is no soap and water available.
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth unless you have washed your hands first.
  • Always cover your mouth when you cough. Cough into a tissue or your shirtsleeve so you do not spread germs from your hands.
  • Try to avoid people who have a cold or the flu. If you are sick, stay away from others as much as possible.

Drinking liquids:

Men 19 years old and older should drink about 3 Liters of liquid each day (about 13 eight-ounce cups). Women 19 years old and older should drink about 2 Liters of liquid each day (about 9 eight-ounce cups). Follow your caregiver's advice if you must limit the amount of liquid you drink. Liquids help thin the sputum, which may make it easier for you to cough up.


Using a humidifier moistens the air in your home. The moist air makes it easier to cough up your sputum (mucus from the lungs). Wash the humidifier each day with soap and warm water to keep it free of germs.

Do not smoke:

If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Ask for information about how to stop smoking if you need help.

Wellness hints:

  • Blow your nose gently. Rinse your nose with a salt water mixture if the mucous is too thick to come out with blowing. A salt water mixture is made by putting one teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm (not hot) water.
  • Clean carpets, cloth upholstery, and drapes every week to get rid of dust and pollen.
  • Keep your house as clean as possible. Get a HEPA filter (air cleaning filter) for your house and have all the vents and ducts cleaned. Wearing a facemask while cleaning may help you avoid breathing in dust, pollen, and mold.
  • Use a warm washcloth or a heating pad (turned on low) on your face and nose to help decrease pain. Do this for 15 to 20 minutes every hour as long as you need it. Do not sleep on the heating pad as it may cause a bad burn.
  • Wash your hands after touching a person who has a cold.

For more information:

Having sinusitis may be hard for you and affect your quality of life. Contact the following for more information:

  • American Academy of Family Physicians
    11400 Tomahawk Creek Parkway
    Leawood , KS 66211-2680
    Phone: 1- 913 - 906-6000
    Phone: 1- 800 - 274-2237
    Web Address:


  • You have a fever.
  • You have bleeding from the nose.
  • You have a bad headache, even after taking your medicine.
  • Your have problems with your vision (seeing).
  • You have questions or concerns about your disease, treatment, or medicine.


  • You develop a rash, itching, or swelling after taking your medicine.
  • You have nausea (upset stomach) and vomiting (throwing up).
  • You have a stiff neck or trouble thinking clearly.
  • You have trouble breathing.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Sinusitis (Discharge Care)

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Symptoms and treatments

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