Sinus Infection (Sinusitis) Medicines
For people with a sinus infection (sinusitis), many medicines are available to treat the condition. With an acute sinus infection, options range from nonprescription decongestants and NSAIDs to prescription steroid nasal sprays and antibiotics. Although medications used for chronic sinusitis (such as leukotriene modifiers and oral steroids) usually can't cure the condition, they can help relieve symptoms and improve a person's quality of life.
An Overview of Medicines for Sinus InfectionsOne of the treatment choices for sinus infections is medication. The exact medicine recommended will depend on:
- The type of sinus infection (acute versus chronic)
- A person's symptoms
- Other treatments that have been tried
- Other medical conditions a person has.
In this article, we discuss different medicines available for treating acute and chronic sinusitis. You can learn about other treatments for sinus infections by clicking Sinusitis (Sinus Infection) Treatment.
Medications for an Acute Sinus InfectionThe majority of acute sinus infections are caused by a virus. As with other illnesses caused by a virus (such as the common cold), medicines are used to help with symptoms. They do not help speed up the recovery process.
Go to the pharmacy aisle at the local store, and you're bound to get a little dizzy with all the different products available with "sinus" in their name. The reality is that some of these medicines are good for sinus infections; others are not so good.
Over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription decongestant nose drops and sprays are effective in treating nasal congestion caused by a sinus infection. However, they should be used for no longer than two or three days. If you use these medications for longer periods, they can lead to even more congestion and swelling of your nasal passages.
Examples of this type of medicine include oxymetazoline (Afrin®, Sudafed OM™, and a number of other brands) and phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine®).
Decongestants taken by mouth can also help with congestion. This includes over-the-counter medicines such as phenylephrine hydrochloride (Sudafed PE®) and pseudoephedrine hydrochloride (Sudafed®).
People with heart disease, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, glaucoma, an enlarged prostate, or diabetes should not use decongestants unless a doctor says it's okay. If you're taking a drug containing a monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor (sometimes used to treat depression), never use a decongestant.
Steroid nasal sprays have also been shown to be quite effective in decreasing nasal congestion. These medicines are mostly approved for treating asthma and allergies, but have been shown to help treat sinus infections. A number of them are available with a prescription. Examples include:
- Budesonide nasal spray (Rhinocort Aqua®)
- Fluticasone propionate (Flonase®)
- Mometasone (Nasonex®)
- Flunisolide nasal solution (Nasarel®, Nasalide®)
- Beclomethasone dipropionate (Beconase®, Vancenase®)
- Triamcinolone acetonide (Nasacort®)
- Fluticasone furoate nasal spray (Veramyst®)
- Ciclesonide (Omnaris®).
You might need to use a decongestant for a few days before starting a nasal steroid. This will help to decrease nasal swelling and allow the steroid to reach more areas of the nasal passages. It may take two or three days to see the full effect of nasal steroids.
These medicines have few side effects. Make sure to tell your healthcare provider if you have any bloody discharge while using these sprays.
Guaifenesin (Mucinex®, Robitussin®, and others) may help thin secretions and may promote ease of mucus drainage and clearance.
Other treatments for congestion, including oral antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) or zinc supplements, have not been shown to help with sinusitis symptoms. They can also cause unwanted side effects.