When to See a Healthcare ProviderIn most cases, it is difficult to know whether a sinus infection is caused by bacteria or a virus. There is no treatment available to speed up the recovery of viral acute sinusitis. And in some cases, bacterial acute sinusitis will clear up on its own. Therefore, healthcare providers often recommend treating possible sinus infections at home.
However, if the following symptoms are present for more than seven days, you should see your healthcare provider:
- Face or tooth pain, especially if it is only on one side
- Thick, yellow-to-green discharge from the nose
- Cheek tenderness or pain (this is where your maxillary sinuses are).
You should also contact your healthcare provider if symptoms were getting better but suddenly get worse.
Reasons to contact your healthcare provider right away include:
- Double vision
- Decreases in vision
- Drooping eyelid
- Swelling around the eyelid
- Redness around the eyelid
- Severe headache
- High fever (over 102.5°F or 39.2°C)
- Severe facial pain
- Stiff neck
- Shortness of breath
- Changes in mental state.
Treating SinusitisThe two main goals when treating a sinus infection are to decrease inflammation and relieve symptoms. Most treatments do not shorten the course of the illness.
Some different options for treating symptoms 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 nonmedicated 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 -- this is because the majority of infections are caused by a virus. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses, but will be prescribed if the healthcare provider suspects bacterial sinusitis. Antibiotic medications 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 available medicines by clicking Sinus Infection (Sinusitis) Medicines.)