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Sinusitis in adults - aftercare

Sinus infection - self-care; Rhinosinusitis - self-care

Your sinuses are chambers in your skull around your nose and eyes. They are filled with air. Sinusitis is an infection of these chambers, which causes them to become swollen or inflamed.

What to Expect

Many cases of sinusitis clear up on their own. Most of the time, you DO NOT need antibiotics if your sinusitis lasts for less than 2 weeks. Even when you do use antibiotics, they may only slightly reduce the time you are sick.

Your health care provider is more likely to prescribe antibiotics if your sinusitis lasts longer than 2 weeks or recurs often.

Your provider may also refer you to an ear, nose, and throat doctor or an allergy specialist.

Symptom Relief

Keeping mucus thin will help it drain from your sinuses and relieve your symptoms. Drinking plenty of clear fluids is one way to do this. You can also:

  • Apply a warm, moist washcloth to your face several times a day.
  • Inhale steam 2 to 4 times a day. One way to do this is to sit in the bathroom with the shower running. DO NOT inhale hot steam.
  • Spray with nasal saline several times per day.

Use a humidifier to keep the air in your room moist.

You can buy nasal sprays that relieve stuffiness or congestion without a prescription. They may help at first, but using them for more than 3 to 5 days can cause your symptoms to get worse.

To further relieve your symptoms, try to avoid the following:

  • Flying when you are congested
  • Very hot or very cold temperatures or sudden changes in temperature
  • Bending forward with your head down

Allergies and Sinusitis

Allergies that are not well-controlled can make sinus infections harder to treat.

Antihistamines and nasal corticosteroid sprays are 2 types of medicine that work well for allergy symptoms.

You can do many things to limit your exposure to triggers, things that make your allergies worse.

Taking Antibiotics

DO NOT self-treat by taking leftover antibiotics you may have at home. If your provider prescribes antibiotics for your sinus infection, follow these general rules for taking them:

  • Take all of the pills as prescribed, even if you feel better before you finish them.
  • Always dispose of any unused antibiotic pills you may have at home.

Watch for common side effects of antibiotics, including:

  • Skin rashes
  • Diarrhea
  • For women, yeast infection of the vagina (vaginitis)

Stay Healthy to Avoid Sinus Infections

Reduce stress and get enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep makes you more likely to get sick.

Other things you can do to prevent infections:

  • If you smoke, stop.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Get a flu shot every year.
  • Wash your hands often, such as after shaking other people's hands.
  • Treat your allergies.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your provider if:

  • Your symptoms last longer than 10 to 14 days.
  • You have a severe headache that does not get better when you use pain medicine.
  • You have a fever.
  • You still have symptoms after taking all of your antibiotics properly.
  • You have any changes in your vision.
  • You notice small growths in your nose.

References

Borish L. Allergic rhinitis and chronic sinusitis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 251.

DeMuri GP, Wald ER. Sinusitis. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Update Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 63.

Rosenfeld RM, Piccirillo JF, Chandrasekhar SS, et al. Clinical practice guideline (update): adult sinusitis. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015;152(2 Suppl):S1-S39. PMID: 25832968 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25832968.

  • Sinusitis

    Animation

  •  

    Sinusitis - Animation

    Does it feel like someone is pressing down hard on your forehead? Do you feel intense pain and pressure behind your eyes? You could have sinusitis, swollen, inflamed sinuses caused by an infection. Let's talk about sinusitis. These are your sinuses, the passageways that lie behind your forehead, eyes, and cheeks. They're lined with mucus membranes, which produce the mucus, or snot, that flows freely from your nose when you're sick. So, what causes sinusitis? Normally, air moves through your sinuses like this. But if you have a cold, allergies, or a condition that prevents the little hairs in your sinuses from sweeping out mucus, you could end up with too much of the sticky stuff. That extra mucus can block your sinuses, like this. Then, bacteria and other germs can start to grow inside your sinuses, leading to that pain and pressure you feel. If your symptoms go away within a month, you've got acute, or short-term sinusitis. But if they last three months or longer, you've got chronic sinusitis. That means your pain and pressure will stick with you, unless you get treated. What are the signs of having sinusitis? If you've just gotten over a cold or other illness and your forehead and eyes are throbbing with a pressure-like pain, you could have sinusitis. Other signs are tenderness in your face or teeth, fever, tiredness, cough, and a stuffed nose. Your doctor can often tell whether you have sinusitis by looking in your nose, shining a light against your sinuses, or tapping over the area to look for signs of swelling and infection. If your doctor thinks you may need surgery for your sinusitis, or the diagnosis isn't clear, you could also have an x-ray, CT, or MRI scan. There's a good chance your infection will go away on its own if you have acute sinusitis. But if it lingers and you're running a high fever or you're in a lot of pain, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. You can manage your sinusitis at home with a few easy tips; Hold a warm, moist washcloth to your face a few times a day; Drink extra water and other fluids to thin out your mucus; Breathe in the steam from a hot shower AND Use a Neti pot or saline nose spray. After three months if you're still dealing with sinusitis symptoms, your doctor may recommend seeing an ear-nose-and-throat doctor. You might need surgery to drain your clogged sinuses. Most of the time, sinusitis goes away on its own without any treatment. To prevent your sinuses from getting clogged in the first place, avoid getting colds and other infections. Avoid exposure to allergens or irritants, such as tobacco smoke. Eat a healthy diet filled with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. Get your annual flu shot and wash your hands throughout the day to avoid germs. When you do get sick, consider decongestant sprays to shrink the linings in your nose and sinuses, and drink plenty of fluids to keep mucus moving along.

  • Chronic sinusitis

    Chronic sinusitis - illustration

    The sinuses are surrounded by bone and cartilage and lined with a mucous membrane. Sinusitis occurs when the membranes becomes inflammed and painful, which may be a result of a blocked sinus opening. Chronic sinusitis is often caused by inflammation and blockage due to physical obstruction such as a deviated septum, misformed bone or cartilage structures such as the nasal conchae (turbinates), or blockage by nasal cysts or polyps.

    Chronic sinusitis

    illustration

  • Sinusitis

    Animation

  •  

    Sinusitis - Animation

    Does it feel like someone is pressing down hard on your forehead? Do you feel intense pain and pressure behind your eyes? You could have sinusitis, swollen, inflamed sinuses caused by an infection. Let's talk about sinusitis. These are your sinuses, the passageways that lie behind your forehead, eyes, and cheeks. They're lined with mucus membranes, which produce the mucus, or snot, that flows freely from your nose when you're sick. So, what causes sinusitis? Normally, air moves through your sinuses like this. But if you have a cold, allergies, or a condition that prevents the little hairs in your sinuses from sweeping out mucus, you could end up with too much of the sticky stuff. That extra mucus can block your sinuses, like this. Then, bacteria and other germs can start to grow inside your sinuses, leading to that pain and pressure you feel. If your symptoms go away within a month, you've got acute, or short-term sinusitis. But if they last three months or longer, you've got chronic sinusitis. That means your pain and pressure will stick with you, unless you get treated. What are the signs of having sinusitis? If you've just gotten over a cold or other illness and your forehead and eyes are throbbing with a pressure-like pain, you could have sinusitis. Other signs are tenderness in your face or teeth, fever, tiredness, cough, and a stuffed nose. Your doctor can often tell whether you have sinusitis by looking in your nose, shining a light against your sinuses, or tapping over the area to look for signs of swelling and infection. If your doctor thinks you may need surgery for your sinusitis, or the diagnosis isn't clear, you could also have an x-ray, CT, or MRI scan. There's a good chance your infection will go away on its own if you have acute sinusitis. But if it lingers and you're running a high fever or you're in a lot of pain, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. You can manage your sinusitis at home with a few easy tips; Hold a warm, moist washcloth to your face a few times a day; Drink extra water and other fluids to thin out your mucus; Breathe in the steam from a hot shower AND Use a Neti pot or saline nose spray. After three months if you're still dealing with sinusitis symptoms, your doctor may recommend seeing an ear-nose-and-throat doctor. You might need surgery to drain your clogged sinuses. Most of the time, sinusitis goes away on its own without any treatment. To prevent your sinuses from getting clogged in the first place, avoid getting colds and other infections. Avoid exposure to allergens or irritants, such as tobacco smoke. Eat a healthy diet filled with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. Get your annual flu shot and wash your hands throughout the day to avoid germs. When you do get sick, consider decongestant sprays to shrink the linings in your nose and sinuses, and drink plenty of fluids to keep mucus moving along.

  • Chronic sinusitis

    Chronic sinusitis - illustration

    The sinuses are surrounded by bone and cartilage and lined with a mucous membrane. Sinusitis occurs when the membranes becomes inflammed and painful, which may be a result of a blocked sinus opening. Chronic sinusitis is often caused by inflammation and blockage due to physical obstruction such as a deviated septum, misformed bone or cartilage structures such as the nasal conchae (turbinates), or blockage by nasal cysts or polyps.

    Chronic sinusitis

    illustration

Self Care

 
 

Review Date: 4/15/2018

Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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