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Sinusitis (cont.)

Medications

Medicines may be needed when symptoms of sinusitis are severe or do not improve. The goals of treatment with medicine are to:

  • Treat the infection, which is usually caused by bacteria if your symptoms have lasted more than 7 to 10 days.
  • Relieve pressure and pain caused by poor sinus drainage.
  • Reduce inflammation of the nose and sinuses.

Medication choices

Medicines are used and sometimes combined to treat sinusitis.

  • Antibiotics kill bacteria. Examples of antibiotics used are amoxicillin and cefdinir (Omnicef).
  • Decongestants reduce the swelling of the mucous membranes in the nose. Some examples may include oxymetazoline (for example, Afrin) and phenylephrine (for example, Neo-Synephrine).
  • Analgesics relieve pain. Some examples include acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol) and ibuprofen (for example, Advil).
  • Corticosteroids reduce inflammation in the nasal passages. Some examples include beclomethasone (Beconase) or mometasone (Nasonex).
  • Mucolytics thin mucus. Some examples include guaifenesin (for example, Robitussin).

What to think about

If you are taking antibiotics for a sinus infection, do not stop taking the antibiotics early just because you feel better. Take the entire course of antibiotics. The infection may not go away if you do not take all of the antibiotics prescribed by your doctor.

Antibiotic treatment is successful in most cases of short-term (acute) sinusitis when it is caused by bacteria. You should notice improvement within 3 to 4 days after you begin taking an antibiotic.

Chronic sinusitis may last 8 weeks or longer and usually requires 3 to 4 weeks of antibiotic treatment. Symptoms may persist or return despite adequate antibiotic treatment. A different antibiotic may be needed to treat the infection. Referral to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist (also called an otolaryngologist) may be needed if symptoms of sinusitis do not go away despite long-term antibiotic treatment.

For more information, see:

Click here to view a Decision Point.Sinusitis: Should I Take Antibiotics?
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