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Sinusitis is inflammation of the nasal sinuses. It is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection but may be triggered by allergies or environmental irritants. There are two types of sinusitis: acute and chronic. Acute sinusitis lasts four weeks or less and is usually caused by a viral infection. Chronic sinusitis lasts at least eight weeks, is more difficult to treat than acute sinusitis and may respond slowly to antibiotics. Symptoms of sinusitis include an ache or pressure across the midsection of the face, headache, nasal congestion, fever, loss of sense of smell, and a green or yellow nasal discharge.
Use an over-the-counter medication to relieve pain caused by sinus pressure and reduce your fever (if present). In addition to alleviating pain and pressure, ibuprofen is very effective at reducing inflammation.
Place hot, moist towels on your face for 10 minutes, three or four times each day. The heat will reduce pain, swelling and congestion. You can use hot water bags in place of towels, but be careful the bags do not become too hot or you risk burning your delicate facial skin.
Treat allergic sinusitis by avoiding known allergens, using over-the-counter antihistamine medications, and staying away from smoke, perfumes and other irritants.
Flush your nasal passages with a saline solution, which can be purchased in most stores and pharmacies. Saline can also be made at home by mixing 1 tsp. of table salt and a pinch of baking soda with 2 cups of warm water, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Humidify the air in your home by using a steam vaporizer. You can also take a hot shower with the bathroom door closed, or fill a large bowl with steaming water and lean over it to inhale the steam.
Reduce inflammation in your mucus membranes by taking a decongestant, such as pseudoephedrine hydrochloride. Decongestants constrict the blood vessels in the sinuses and nasal membranes, thereby reducing swelling and increasing drainage. According to the Mayo Clinic, decongestant nasal sprays are typically very effective at relieving symptoms but may trigger rebound congestion if used for more than a few days at a time.
Thin your nasal secretions and reduce pressure in your sinus cavity by taking a mucolytic, such as guaifenesin. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, mucolytics, or expectorants, should be used for a minimum of one week to treat sinusitis.
Take antibiotics if your sinusitis is caused by a bacterial infection. Take the entire course of medication, even if you begin to feel better after a few days. Although the type and dose of antibiotic depends on the cause and severity of your illness, antibiotics are typically taken for 10 days, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Consider a course of oral or inhaled corticosteroids, such as prednisone or beclomethasone dipropionate, to reduce inflammation. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, oral steroids should only be used when other treatment options have failed due to the high risk of side effects associated with these medications.
Ask your doctor about surgical treatment for chronic sinusitis. When other treatments have failed, surgery may be necessary to improve drainage and reduce nasal blockage. Surgery can enlarge the opening of the sinuses, remove any problematic polyps and correct anatomic deformities that may be contributing to the sinusitis.