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Sinusitis: Self-Care Remedies and Treatment Options
Topic Started: Oct 17 2011, 07:31 AM (311 Views)
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Sinusitis: Self-Care Remedies and Treatment Options

Sinusitis is a common nasal infection that can usually be managed with at-home remedies. But if symptoms don't improve, an antibiotic or other treatment may be needed for relief.

By Chris Iliades, MD

Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
Sinusitis is an infection of the cavities, or sinuses, around the nasal passages; it affects about 37 million Americans every year. Cold or allergy symptoms that don't go away may indicate a sinus infection. With acute sinusitis, symptoms usually last 7 to 10 days, like those of a common cold. Symptoms of sinusitis that last longer than eight weeks, or that keep coming back, may be a sign of chronic sinusitis. The type of treatment you need for sinus relief depends on which type of sinusitis you have.

Treatment for Acute Sinusitis

If you have sinusitis symptoms like facial pain, nasal congestion, and nasal discharge for more than 10 to 14 days, you should see your doctor. Your doctor may prescribe a combination of treatments that involve medications along with self-care measures you can take at home for sinus relief. These include:
Hydration. Drinking plenty of water can help thin the mucus in your nose and sinuses. Staying hydrated can help your sinuses drain properly and may prevent a bacterial infection.
Rest. When you're fighting a sinus infection or just a common cold, it's important to get plenty of rest.
Steam inhalation. Using a humidifier or standing in a hot shower can help loosen thick secretions in your nose and sinuses.
Nasal sprays. Over-the-counter saltwater nasal sprays or drops can help clear your nose and sinuses and keep them moist. Your doctor may also suggest that you use a decongestant nasal spray for a short time. Be careful, though, not to overuse such sprays — you can become dependent on them. Your doctor may prescribe a steroid nasal spray to help reduce swelling in your nose and sinuses.
Allergy medications. If allergies are contributing to your symptoms of sinusitis, you may need oral antihistamine medications along with a steroid nasal spray. Your doctor may suggest allergy testing to identify your allergy triggers. In some cases, starting allergy shots (immunotherapy) may help control future bouts of sinusitis.
Sinusitis medications. Decongestants and medications that break down mucus secretions (mucolytics) can be helpful for sinus relief. If you experience symptoms of sinus infection for more than 10 to 14 days, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.

Treatment for Chronic Sinusitis

"Many things should be considered when treating chronic sinusitis," says Mark A. Zacharek, MD, residency program director in the department of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

"A person with symptoms of chronic sinusitis should be thoroughly evaluated with allergy testing and an extensive history and physical examination," Dr. Zacharek says. Treatment may include a four- to six-week course of oral antibiotics, oral steroids, topical nasal steroids, sinus irrigation with sterile saline, and other therapies, such as decongestants and drugs to break down mucus.
Antibiotics. Antibiotic medications that can eliminate a wide range of bacteria may be used to treat chronic sinusitis. These "broad spectrum” antibiotics may be continued for several weeks or months.
CT scan. A CT scan of the sinuses may be necessary, but only after initial treatment options have been tried. This is a type of X-ray that can show whether any obstruction in your nose or nasal area is keeping your sinuses from draining properly. Other diagnostic tools include nasal endoscopy to look at the inside of your sinuses, and nasal cultures to determine possible bacterial causes of sinusitis.
Sinus surgery. "People with chronic sinus infections that don't respond to common treatment tactics and who have persistent disease upon a CT scan may be possible candidates for surgery," Zacharek says. A procedure called functional endoscopic sinus surgery allows an ear, nose, and throat surgeon to look into your sinuses with a small telescope, remove diseased tissue, and create new openings so that your sinuses drain into your nose better. "Endoscopic sinus surgery is the most common type of procedure offered for people with chronic sinusitis," says Zacharek.

If you have cold or allergy symptoms — such as nasal congestion, nasal discharge, facial pain, and headache — that have lasted more than 10 days, consult your doctor. Although acute sinusitis usually responds to simple sinusitis treatments and at-home remedies, chronic sinusitis may require more significant medical treatment for sinus relief.

Last Updated: 02/24/2010
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