The symptoms of acute sinusitis often resemble those of the common cold.  Like the common cold, most cases of acute bacterial sinusitis are self-limited and will resolve in time.  While antibiotics will shorten the course of most sinus infections, there are several treatments available without a prescription that can make you more comfortable.  The goals of treatment are to manage pain, improve sinus drainage, and decrease congestion.

Pain and Fever

We recommend acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen over-the-counter for the headaches, facial pain or feverishness associated with acute sinusitis.

Nasal Drainage and Cough

Nasal congestion and thick secretions can often be improved by simple irrigation with warm sterile saline (saltwater).  Saline is especially useful for chronic sinusitis and for patient who have undergone nasal surgery.

Read more about saline nasal sprays and sinus irrigation

When thick secretions or a productive cough persist, an expectorant containing guaifenesin (such as Mucinex or Robitussin), can stimulate increased mucous flow.  Some products are combined with dextromethorphan, a mild narcotic cough suppressant.

Read more about over-the-counter cough suppressants on our Colds & Flu page

Nasal Blockage and Sinus Pressure

If the sinuses remained painfully clogged or the nose remains swollen shut, then an oral decongestant such as pseudoephedrine or a topical decongestant containing phenylephrine or oxymetazoline can temporarily reduce swelling in the nose.  Prolonged use of decongestants is not recommended.  Topical decongestants can cause significant rebound nasal congestion and become quite addictive if used for longer than one week.  Oral decongestants can cause high blood pressure and anxiety.

Read more about over-the counter decongestants on our Colds & Flu page

The common cold runs its course in one to weeks.  If your sinus symptoms are getting worse, or last longer than 10-14 days, please see a qualified professional.