Sinusitis - Treatment 

Treating sinusitis 

The Tokkels - antibiotics

Antibiotics help fight infection caused by bacteria. In this animation the Tokkels learn that antibiotics do not help against viral infections such as cold and flu.

Media last reviewed: 19/07/2014

Next review due: 19/07/2016

Treatments not recommended for sinusitis

The following treatments aren't recommended for sinusitis:

  • steam inhalation – there's a lack of evidence to show that it helps; there's also a risk of burns and scalds
  • steroid tablets
  • complementary or alternative medicines the benefits haven't been proven 
  • mucolytics (medication to thin mucus)

Around two thirds of people who get sinusitis don't need to see their GP. Most cases are caused by a viral infection that often clears up on its own.

Sinusitis takes about two-and-a-half weeks to clear, which means it lasts longer than a cold.

For mild sinusitis, over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can be used to relieve a headache, high temperature and facial pain or tenderness.

Children under 16 years of age shouldn't take aspirin, and ibuprofen isn't recommended for people with certain health conditions, including asthmastomach ulcers and severe heart failure.

Decongestant medication such as nasal sprays or drops may help relieve your symptoms. They're available over-the-counter from pharmacies and can help unblock your nose, allowing you to breathe more easily.

However, decongestants won't help speed up your recovery from sinusitis and shouldn't be used for more than a week at a time.

When to see your GP

See your GP if your symptoms don't improve after seven days, if they're getting worse, or if your sinusitis keeps coming back.

If you have severe or chronic (persistent) sinusitis, your treatment options will include:

  • antibiotics
  • steroid sprays or drops
  • surgery (if all other treatments have failed)

Your GP may refer you to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist, who will carry out some tests to find the underlying cause of your sinusitis. Chronic sinusitis may last for several months.

Antihistamines may be recommended in cases where sinusitis is associated with an allergy.


Your GP may prescribe a course of antibiotics if your symptoms of sinusitis are severe and they haven't improved after seven days.

About a third of people with sinusitis will develop a bacterial infection that requires antibiotic treatment.

Steroid drops or sprays

Steroid drops or sprays are usually prescribed if you're diagnosed with chronic sinusitis because they can help reduce your swollen sinuses.


If your symptoms don't improve after a course of antibiotics, and you're still experiencing problems with your affected sinuses, functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS) may be recommended.

FESS is the most common operation for sinusitis and it can be effective in relieving the symptoms. 

The procedure is usually carried out under general anaesthetic, but it can also be performed under local anaesthetic (where your nose is numbed).

During the procedure, the surgeon will insert an endoscope into your nose. This is a thin tube with a lens at one end that magnifies the inside of your nose. This will allow the surgeon to see the opening of your sinus drainage channels.

The surgeon will then either:

  • remove any tissues, such as nasal polyps (growths) that are blocking the affected sinus
  • inflate a tiny balloon inside your nose to open up the drainage passages from your sinuses (this is known as a balloon catheter dilation)

The operation will improve the drainage of your sinus and help your sinus to function properly.

The surgeon may also insert a self-dissolving implant into your sinus, which expands to hold the sinus open and deliver a steroid called mometasone directly to the sinus lining.

The ENT UK's website has more information about functional endoscopic sinus surgery.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) also provides information about balloon catheter dilation for chronic sinusitis.

Page last reviewed: 09/07/2013

Next review due: 09/07/2015


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The 8 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

ajdgb said on 02 August 2014

I have just blown my nose and had clear, yellow fluid (not mucus) come out of my left nostril. I do not have a cold, not suffered a facial injury, but have had pain on the side of my nose and under my cheekbone for 5 days. Am assuming this is OK and I should not be worried?

Kind regards.


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Pat_Kon said on 12 May 2014

Hi maxinehale,

what kind of spray have you used? Was it SinuSoothe?


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TELLMEWHAT said on 22 April 2014

I have suffered sinusitis regularly for years. The solution for me was understanding my food intolerances. After my doctor helped me with an exclusion diet (where I cut out key food groups, and reintroduced them to monitor the response). It turns out I am intolerant to yeast. I recommend if you have been suffering sinusitis regularly you consider that you also may have an intolerence to a certain food, eg. dairy, gluten, wheat, yeast.

To be clear, I do not have food allergies, eg. peanut allergy, which leads to an auto-immune white blood cell response, a fairly easy to identify response with a blood test from the doctor. I am instead intolerant to these foods, there isn't any blood test the doctor can do for intolerances, and the symptoms can be varied, mine include bad guts, sinusitis, headaches, bloating, sneezing, mucus. Your doctor can advise you on food intolerance and identifying them with exclusion diets.

Knowing which food groups to exclude from my diet has helped me solve my sinusitis permanently.

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maxinehale said on 02 January 2014

I used a nasal spray with cinammon and my sinusitis went away within a week. I had sinusitis for four years and spoke with my doctor before i used this and he told me to give it a try. Cinammon kills bacteria and has been proven by scientists. Always speak with a doctor beforehand if you plan to try alternatives for your sinusitis.

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adamoariel said on 17 October 2013

To me salt therapy really helped. I think there are a few salt caves all over the UK, I know the London one. All you do is sit there and relax and they blow the dry saline air into the room it is great help and really relaxing too!

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Elenor21 said on 16 October 2013

Hey guys,
I have been struggling with my sinus for 2 years now. Tried everything (excepting operation) but nothing really worked on a long term. I heard about the salt therapy so I had a go. It was amazing! Even after the first session I felt the difference. The mucus started to move. I had several sessions now, and the left side is perfect, the right is almost there. So I completely agree with molly488, don't be afraid to try natural ways!!

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DaveSmith22 said on 20 September 2013

I tried acupuncture but it didn't work long term for me (although I did feel great immediately after the acupuncture). I used a natural nasal spray for my chronic sinusitis and it worked great.

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molly488 said on 04 January 2013

I’ve had chronic sinusitis for 3 years. At its worst I couldn't breathe through my nose at all. You don’t realise how much you rely on this. I was unable to eat; sleep; exercise; & work as my job was a very active one, I could not perform my duties in the state I was in. I became very depressed.

I was given antibiotics several times; used steroid sprays twice a day for 2 years; and had surgery. Following the surgery I felt better for a matter of days before the sinusitis returned, not quite as bad as it was and I was able to return to work, but it was still bad enough to affect every aspect of my life and have a knock-on effect to other areas of my health. After this, I was told by the GP and ENT specialist I would have to carry on using the steroid spray and learn to live with it.

By chance, I saw an osteopath who said they could help. I was given an intense course of weekly acupressure and acupuncture. I felt a difference almost immediately; I experienced much less pain, was less congested and could breathe far more easily. I would recommend anyone with chronic sinusitis to try it if conventional medicine has failed you too. It’s the best money I have ever spent.

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The drugs you should take to treat pain depend on what type of pain you have


Antibiotics are medications that are used to treat, and in some cases prevent, bacterial infections

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If your GP has suggested you may need surgery, this guide is for you