How long does a sinus infection last?
A sinus infection has similar symptoms to a common cold. The big difference between the two is how long those symptoms linger. Sinusitis symptoms typically last no longer than 10 days. Chronic sinusitis can last for 12 weeks or longer.
Sinus infections almost always get better on their own. Antibiotics won’t help a sinus infection caused by a virus or an airborne irritation, like secondhand smoke, but there are some things you can do to try to speed up the recovery process.
1. Drink plenty of water
To help flush the virus out of your system, make sure you’re adequately hydrated. Aim to drink at least 8 ounces of water every two hours.
2. Eat immune-boosting foods
To fight the virus, add immune-boosting foods like garlic, ginger, and onions to your meals. To use garlic medicinally, the World Health Organization recommends eating 2 to 5 grams of fresh garlic or taking 300 to 1,000 milligrams of garlic extract per day.
You can also try drinking ginger tea. Add raw honey for an extra boost. Honey is packed with antioxidants, and has antibacterial and antifungal properties.
3. Add moisture
Keeping your sinuses hydrated can help relieve pressure. Here are some tips to for hydrated sinuses:
- At night, sleep with a humidifier in your bedroom to help relieve nighttime nasal blockages.
- During the day and before bed, use natural saline nasal sprays. These can be purchased from your local drugstore and used several times a day to help break up congestion.
- Expose your sinuses to steam. Take regular hot showers and breathe in the damp air. You can also fill a bowl with boiling water and lean over it for 10 minutes. Cover both your head and the bowl with a thick towel. Keep your nose 10 inches above the water.
4. Clear the sinuses with oils
Eucalyptus oil can help open up the sinuses and get rid of mucus. A study published in The Laryngoscope found that the main ingredient in eucalyptus oil, cineole, helped people with acute sinusitis recover faster.
Make sure you only use food-grade essential oils. Rub one drop of each oil on the roof of your mouth, then drink a glass of water.
5. Use a neti pot
Nasal irrigation is a process often used to ease the symptoms of sinusitis. According to recent research, using a neti pot with a saline solution can get rid of some symptoms of chronic sinusitis.
Follow the directions supplied with your specific neti pot. Here are general directions:
- Fill the pot with the saline solution.
- Incline your head over the sink at a 45-degree angle.
- Insert the spout of the pot into your top nostril. Carefully pour the saline solution down that nostril.
- Repeat the process with the other nostril.
Be careful to sanitize your neti pot after every use. Only used distilled water. Water straight from the sink may have contaminants, like bacteria or parasites, that could make your condition worse.
6. Ease facial pain with warm compresses
Applying moist, warm heat may help soothe sinus pain. Place warm, damp towels around your nose, cheeks, and eyes to ease facial pain. This will also help clear the nasal passages from the outside.
7. Use over-the-counter (OTC) medications
If you’re not finding relief from home remedies, ask your pharmacist to recommend an OTC treatment. OTC decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), may relieve sinusitis symptoms by narrowing the blood vessels. This helps reduce inflammation and swelling. It may improve the flow of drainage from the sinuses.
Pain caused by a buildup of pressure in the nasal passages may be eased by using one of the following:
If the nasal congestion is caused by an allergic reaction, antihistamines may help block inflammation.
Always follow your pharmacist’s advice and the guidelines on the package when taking OTC medications.
8. Get a prescription
Your doctor is unlikely to prescribe antibiotics unless you have chronic sinusitis, or if your sinus infection is bacterial. Your allergist or doctor will determine whether your sinus infection is caused by bacteria or a virus. They’ll do this by:
- asking about your symptoms
- carrying out a physical examination
- swabbing the inside of your nose
Amoxicillin (Amoxil) is a commonly prescribed drug for acute sinus infections. Amoxicillin-clavulanate (Augmentin) is often prescribed for a bacterial sinus infection. Depending on the type of antibiotic, they may be taken from 3 to 28 days. It’s important to take antibiotics for as long as your doctor has prescribed. Don’t stop taking them early, even if your symptoms improve.
9. Take it easy
It takes time to get over sinusitis. Get plenty of rest to help your body fight the infection.
Seeking help for a sinus infection
Consult your doctor if you or your child has:
- a temperature higher than 100.4°F (38°C)
- symptoms that have lasted for more than 10 days
- symptoms that are getting worse
- symptoms that aren’t eased by OTC medication
- several sinus infections over the past year
If you have a sinus infection for eight weeks or more, or have more than four sinus infections per year, you may have chronic sinusitis. Common causes of chronic sinusitis are:
What causes a sinus infection?
A sinus infection occurs when the tissue in the sinuses swells up. This leads to a buildup of mucus, pain, and discomfort. The sinuses are the air-filled pockets in the bones of the face that form the top part of the respiratory tract. These pockets run from the nose into the throat.
A sinus infection may be caused by anything that stops the sinuses from draining, such as:
- the common cold
- hay fever
- exposure to allergens
- nonallergic rhinitis
- changes in air pressure
Viruses cause 9 out of 10 sinus infections in adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To reduce your risk for sinus infection:
- Wash your hands often, especially after you’ve been in crowded places, like public transportation.
- Keep up to date with recommended immunizations.
- Limit exposure to people with colds or other upper respiratory infections, if possible.
- avoid smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke
- Use a clean humidifier to keep air moist in your home.
- Get plenty of rest if you have a cold to reduce your risk for complications, like sinusitis.
What are the symptoms of a sinus infection?
Common symptoms of sinusitis include:
- nasal congestion
- loss of sense of smell
- mucus dripping down the throat from the nose
- green nasal discharge
- tenderness under the eyes or on the bridge of the nose
- mild to severe pain in the forehead or temples
- bad breath or unpleasant taste in the mouth
What’s the outlook?
Sinus infections are very common. Symptoms normally go away on their own within 10 days. OTC medications and natural remedies may help relieve your symptoms. If your symptoms last more than 10 days, talk to your doctor.