How Is Sinusitis Treated?

Treatment options for sinusitis include:

  • Antibiotics typically clear up an infection within two weeks. However, in the case of chronic sinusitis, antibiotics may need to be taken for up to 28 days.
  • Antihistamines sometimes used to block allergic reactions and dry excess mucus. However, antihistamines should be used with caution, as they can cause severe drying of the mucous membrane.
  • Decongestant nasal sprays are used short-term to reduce mucous membrane swelling. However, long-term use of these sprays can cause other problems.
  • Steroid nasal sprays also reduce swelling and are especially useful for the treatment of sinusitis caused by a fungus.
  • Saline nasal sprays or rinses, which consist of a salt solution, can be made at home or bought without a prescription. Saline cleans the nose and adds moisture that thins mucus.
  • Cromolyn sodium, under the brand name of Nasalcrom, is a nasal spray that can be used for the short-term relief of symptoms. Different from antihistamines, decongestants, and steroids, it is best used only when symptoms are at their worst, as it can cause side effects.
  • Allergy shots on a regular basis for a period of time can be helpful when sinusitis is caused by certain allergens.
  • Surgery can bring permanent relief when sinusitis symptoms do not respond to medications over time or are the result of a nasal obstruction such as polyps.

The Problem With Antihistamines

Antihistamines should not be taken for more than a few days, as the main side effect is severe dryness of the mucous membrane. This dryness prevents the drainage necessary for healing.

There are some new antihistamines called histamine type 1 blockers, which claim to cause less drying of the mucous membrane.

The Problem With Nasal Sprays

Decongestant nasal sprays should not be used for more than three days without instructions from a doctor. Long-term use of these sprays can cause a “rebound” condition that makes nasal congestion worse, as the swollen membrane becomes dependent upon the spray. Therefore, decongestant nasal sprays are actually addictive.

After three days of use, wait at least a week before using a decongestant again. People who consistently use these sprays risk high blood pressure, as well as damage to the mucous membrane and the heart.

Low-dose steroid nasal sprays, on the other hand, have been found to be safe for a period of time, depending on the type of steroid prescribed.

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