Chronic Sinusitis: Care Instructions

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The sinuses

Your Care Instructions

Sinusitis is an infection of the lining of the sinus cavities in your head. It causes pain and pressure in your head and face.

Sinusitis can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). Chronic sinusitis lasts 12 weeks or longer. It is often caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. Other things, such as allergies, may also be involved.

Chronic sinusitis may be hard to treat. It can lead to permanent changes in the mucous membranes that line the sinuses. It may make future sinus infections more likely.

The infection may take some time to treat. Antibiotics are usually used if the infection is caused by bacteria. You may also need to use a corticosteroid nasal spray. If the infection is not cured after you try two or more different antibiotics, you may want to talk with your doctor about surgery or allergy testing.

If the sinusitis is caused by a fungal infection, you may need to take antifungals or other medicines. You may also need surgery.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?


  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Take your antibiotics as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Your doctor may recommend a corticosteroid nasal spay, wash, drops, or pills. Take this medicine exactly as prescribed.

At home

  • Breathe warm, moist air. You can use a steamy shower, a hot bath, or a sink filled with hot water. Avoid cold, dry air. Using a humidifier in your home may help. Follow the instructions for cleaning the machine.
  • Use saline (saltwater) nasal washes every day. This helps keep your nasal passages open. It also can wash out mucus and bacteria.
    • You can buy saline nose drops at a grocery store or drugstore.
    • You can make your own at home. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda to 2 cups of distilled water. If you make your own, fill a bulb syringe with the solution. Then insert the tip into your nostril and squeeze gently. Blow your nose.
  • Put a warm, wet towel or a warm gel pack on your face 3 or 4 times a day. Leave it on 5 to 10 minutes each time.
  • Do not smoke or breathe second-hand smoke. Smoking can make sinusitis worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have worsening symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • The mucus from your nose becomes thicker (like pus) or has new blood in it.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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