Sinusitis occurs when your sinuses become inflamed. This can lead to other complications, such a bacterial infection, as well as cause uncomfortable symptoms like headache, coughing, and fever. Most of these issues stem from the fact that the inflammation clogs your sinuses, preventing mucus from draining properly. (Learn More — What Is Sinusitis?)
Sinusitis can often be treated at home. Saline nasal sprays or neti pots can be used to help your mucus flow better and clear your nose. Decongestant medications can also help, but they should only be used for a short time before talking to a doctor. (Learn More — At-Home Remedies)
If your symptoms last for more than 10 days, or if you are experiencing more serious symptoms, you need to see a doctor. Sinusitis is a condition that doctors can often, although not always, help with online. If a doctor determines you cannot be treated online, see a doctor in person to get the proper treatment. (Learn More — Seeing an Online Doctor)
Don’t underestimate sinusitis. At a certain point, it can begin to deeply impact your quality of life and lead to a host of complications. If your symptoms have been significant or persistent, it is time to see a doctor.
What Is Sinusitis?
Sinusitis (often called a sinus infection) is when the sinuses become inflamed. This can lead to other complications, such as infection.
Sinusitis often begins as a cold, then becomes a bacterial infection. Bacterial infections can manifest in many ways, and they may require antibiotics.
These are the most common symptoms of sinusitis:
- Nasal congestion
- Pressure in the forehead, nose, cheeks, or between the eyes
- Bad breath
- Reduced sense of smell and taste
Many of these issues stem from your sinuses (hollow spaces in your bones near your nose) becoming blocked and unable to properly drain mucus.
While you should see a doctor if your symptoms seem severe, it is often possible to treat the symptoms of sinusitis at home. Many websites recommend a variety of at-home remedies for illnesses, but you should only use treatments that are based on research and evidence.
In some cases, you may require little to no treatment for sinusitis. If your symptoms have lasted for a day or two, or they are making you uncomfortable, a few over-the-counter options can control at least some of your symptoms.
Saline nasal spray is one common solution for sinusitis. These sprays provide moisture for the nasal cavity and can soften mucus that is too dry or thick. While medicated sprays exist, saline nasal spray does not contain any medication. It is safe to use while pregnant and with most medications.
Though this treatment method can be off-putting to some, using a neti pot can help with sinusitis. These are small devices that look like a teapot that are used to wash the nasal passages with saline or saltwater. While it can feel strange initially, it has been shown to help relieve symptoms.
While some worry that neti pots might be dangerous, research indicates they are safe when used and cleaned properly. Only use sterile water or saline solution. One common mistake is to use tap water, which is not sterile.
There are many over-the-counter medications for sinusitis, but you should be careful when using them. Decongestants (Sudafed, Mucinex D) can relieve sinus pain and pressure, but they should only be used for a couple of days. If symptoms persist, consult a doctor.
Read the labeling on decongestants carefully. They can react poorly with some medications and health conditions.
It’s best to talk to your doctor before using cold medicine. While many medications are available over the counter, they can sometimes end up making your symptoms worse.
Sinusitis is not the same as a cold, and there are differences in how each condition should be approached. It is possible to have a cold and sinusitis.
Seeing an Online Doctor
Certain circumstances warrant seeing a doctor for sinusitis. If you are experiencing a fever or have had symptoms for more than 10 days, your sinusitis is bad enough that you should see a medical professional. If your nasal discharge is yellow or green, especially when accompanied by pain, you should see a doctor to make sure you don’t have a bacterial infection.
For babies, you should be more cautious. If they have a fever, or if their breathing seems at all affected, they need to see a doctor.
Modern technology allows many telehealth doctors to treat you in the comfort of your own home. Generally, you only need an internet connection, the technology to make a video call, and access to the online doctor’s app or website.
This solution comes with some caveats. First, states have different laws regarding telemedicine, and it may not be permitted everywhere. While telemedicine tends to be cheaper than in-person doctor visits, you need to make sure your insurance will cover the costs or that you can pay for it yourself.
Sometimes, a doctor may determine that you can’t be properly treated via video call. In this situation, the doctor may deem it unsafe to diagnose or prescribe medication to you without seeing you in person. You’ll therefore need to schedule an in-person visit to get the proper care.
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Bacterial Infections. (April 4, 2019). MedlinePlus.
Sinusitis. (June 27, 2017). American Academy of Family Physicians.
Is Rinsing Your Sinuses With Neti Pots Safe? (January 24, 2017). U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
Decongestants: OTC Relief for Congestion. (November 16, 2017). American Academy of Family Physicians.
Sinus Infection – Treatment Overview. Push Health.
Nasal Congestion. (February 16, 2019). Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER).