What is sinusitis?
Sinusitis is when the hollow spaces in the bones of your face become inflamed. Your body will normally overcome the cause of inflammation in about 3 weeks without the need for medical treatment.
Sinusitis is a common symptom after colds and the flu. If you have sinusitis, your symptoms will usually get worse after 5 days, or will last for more than 10 days. In some cases, there is an infection in the sinuses caused by bacteria.
See your GP if:
- your symptoms are severe or getting worse
- your symptoms haven't started to improve after around 7-10 days
- you have frequent episodes of sinusitis
Your doctor may prescribe medicines including regular pain relief, a saline nasal spray or a nasal decongestant. In some cases, your doctor may decide to give you inhaled steroids or an antibiotic. If you often get sinusitis, it could be due to an allergy so they may refer you to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.
Tell your doctor if you develop bleeding from the nose, a stiff neck, swelling, or problems with your vision.
Managing sinusitis symptoms
If you are looking after yourself, the tips below may help relieve the symptoms:
- Decongestant medicines — available as tablets, nasal sprays or drops - may be helpful, but do not take them for longer than instructed.
- Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when taking or giving someone else any medicines.
- It is important to stay well hydrated so drink plenty of water. If you have an existing medical condition check with your doctor about how much water is right for you.
- Gently blow your nose one nostril at a time.
- Place a warm or cool cloth, whichever helps, over the aching area.
- Rest and avoid heavy activity until symptoms go away.
- Keep the room at a comfortable temperature.
- Smoking or breathing in other people’s smoke can make symptoms worse. Try to avoid being around people who are smoking. If you are a smoker, try to cut down or quit. For advice on quitting smoking, visit the Quit Now website.
- Find advice on suitable medicines for pain.
- Find out more about self-care tips if you have a high temperature (fever).
CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the colds and flu Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.
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Last reviewed: March 2021