Acute Sinusitis

No two acute sinusitis diagnoses are exactly the same. The ENT doctors at Henry Ford Health assess your symptoms and recommend treatment options to help you breathe normally again. 

What is acute sinusitis?

People with acute sinusitis experience symptoms for less than three months. The condition often begins when you catch the common cold, which is a viral upper respiratory infection. 

Recurrent acute sinusitis refers to episodes that occur many times a year. Each is a separate episode of sinusitis, without any symptoms in between. 

Sinusitis that lasts for more than three months is called chronic sinusitis.

Acute sinusitis symptoms

You may have these symptoms with acute sinusitis:

  • Nasal obstruction that blocks airflow in one or both of your nostrils
  • Thick and/or foul-smelling or tasting nasal discharge or postnasal drip
  • Facial pain or pressure in the cheeks, forehead, bridge of your nose, top of your head or behind your eyes (often called a sinus headache).
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Fever 

Nonsurgical treatment for acute sinusitis

Your rhinologist will recommend treatment options based on the severity and cause of your acute sinusitis symptoms. Treatment options may include:

  • Antibiotics treat bacterial sinus infections, with symptoms that continue or worsen over seven to 10 days. We prescribe antibiotics for seven to 14 days and then reassess your symptoms.
  • Antihistamines treat symptoms of allergic rhinitis, which can include sneezing, itchy eyes and nose, watery eyes or wheezing.
  • Decongestants help by constricting blood vessels in the sinus and nasal tissues, shrinking the swollen tissues and making it easier to breathe. 
  • Expectorants include medications such as guaifenesin (e.g., Mucinex®), which thin the mucus. This makes it easier to cough up the mucus or blow it out your nose. 
  • High-volume saline irrigations flush the nose and sinuses of excess mucus. We recommend using saline solutions two to three times per day until symptoms subside.
  • Nasal steroid sprays reduce inflammation in the nose. These are available by prescription or over the counter.

Acute sinusitis surgery

We may recommend endoscopic sinus surgery if you have recurrent acute sinusitis (four or more episodes of sinusitis per year). Surgery can potentially decrease the number of episodes per year and reduce the symptoms that do occur.

Surgery enlarges the natural openings of the sinuses to allow for better distribution of saline, nasal sprays and other sinus medications. Wider openings also make it easier for the sinuses to drain, even when swollen.

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