09 May 2018

Are you using the correct treatment for your sinusitis?

Bogged down by congestion and painful headaches? Not all cases of sinusitis are the same. Find out if you are treating yours correctly.

You’ve probably experienced the painful, annoying symptoms of sinusitis. It occurs when the membranes of the nose become inflamed – which may be caused by a number of factors.

There are different types of sinusitis, and the more clued up you are about the type of sinusitis you have, the easier it will be to treat. 

It’s important to know that sinusitis differs from person to person and can be caused by several factors – whether it's a viral or bacterial infection or an allergy, according to Dr Anna Bouknight from the Sinus Center of South Carolina, USA. 

A previous Health24 article explains that the types of sinusitis are classified according to their time span, as well as the type of inflammation causing the sinusitis.

  • Acute sinusitis
  • Subacute sinusitis
  • Chronic sinusitis

Sinusitis can also be divided according to cause, i.e. whether it’s caused by infection or something else.

  • Infectious sinusitis is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria and usually occurs after a cold or flu.
  • Non-infectious sinusitis is caused by allergies (dander, pollen climate) or physical reasons such as a deviated septum, tumours or polyps in the nasal cavities.

types of sinus


The first step towards successfully treating your sinusitis is to determine the type and cause. This should be done by your doctor, who will identify the cause of your sinusitis and treat it accordingly. 

Here are the different types of treatments recommended for different types of sinusitis:

1. Acute sinusitis

Symptoms: A stuffy nose, pressure headache, facial pain and slightly discoloured mucus.

Likely causes: Usually a viral or bacterial infection, especially if it clears up in under 10 days.

Treatment: If the symptoms don't persist for longer than 10 days, there is no need for antibiotics. Treat symptoms with over-the-counter decongestants to relieve congestion and painkillers, such as paracetamol, to relieve pain.

2. Subacute sinusitis

Symptoms: The same as the above – the duration of the symptoms will be more than a month, but no longer than three months.

Likely causes: A more serious, longer-lasting viral or bacterial infection.

Treatment: In the case of subacute sinusitis, your doctor will prescribe a course of antibiotics and a nasal steroid to clear up the infection and congestion. 

3. Chronic sinusitis

Symptoms: The same as the above, although nasal polyps may start to develop when you have chronic sinusitis.

Likely causes: Chronic sinusitis that persists for more than three months is usually caused by allergies to dander or pollen or by physical factors such as a deviated septum or possible tumours.

Treatment: Your doctor might refer you to an ear nose and throat (ENT) specialist to investigate the cause of your sinusitis. In the case of allergies, your doctor will suggest treatments like decongestants.

According to Health24's resident allergy expert Dr Adrian Morris, it’s a good idea to begin regular antihistamine medication a month before the pollen season starts if you are prone to seasonal allergies.

Nonsedating, long-acting antihistamines include Telfast, Zyzal and Deselex.

Image credit: iStock


Ask the Expert

Sinusitis Expert

Dr Gary Kroukamp MBCHB, FCORL(SA) is an ENT Specialist, practising from rooms at Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont, Cape Town. He also has a teaching sessional appointment as an ENT Consultant at the Tygerberg Hospital. He is a member of the ENT Society of South Africa and the South African Cochlear Implantation Group. His interests in the ENT field include sinusitis and sinus surgery, nasal allergy and ENT conditions in children.

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