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Sinusitis: After Your Visit

Your Care Instructions

The sinuses

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

In most cases, sinusitis gets better on its own in 1 to 2 weeks. But some mild symptoms may last for several weeks. Sometimes antibiotics are needed.

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 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?

  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Be careful when taking over-the-counter cold or flu medicines and Tylenol at the same time. Many of these medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Read the labels to make sure that you are not taking more than the recommended dose. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Breathe warm, moist air from 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 directions for cleaning the machine.
  • Use saline (saltwater) nasal washes to help keep your nasal passages open and wash out mucus and bacteria. You can buy saline nose drops at a grocery store or drugstore. Or you can make your own at home by adding 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, insert the tip into your nostril, and squeeze gently. Blow your nose.
  • Put a hot, wet towel or a warm gel pack on your face 3 or 4 times a day for 5 to 10 minutes each time.
  • Try a decongestant nasal spray like oxymetazoline (Afrin). Do not use it for more than 3 days in a row. Using it for more than 3 days can make your congestion worse.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse swelling or redness in your face or around your eyes.
  • You have a new or higher fever.

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

  • You have new or worse facial pain.
  • The mucus from your nose becomes thicker (like pus) or has new blood in it.
  • You are not getting better as expected.

Last Revised: May 1, 2013

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Care instructions adapted under license by Kaiser Permanente. This care instruction is for use with your licensed healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.


The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.

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