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Sinusitis

Sinusitis is the inflammation of the sinuses that can be triggered by a respiratory tract infection. It is characterised by a blockage in the nose and a build up of pressure that affects the face.

  1. Usually clears within 12 weeks
  2. Can be acute or chronic
  3. Treatment depends on the cause

If you have symptoms of sinusitis and would like to speak to a doctor, you can book an appointment through our private online video consultation service. A doctor will be able to advise you on how to manage your symptoms and whether you need further treatment.

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Description

What is sinusitis?

Sinusitis is the inflammation of the sinuses caused by a viral infection in the respiratory tract. It's often caused by the same virus that causes a common cold and in most cases is not a serious condition. It usually clears up by itself within 10 days. However, it can be chronic and persist for over 12 weeks.

What are the symptoms of sinusitis?

The main symptoms of sinusitis are nasal blockage, facial pressure and a loss of sense of smell. Sinusitis may be triggered by a bacterial infection when symptoms last longer than 10 days and include a fever. It's a far more common condition in adults than in children, and it's one of the most common infectious conditions seen by GPs.

In healthy people, sinusitis rarely produces complications and in most cases does not require treatment. Previously, doctors would often prescribe antibiotics for the condition, but this is only likely to be effective if a bacterial infection is known to be the cause.

What causes sinusitis?

Sinusitis is often caused by allergies, and viral infections such as the flu can also produce symptoms. If allergies or viral infections are the cause, antibiotics will not help to clear the condition any faster. 

In terms of treating sinusitis without medication, there are a number of measures you can take. Plenty of rest is necessary, particularly if sinusitis occurs following a bad cold. It is also important to stay hydrated and take painkillers and paracetamol where required.

To aid recovery, it's important to avoid potential triggers such as smoking, and clean the nose with a saline solution. Furthermore, you can also put a warm flannel over your face, and create steam in a bowl to inhale. However, these techniques will only provide minor relief.

If you are concerned about your sinusitis and would like to speak to a GP, you can do so by booking an appointment and using our private online video consultation service. Our UK doctors are available to consult with at a time that’s convenient for you. They can advise you about what you can do to alleviate symptoms, and suggest any possible treatment options.

Our prescribers can also offer a prescription for antibiotics should it be necessary. You can either have this fulfilled at our pharmacy and have your treatment shipped out within one working day, or get an e-prescription sent to your local pharmacy where you can pick your treatment up at your convenience.

Page last reviewed:  12/06/2020
Diagnosis and treatment

How is sinusitis diagnosed?

Acute sinusitis can usually be identified by the presence of a significant nasal blockage, nasal discharge, build-up of pressure in the face and a loss of smell. These symptoms will usually develop within the first five days following a cold, and can persist for up to 12 weeks. Chronic sinusitis can be diagnosed when the symptoms persist for more than 12 weeks.

Will I need tests?

If uncomplicated sinusitis is suspected, you will not need any tests as an examination by a doctor will be sufficient to diagnose the condition. The examination may involve the use of a rhinoscope, which is a small thin tube with a lens and a light on the end.

What will a doctor normally advise?

For acute sinusitis, a doctor will advise that the condition will resolve itself, and that normally antibiotics will not be needed. The possible fever symptoms can be managed with basic measures such as ibuprofen and paracetamol. It can also be helpful to use a nasal saline solution to try and clear the nostrils. 

A doctor may offer to prescribe a high-strength nasal corticosteroid, which can help with symptoms, but is unlikely to make them disappear any quicker. For this reason, a doctor will likely not advise this course of treatment, as it could also come with adverse side effects. For chronic sinusitis, a doctor will advise you to try and avoid triggers that can worsen symptoms. As with acute sinusitis, they may offer a course of intranasal corticosteroids, but prescribe them for a longer period of time. You will only be prescribed antibiotics if a bacterial infection is known to be responsible.

What treatments are there for sinusitis?

There are no specific individual treatments for sinusitis, as there can be a range of causes. 

The three main treatment options for sinusitis are: a saline solution combined with irrigation to help with the blockage, corticosteroid nasal sprays or antibiotics if a bacterial infection is present.

Page last reviewed:  12/06/2020
Questions and Answers

How is sinusitis treated?

Sinusitis doesn’t always need to be treated with medication. Relieving the symptoms and allowing the condition to resolve itself can be sufficient in many cases. 

When it does require treatment, the medicine used will depend on the cause. Nasal saline solutions can be helpful to clear blockages. Prescription nasal sprays that contain a corticosteroid may help if inflammation is more severe. Antibiotics can be prescribed if the sinusitis infection is bacterial and a doctor deems it necessary. 

What treatments are there?

There is no one specific treatment for sinusitis. Again, it depends on the cause.

Antibiotics are only used if a bacterial infection is causing the condition. When sinusitis is caused by an allergy, corticosteroid nasal sprays or antihistamine treatment can help.

It is also possible to get surgery for chronic sinusitis where other treatments have been ineffective. The surgery may involve making adjustments to the nasal passage and removing nasal polyps, which are natural growths in the nose. The surgery can be conducted under local anaesthetic.

Can I consult a doctor about sinusitis online?

Yes. If you book an appointment through our website, you will be able to consult with one of our doctors through our private online video consultation service. They will be able to advise you on what is the best way to manage your sinusitis and what the possible treatment options are.

Page last reviewed:  12/06/2020

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