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What is it?

Sinusitis is an inflammation of the nasal sinuses (hollow cavities within the face bones) and is usually caused by inadequate drainage due to an allergy, infection, or obstruction.

Who is affected?

Sinusitis develops in approximately 31 million Americans each year1. Sinusitis is common in the winter but may last for months.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of sinusitis and those of an upper respiratory infection are similar. They both affect the nose, eyes or middle ear and include thick yellowish/green nose drainage, headache, a feeling of facial fullness, congestion, fatigue, plugged-up nose, toothache and constant tiredness. You may have sinusitis if symptoms persist beyond 7 to 10 days or if you develop a fever.

What can I do to treat and prevent sinusitis?

Take steps to reduce your exposure to allergens:

  • Vacuum and dust regularly
  • Remove carpets from bedrooms and use throw rugs
  • Use zippered, dust-proof covers for pillows, mattresses and box springs
  • Confine the areas that pets are allowed in and groom them outdoors
  • Avoid smoke from any sources
  • Dry clothes in a clothes dryer on a high setting
  • Stay indoors when mold spore and pollen counts are at a peak
  • Use an air cleaner with a HEPA filter
  • Wash off after outdoor activity to avoid bringing allergens into your home

OTC medications can be used to treat the symptoms:

Decongestants can reduce blockage by narrowing blood vessels and allowing nasal congestion to clear. They are commonly included in treatment plans for bacterial sinus infections.

Important additional information

It is not recommended use antihistamines to treat sinusitis. They may allow you to breathe easier, but they will dry up your nose and thicken the mucus, which will make it harder for you to get relief.

The following are examples of OTC medications that can be used to treat the symptoms of sinusitis:

Symptom relief Helpful medications Active ingredients* to look for in generic and name brand OTC products

Nasal congestion
"Stopped - up" ears

Nasal Decongestant

Example: Sudafed®

Pseudoephedrine Sulfate
Example: Drixoral Decongestant®

* Active ingredients: ingredients in a medication that produce a therapeutic response


1 Parameters for the Diagnosis and Management of Sinusitis," Journal of Allergy and Clinical. Immunology (1998) 102:S107-S144.

Note: This information is intended to provide readers with health information. The information provided is not a substitute for consultation with a healthcare provider. Brand names included on this Web page are provided for examples only. Their inclusion does not mean that they are endorsed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.