Benefits and Risks of Sinus Infection Medication Options

Over 30 million (1) Americans have been diagnosed with sinusitis. Are you one of them?

If so, you know how complicated simple activities become due to frequent sinus infections. Sleep is interrupted, breathing freely out of your nose is nearly impossible, and your sinus pressure feels like it’s going to start oozing out of your head.

Sinusitis is a serious and complicated issue that could worsen if it’s not treated. To ease your symptoms, there are a wide range of treatment options, including medication, which we’ll explore together below.

Your ENT can advise on the risks associated with sinusitis medications

Risks of Taking Sinus Medications

Medications may trigger adverse effects. Corticosteroids, for example, come with serious side effects (1), including weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, acne, cataracts, stomach ulcers, mood swings, depression, and more.

Although medications may provide temporary relief, they do not address the causes of chronic or recurrent sinusitis. The side effects you experience may cause as much or more discomfort and damage to your health as the symptoms of your sinusitis.

Your Sinus Medication Options

When you can’t afford to miss work and your sinus infection is making sleeping and breathing difficult, medication can provide short-term relief. There are three main types of medication used to treat sinus pain.

  • Corticosteroids

    Corticosteroids reduce inflammation and swelling in your sinuses, allowing air to flow through your sinuses and enabling you to breathe easier. Corticosteroids can also reduce the size of nasal polyps. This form of drug includes two main types -- glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids, and can be administered as nasal sprays, shots, and pills.

  • Leukotriene Inhibitors

    Made popular by Singulair®, leukotriene inhibitors are used to reduce the symptoms of allergic rhinitis and allergies. They target and block leukotriene chemicals in the body, which are triggered by allergic reactions. Allergic reactions cause inflammation in the nasal tissues, causing post-nasal drip, a congested nose, and other symptoms.

    Like corticosteroids, leukotriene inhibitors are also known to reduce nasal polyps.

  • Antibiotics

    Infections, including sinus infections, can be treated on an individual basis with antibiotics, which are used to resolve infections resulting from bacteria. When there is a blockage in your sinuses, bacteria collects, causing an infection. Antibiotics are known to effectively rid the body of infections, but cannot prevent further infections from developing.

  • Over the Counter (OTC) - Decongestants

    To treat nasal congestion, your doctor may recommend a decongestant. Some medications combine decongestants and antihistamines. Decongestants work by narrowing blood vessels to help reduce inflammation and swelling that cause sinus congestion. Over the Counter decongestants such as Phenylephrine, a common brand - Sudafed, are often used and recommended. These OTC medications are available in liquids and tablets.

  • Over the Counter (OTC) - Pain Relievers

    Pain caused by pressure buildup in the sinus cavities may be relieved by aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others).

Alternative Options to Sinus Medications

You want relief from your sinuses, but medications only provide short-term results, and both medications and surgery come with significant risks. Don’t worry. There are alternative treatments for sinusitis other than medication and endoscopic sinus surgery, including:

References & Resources

  1. Chronic Sinusitis (CDC)