I have acute sinusitis, and my doctor doesn't think I need antibiotics. Are there nonprescription medications that can help relieve symptoms?

Answers from James T C Li, M.D., Ph.D.

Yes. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers and decongestants may help relieve facial pain and sinus congestion associated with acute sinusitis.

OTC medications that may help include:

  • Decongestants. These work by narrowing blood vessels to help reduce inflammation and swelling that cause sinus congestion. Such OTC medications (Sudafed, Actifed, others) are available in liquids, tablets and nasal sprays.
  • 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).

Always use OTC products as directed. If your child becomes infected, check with their health care provider to find out what's safe.

Other home remedies you may want to try:

  • Inhale warm water vapor. Drape a towel over your head as you breathe in the moist air from a bowl of warm or moderately hot water. Or take a hot shower, breathing in the warm, moist air.
  • Apply warm compresses. Place warm, damp towels around your nose, cheeks and eyes to ease facial pain.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Consuming additional fluids helps dilute mucous secretions and promotes drainage.
  • Use a saline nasal spray. Temporary use of saline nasal spray may help relieve congestion. Use only as directed and for no more than three days at a time.

Most people with acute sinusitis get better without antibiotics. However, if your symptoms are severe or last longer than a few days, talk to your doctor.

Nov. 27, 2014