Sinus Infection Remedies (Without Antibiotics)

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Sinus Infection Remedies (And Why You Might Not Need Antibiotics)

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Here's another CT scan of a deviated septum. See the sinuses?

Here’s another CT scan of a deviated septum. See the sinuses?

Sinus infection Remedies

The body can fight off most sinus infections—even the bacterial kind—without antibiotics. The keys are having a good immune system and finding ways to get these stopped-up sinuses to unstop and drain.

Immunity Boosters

The following things can help strengthen your immune system to help it fight off the infection:

    1. A balanced diet and plenty of rest.
    2. The boosters I talk about in my post on fighting off colds.
    3. Elderberry, which has been shown to work in some people.
Prescription for Prevention

A prescription nasal steroid inhaler can help prevent sinus infections.

Sinus-Drainage Promoters

These remedies can help your sinuses open up and drain out all that mucus and bacteria:

    1. Humidified air from a humidifier, or steam from the shower or bath.
    2. Drinking plenty of fluids to keep those membranes hydrated and that mucus thinner.
    3. Warm, moist bath cloths on the face for ten- to twenty-minute intervals.
    4. Decongestants like Sudafed or Afrin to shrink swollen membranes. Read the labels. For instance, don’t use if you have high blood pressure, and don’t use for more than a couple of days or you’ll start getting rebound swelling. (Every time you try to stop it, even if you’re over the infection, your nasal membranes will swell back up.)
    5. Mucus thinners like guaifenesin (Robitussin, Mucinex).
    6. Saltwater nasal sprays (available at the pharmacy).
    7. Sinus irrigation. See a video demonstration in my post on how to treat a cold. And be sure to read my post on how to do it safely.
    8. Avoiding irritants such a smoke and allergens.

Complications are rare, but the infection can spread to the bones around the sinuses, into the tissue around the eye, or into the brain area (meningitis).

Pain Relievers

In addition to the above remedies, you can always use your favorite over-the-counter pain reliever.

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When to Take Antibiotics
The Survival Doctor's Guides to Burns and Wounds, by @James Hubbard

Everyone is different so it’s always best to check with your doctor. But if you can’t do that, as a general rule, take antibiotics if:

  • You have facial or teeth pain and fever, and it’s not a cold or the flu.
  • You have cloudy nasal drainage that lasts over a week and is not getting any better, along with facial pain, teeth pain, or a sore throat.

If you take antibiotics, take them for ten to fourteen days to make sure you kill off all the bacteria causing the infection. Amoxicillin or amoxicillin/clavulanate (Augmentin) is a good choice. If you’re allergic to penicillin, then ciprofloxacin, erythromycin (such as azithromycin), or a sulfa drug is a good choice. (Read more about antibiotics and how to get them here.)


Now I know many of you have had sinus infections. What remedies and preventions have you found useful?

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  • Matt Kelso

    James, what are your thoughts on Cephalexin? Is it effective in treating a sinus infection when needed?

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Cephalexin will probably do the job. I’ve used it. But it’s not my first choice.

  • Grace

    This article was wonderful. It gave me hope that I might just be able to kick this sinus problem without going for antibiotics. I was dealing with heavy pressure and dizziness because of the fluid being trapped in my sinuses due to mucus that had built up and was so thick I couldn’t even smell or taste anything for days. I steamed, but it only got rid of some of the mess. I decided to try the neti pot using the peroxide and sea salt. I used it once last night and once this morning. My head ache is nearly gone, I can breathe, I can smell, and my teeth don’t hurt. The only thing I would caution is to make sure the water is tepid, and that you don’t have too much salt in the solution. Salt can dry out the nasal passages to the point of irritation. Excellent article, and even better posts by the folks. Thanks! Clearly yours, M.B.

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Thanks, Grace. I’m glad it’s helping.

  • hiyobye

    My mucus smells and taste bad and its been over a year. I’ve researched alot and the biggest possibility is a bacterial sinus infection. what can i do if i cant afford to see a doctor and what could be the cause of it ?

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      If you’re having no other symptoms, I’m not sure what you could do. If it’s bad breath you’re referring to, I’d look up causes for that.

      • hiyobye

        Ohyes it caused me bad breath. But what could be the reason of foul smelling and tasting mucus?

        • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

          Anything from infection to medications/herbs/supplements/foods to just a normal characteristic of your particular mucus.

  • Aha

    Does sudafed cause rebound swelling?

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      The nasal spray? Yes, it can. The pill, probably not.

  • Josh

    Ever doctor I see fit a sinus infection refuses to give me more than a seven day prescription of antibiotics. I get infections once a year around same exact time and antibiotics help, if I get a longer dose. Which I haven’t been getting in a long time. So I keep wasting my money and after that 7 day is up the infection is back in 36 hours. Can’t take it anymore considering surgery.

  • Cheryl

    I didn’t realize you could get sinus infections from airborne allergies. I tried using the oregano oil last time…my oregano oil is very strong so it burns a little but not as bad as ACV. Also I forgot the salt once in my net pot water and wow that burnt. I have also used the no tears baby shampoo which is recommended by ENT specialists.

  • kristofer nierves

    How can u cure a sinus that is been over 3 year?

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Sometimes there’s blockage. If you haven’t, you should see an ENT doctor.

  • C Conner

    I have to let everyone that has ever suffered from repeated sinus infections about this stuff that changed my life. I HAVE NO TIES TO THIS PRODUCT IN ANY WAY-EXCEPT THAT IT REALLY CHANGED MY LIFE. I had finally decided that my infections (recurring 3 to 5 times a year for over 5 years) were never going to go away & the antibiotics were messing up my stomach and were not helping when I got any other type of infection-like one in a tooth that I took 3 rounds of antibiotics to get rid over. I had almost decided that the surgery was the only thing that had any help of relieving the pain, then I found this product at Walgreen’s called Alkalol Nasal Wash I used it in my nettie pot 3 times a day for 10 days (the first day I wondered if the sinus pain was maybe better then the sting of this product, but by day 2 I didn’t think it was too bad-(what does not kill us makes us stronger LOL) Anyway It WORKS!!!! I have been sinus infection free for 6 months & have absolutely none of that “one is coming on” feeling. I now only use my nettie pot about 3 times a week- course I use nothing except Alkaloids in it but I suppose regular rinse would still work. I hope this many help just one person that has to still deal with the repeat cycle. Good Luck & GB

    • Cheryl

      Thanks Conner, the ingredients sound promising.

  • Bk the pain mangement therapis

    I have a sinus infection which I have not had since my sinus surgery for a deviated septum a year ago. Wow, I forgot how immobolizing it is. I can’t see straight. I am once again walking into walls.
    I like the suggestions about apple cider vinegar. Never tried it. I aslso find sauna and stream from the shower open up the nostrils. Also the sinus rinse with saline and one ENT gave me Wilson’s solution which has been amazing 2x/day. This is an antibiotic, Gentamycin 20 mg in a solution form. I got this after I developed a resistance to recurrent antibiotics and major yeast growth too.

  • Kat

    I get sinus headaches a lot. Not sure why? I have some pain in the front of my head and a lot at the back of my neck. I wonder sometimes if it is my pillow. I find it hard to get a pillow I love. Worse part is advil or tylenol sinus hardly dent the discomfort.

    • Sinus migranes

      Excedrin Migrane works within 30 mins and that is just with one tablet. Advil, tylenol and aleve stop working for me years ago. I am on meds now for my sinus infection. My daughter onlaw told me about excedrin and i phave been hooked every since. Helps with the nausea that comes with the migranes.

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      You could change your pillow and find an allergy free one or an allergy free case.
      And vacuum your pillow often. Also check out the third page of this post.