How Long Does a Sinus Infection Last?

During certain times of year, it can be challenging to determine if your stuffy nose is due to allergies, a cold or something else, such as a raleigh sinus infection. Each year, an estimated 31 million Americans are diagnosed with a sinus infection. In order to seek proper treatment and minimize the symptoms, it is important to be familiar with the symptoms of a sinus infection and understand the expected duration.

A sinus infection, which may also be called sinusitis, is a condition which results in inflammation of the sinuses. The sinuses are small pockets which are filled with air and are located behind the cheeks, nose and eyes. Each of the sinus pockets are lined with mucus which aids in maintaining healthy sinuses.

There is another type of sinus infection which is called rhinosinusitis. Rhinosinusitis occurs when both the lining of the nasal cavity and the lining of the sinuses are inflamed.

In most cases, sinus infections are caused by an underlying condition which blocks the sinuses, such as allergies or a viral infection.

Sinus Infection Symptoms

Below are some of the most common symptoms of a sinus infection:

  • Decreased ability to taste or smell
  • Excess mucus
  • Facial pain or pressure
  • Nasal congestion
  • Postnasal drip

In more severe cases, the symptoms can include the following:

  • Bad breath
  • Cough
  • Ear pain
  • Sore throat
  • Tooth pain

Duration of a Sinus Infection

The two different types of sinus infections are acute and chronic. Acute sinus infections typically last 10 days to a few weeks. Chronic sinus infections, however, can last 12 or more weeks. In many cases, acute sinusitis is associated with a respiratory infection. In comparison, chronic sinusitis is often caused by environmental factors including allergies or smoking.

When a patient has one or two sinus infections a year, it is considered to be normal. Patients who experience more than four sinus infections annually should schedule an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat surgeon to determine if there are other underlying causes.


Over-the-counter medications

A nasal decongestant spray can aid in relieving short-term sinus infection symptoms and congestion. However, the use of these sprays should be limited to three days or less. When these products are used for longer periods of time, it can result in a rebound effect and additional nasal congestion. Use caution with a nasal spray as a treatment for sinus infections as prolonged use can worsen the symptoms.

In some cases, a steroid nasal spray, such as fluticasone, triamcinolone or mometasone, can aid in relieving nasal congestion symptoms without the associated risk of rebound symptoms from extended use. These types of products are available at most drug stores over-the-counter.

Other over-the-counter medicines which contain an antihistamine or decongestant can also help with sinus infections. These medicines such as Sudafed, Zyrtec, Allegra, and Claritin are especially helpful for patients who suffer from allergies.

Decongestants should typically be avoided by people who have high blood pressure, prostate issues, glaucoma, or challenges with sleeping. Follow up with your doctor before taking any medicine to ensure it is the best solution and will not have any negative side effects.


Antibiotics, such as amoxicillin, are used specifically to treat acute sinusitis where other treatments such as nasal steroid sprays, pain medications and sinus rinse/irrigation have failed. A prescription you’re your doctor will be required in order to take an antibiotic for sinusitis.

Side effects associated from taking antibiotics for sinusitis include rash, diarrhea, and stomach issues. Overuse and incorrect use of antibiotics can cause superbugs, which are serious bacterial infections which are not easily treated.

Sinus Infection Overview, Symptoms and Treatments