How to Manage Sinusitis Symptoms with Over-the-Counter Medications


It’s common for me to talk on my Instagram channel and on youtube talking about managing sinusitis the “right” way. Make no mistake, the main treatment for bacterial sinusitis begins with proper diagnosis with a CT scan and nasal endoscopy. Usually there the treatment paradigm includes antibiotics with or without steroids. For many people, the symptoms are not cut and dry and they suffer from vague face pressure, drainage and nasal stuffiness.

If this is you, aren’t you tired of constantly dealing with the uncomfortable symptoms of sinusitis/allergies? If you are unsure what is causing your symptoms and just looking for relief until you can be seen by your local ENT, you might be interested in learning about the various over-the-counter (OTC) medications that can provide relief. In this blog post, I will discuss different OTC options for managing sinusitis symptoms so that you can find the right solution for you.

Understanding Sinusitis:

Before we dive into medications, let’s first understand what sinusitis is. Sinusitis is the inflammation of the sinus passages, often caused by a viral infection, allergies, or a bacterial infection. This inflammation leads to symptoms such as facial pain or pressure, nasal congestion, headache, and thick or thin nasal discharge or post nasal drip.

OTC Medications for Sinusitis Symptom Relief:

When it comes to managing sinusitis symptoms, several OTC medications can provide relief. Let’s explore some of these options:

  1. Decongestants:

Decongestants are commonly used to alleviate nasal congestion associated with sinusitis. They work by narrowing the blood vessels in the nasal passages, reducing swelling and improving airflow. Decongestants come in two forms: oral and nasal preparations. These meds should not be overused as they can exacerbate hypertension.

  • Oral Decongestants: These are available in pill or liquid form, and common examples include pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine. Make sure to follow the recommended dosage instructions, as exceeding the limit can lead to side effects like increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure.
  • Nasal Decongestant Sprays: These sprays, such as oxymetazoline, provide temporary Sinusitis Relief by shrinking the swollen blood vessels in the nasal passages. It’s important to note that nasal sprays should not be used for an extended period (usually no more than 3 consecutive days) to avoid possible rebound congestion.
Sinusitis Symptoms
  1. Saline Nasal Sprays:

An OTC saline nasal spray can be an effective option for managing sinusitis symptoms, especially nasal congestion. Saline sprays contain a sterile mixture of salt and water, facilitating nasal irrigation and helping to clear mucus and allergens from the sinuses. They are safe to use regularly and can provide soothing relief without any side effects.

  1. Pain Relievers:

Sinusitis often causes facial pain and headaches. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil) can help alleviate discomfort. However, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or carefully read the instructions to ensure proper dosage and duration of use.

  1. Antihistamines:

If your sinusitis symptoms are triggered by allergies, OTC antihistamines like cetirizine (Zyrtec) or loratadine (Claritin) can be helpful. They work by blocking histamine, a chemical released during allergic reactions, and can help reduce nasal congestion, sneezing, and itching. Antihistamines may cause drowsiness in some individuals, so it is recommended to choose the non-drowsy versions if planning to be active during the day.

  1. Expectorants:

When sinusitis leads to thick mucus drainage, OTC expectorants, such as guaifenesin, can help thin the mucus and make it easier to expel. These medications work by increasing respiratory fluid output and reducing the viscosity of secretions, providing relief from nasal congestion due to thick mucus.


While it is important to be evaluated by an ENT if symptoms persist beyond 4 weeks, Sinusitis symptoms can be managed with the help of over-the-counter medications. Decongestants, saline nasal sprays, pain relievers, antihistamines, and expectorants are all accessible options for managing the symptoms associated with sinusitis.

Remember, it is essential to carefully read and follow the instructions on the packaging, and consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns or if your symptoms worsen or persist beyond 4 weeks. By being proactive and choosing the right OTC medication, you can effectively manage your sinusitis symptoms and get back to feeling your best.