Page header image

Sinus Infection

Teen Version

What is a sinus infection?

A sinus infection is a bacterial infection of one of the sinuses that normally drain into the nose. Congestion in a sinus commonly occurs when one of the sinus openings becomes blocked from a cold or hay fever. Sinus congestion usually goes away on its own without becoming an infection. If bacteria multiply within the sinus, a sinus infection can occur. The main symptom is facial pain. Other symptoms of a sinus infection are:

  • swelling of the skin over the sinus
  • fever that begins 3 or more days after you get a cold
  • yellow/green nasal discharge lasting more than 14 days.

Swallowing sinus secretions is normal and harmless but may lead to some nausea. Most sinus infections can be diagnosed without sinus x-rays.

How can I take care of myself?

The following treatment should reduce pain and fever within 48 hours or less.

  • Antibiotics

    Your antibiotic is__________________________. Your dose is____________, taken _______ times a day by mouth during waking hours for _______ days.

    This medicine will kill bacteria that are causing the sinus infection. Try not to forget any of the doses.

    Even though you will feel better in a few days, take the antibiotic until all the pills are gone to prevent the infection from flaring up again. Do not save the antibiotic for the next illness because it loses its strength.

  • Nasal washes

    Use warm water or saline nosedrops followed by nose blowing to wash dried mucus or pus out of the nose. Do nasal washes at least 4 times a day or whenever you can't breathe through your nose.

  • Decongestant nosedrops or spray

    To drain the sinuses, use a generic, long-acting decongestant nosedrop or spray (such as oxymetazoline). You don't need a prescription for the nosedrops or spray.

    The usual dose for adolescents is 2 drops or sprays per nostril twice a day. Use the medicine routinely for the first 2 or 3 days of treatment. After that, don't use the spray or nosedrops unless the sinus congestion or pain comes back.

  • Pain-relief medicines

    Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) for a few days for sinus pain or any fever over 102F (39C).

  • Oral antihistamines

    If you have hay fever, take your allergy medicine (antihistamine). Otherwise avoid using antihistamines because they can slow down the movement of secretions out of the sinuses.

  • Contagiousness

    Sinus infections are not contagious. You can return to school when you are feeling better and the fever is gone.

When should I call my health care provider?


  • Redness or swelling occurs on the cheek, eyelid, or forehead.
  • You start feeling very sick.


  • The fever or pain is not gone 48 hours after you start taking the antibiotic.
  • You have other questions or concerns.
Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2006-10-12
Last reviewed: 2006-03-02
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
Page footer image