When a person suffers from a common cold, she has nasal congestion that lasts between seven to 10 days that clears up when she uses over-the-counter medications, like a decongestant. But if she has a sinus infection, that congestion lasts longer than 10 days and does not respond to an over-the-counter decongestant.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases noted that in 2009, about 31 million adults reported having a sinus infection, also called sinusitis,
People suffering from a sinus infection can do some home remedies to help reduce the congestion from the sinus infection. For example, MedlinePlus noted that inhaling steam, such as from a shower, two to four times during the day can help with congestion. Using a humidifier and spraying with nasal saline may also help. Other home remedies that may alleviate the nasal congestion from a sinus infection include placing a warm and moist washcloth on the face multiple times during the day and drinking lots of fluids.
The University of Richmond Student Health Center recommends 10 to 12 glasses of fluids a day, which helps thin the mucus. Sinus infection sufferers with nasal congestion should be careful with over-the-counter spray nasal decongestants — MedlinePlus stated that more than three to five days of use can worsen the existing congestion. With sinus pain, over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen, may help.
Medication may be needed for some people with a sinus infection. If the cause is a bacterial infection, an antibiotic may be prescribed. However, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases noted that many cases of acute sinus infections go away without needing antibiotics.