Talking to Your Doctor About Sinusitis

You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it is essential to talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors and/or experience with sinusitis. By talking openly and regularly with your doctor, you can take an active role in your care.

General Tips for Gathering Information

Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to talk to your doctor:

  • Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and think of questions to ask.
  • Write out your questions ahead of time, so you don't forget them.
  • Write down the answers you get, and make sure you understand what you are hearing. Ask for clarification, if necessary.
  • Don't be afraid to ask your questions or ask where you can find more information about what you are discussing. You have a right to know.

Specific Questions to Ask Your Doctor

About Sinusitis

  • How can I tell if my symptoms are due to a cold, allergies, or sinusitis?
  • Do I need any tests to definitively diagnose sinusitis?
  • If I have sinusitis, am I contagious to other people?

About Your Risk of Developing Sinusitis

  • Do I have a higher risk of developing sinusitis if I smoke?
  • Do any of my other medical conditions or medicines make me more susceptible to sinusitis?
  • What can I do to avoid developing sinusitis while flying, swimming, or climbing in high altitudes?

About Treatment Options

  • Do I need an antibiotic?
  • Can I use a decongestant for comfort?
  • Will an oral decongestant interact with any of the other medicines I take?
  • Could a decongestant cause a problem with any of my other medical conditions?
  • How long is it safe to use a nasal decongestant spray?
  • If I have recurring sinusitis, at what point might you recommend surgery?
  • Am I a candidate for functional endoscopic sinus surgery?
  • What are its potential complications?
  • Are there any alternative or complementary therapies that you recommend?

About Lifestyle Changes

  • Can you give me advice or referrals to programs to help me stop smoking?
  • Are there any other lifestyle changes I can make to improve my immune system’s ability to fight off infection?

About Your Outlook

  • How likely is it that my sinusitis will recur?
  • What kinds of complications of sinusitis should I be on the lookout for?


Acute rhinosinusitis in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated September 12, 2016. Accessed August 15, 2017.
Sinusitis overview. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology website. Available at:
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Accessed August 15, 2017.
Tips for talking to your doctor. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: Updated May 2014. Accessed August 15, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2018 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 12/2/2020

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