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Home Care Instructions After Sinus Surgery

You have had sinus surgery and will need to take it easy for a few days as your sinuses heal. Please follow these instructions for the next few days, or until your doctor tells you otherwise.

Prop your head with several pillows when lying down or sleeping. You will have less swelling and will feel more comfortable if you keep your head elevated. Continue this for the first week after surgery.

Avoid strenuous activities (such as heavy lifting) and activities that involve repeated bending over (such as loading a dishwasher). Bending over and strenuous activities put pressure on your nose and sinuses and can cause increased swelling and possibly more bleeding.

Change the gauze drip pad under your nose as needed. Bloody drainage from the nose is common. If the gauze becomes soaked with blood and needs to be changed more often than every 15 minutes, call your doctor. Over the next several days, the bleeding will gradually stop and you will have some drainage of mucus. You do not need to wear a drip pad if you do not have drainage.

Hint: To avoid irritating your cheeks when applying and removing tape from the drip pad, place a 2-inch piece of tape on each cheek as a base. Apply the tape from the drip pad to the tape on your cheek. When you change the drip pad, remove the top piece of tape only. Do not remove the tape from your cheek.

If your doctor recommends it, you may use a saline (salt water) nasal spray three to five times a day, whether or not you have nasal packing. If you do not have packing, a saline nasal spray will help prevent hard scabbing. If you have nasal packing, using saline spray regularly keeps the packing moist. This will help reduce pain when the packing is removed. Saline nasal sprays can be purchased over the counter or made at home. To make a saline solution, boil 1 cup of water and let it cool. Then add 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

Do not blow your nose for five to seven days after surgery, unless your doctor says you may. Do not insert anything into your nose. If you must sneeze, open your mouth and sneeze naturally.

If you have nasal packing, your doctor may remove it several hours after surgery or up to seven days after surgery. Removing the packing is usually uncomfortable. To reduce discomfort, take your prescribed medication for pain an hour before your appointment. You will need someone to drive you to and from your first appointment after surgery, when the packing is removed. You should be able to drive yourself to any other follow-up appointments.

It probably will take a few weeks following surgery to get all your energy back. Take it easy and try not to tire yourself. Try to pamper yourself. Usually you can return to work five to seven days following surgery, but check with your doctor first. You may need a longer recovery period if your job involves strenuous activity or exposure to irritating fumes

Take your pain medication and antibiotics as prescribed (not all patients receive antibiotics after their operations). If your medications cause nausea or other side effects, call your doctor.

If you had a Caldwell-Luc procedure, you will have an incision in your mouth above your canine teeth. You probably will have some numbness in your cheek. Numbness is usually temporary; sensation should return over the next few months.

The tip of your nose and your upper lip and gums may be numb. Sensation may return fully in a few weeks or not for several months.

Your sense of smell will decrease after surgery, especially if you have nasal packing. It may take up to three months for the sense of smell to return. Patients who had little or no sense of smell before surgery may not have any sense of smell after surgery.

It is important to keep your mouth clean. Rinse your mouth with salt water or a nonalcohol mouthwash after each meal and before bedtime. Brush your teeth gently with a toothbrush that has soft bristles. During the first 24 hours after surgery, you may prefer to wipe your teeth gently with a clean, damp washcloth instead of brushing.

Drink plenty of liquids and eat a wellbalanced diet. If you have stitches in your mouth, eat a soft diet and avoid hot foods and liquids until your mouth is more comfortable.

Do not drink alcohol for 10 days after surgery. Alcohol may increase congestion, and it may be harmful if you are taking medication.

Do not smoke for 24 hours after surgery. Then check with your doctor.

When to call the doctor

Call your doctor immediately if any of the following occurs:

  • The drip pad becomes soaked with blood and needs to be changed more often than
    every 15 minutes.
  • You have increased swelling or redness.
  • Your temperature is 100 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
  • You have pain that is not relieved by your medication.
  • Your medication causes nausea or other side effects.

Call your doctor to schedule a follow-up appointment.

If you have an emergency, call the Eye & Ear Emergency Department at (412) 647-2222.

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Medical information made available on is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

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