Sinus Infection? Skip the Antibiotics

Sinus infections do not always need to be treated by antibiotics

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(RxWiki News) If you have a sinus infection, chances are you do not need antibiotics. New Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) guidelines recommend not using antibiotics for most sinus infections.

New IDSA guidelines suggest avoiding antibiotics for sinus infections because most infections are caused by a virus not bacteria. Instead, the IDSA recommends acetaminophen, saline irrigation, and drinking plenty of fluids to combat sinus infection caused by a virus. A bacterial sinus infection should be treated with antibiotics.

"Ask your doctor about ways to treat a sinus infection."

According to the IDSA, nearly one in seven people are diagnosed with a sinus infection each year. Despite being commonly prescribed, antibiotics would be of little use to most people. Between 90 and 98 percent of all sinus infections are caused by a virus which cannot be treated with antibiotics.

The IDSA guidelines panel was led by Anthony W. Chow, M.D., professor emeritus of infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. The 11 member panel featured experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Physicians.

Sinus infection is inflammation in the sinus passages. Symptoms include pain around the eyes and nose, fever and nasal discharge.

Most doctors prescribe antibiotics because there are no easy tests that can distinguish between sinus infection caused by a virus or bacteria, note the IDSA. Antibiotics are prescribed because they may help but chances are they may not do anything for a sinus infection and may do more harm than good.

One possibility of widespread antibiotic use is the creation of new antibiotic-resistant diseases. This could be very problematic in the future because these drug-resistant diseases would be difficult to treat and could lead to worsening symptoms. To prevent this, the IDSA is recommending doctors to use amoxicillin-clavulanate which prevents an enzyme that breaks down the antibiotic. The IDSA recommends against using regular amoxicillin as well as azithromycin, clarithromycin and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole because of increasing drug-resistance.

Antibiotics add to the cost of recovery and sinus infection sufferers may be taking antibiotics with no benefit but be exposed to possible side effects. This could mean more cost out of pocket and additional symptoms aside from a sinus infection.

The IDSA is recommending several ways to tell the difference between a viral and bacterial sinus infection. A sinus infection may be cause by a bacterial infection if symptoms last longer than 10 days, severe symptoms and high fever last for three to four days or if symptoms worsen after several days. Any antibiotic use should be limited to five to seven days in adults and 10 to 14 days in children.

If you have a sinus infection, what should you do? First, drink plenty of fluids. Skip the antihistamines and decongestants because they may actually make symptoms worse. For sinus infection sufferers with a history of allergies, some nasal steroidal sprays may help ease symptoms. Sinus pain should be treated by acetaminophen and nasal irrigation using saline may also relieve some symptoms. 

This report was published by the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Last Updated:
March 22, 2012