Talk about a health breakthrough in the area of sinus infections. For a long time, the best health advice offered was to try a run of antibiotics. But experts now say this is not the right approach. Why? Because the vast majority of sinus infections are caused by viruses — for which antibiotics are useless.
About one in seven people get a sinus infection each year. These are the fifth-leading reason for using antibiotics. But, an incredible 90% to 98% of cases are caused by viruses! These are not affected by antibiotics and, consequently, the use of antibiotics help create drug-resistant “superbugs.” And that is bad for everyone.
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New guidelines have been issued to help doctors tell if a sinus infection is viral or bacterial. In either case, inflammation causes uncomfortable pressure on either side of the nose and lasts for weeks. Many sinus infections are caused by another respiratory infection, as well as allergens. The guidelines mark a big shift toward using amoxicillin-clavulanate as the drug of choice instead of straight amoxicillin to help overcome antibiotic resistance.
Here is how to tell if your sinus infection is caused by bacteria, for which antibiotics would be the right approach:
— Symptoms last for 10 days or more and are not improving
— Symptoms are severe, including fever of 102 or higher, nasal discharge, and facial pain lasting four days in a row
— Symptoms grow worse, with new fever, headache, or increased nasal discharge
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Overall, the guidelines call for a new overall treatment approach to these common infections. First, treatment with antibiotics should be shorter, as in five to seven days — rather than the 10 to 14 days that has long been touted. You should avoid decongestants and antihistamines entirely, regardless of a virus or bacteria causing it. Consider nasal steroids to ease symptoms if you have a history of allergies. Also, experts say “saline irrigation” that comes as a spray or a drop could relieve some symptoms. Overall, they suggest some acetaminophen for sinus pain, saline irrigation, and drinking lots of water.
Know that diving into a regimen of antibiotics might be an ineffective approach for a sinus infection. See what your doctor thinks of this as well.