When To Use And Avoid Antibiotics And Other Treatments To Try
A sinus infection can be treated with antibiotics when it is caused by bacteria. Sinus infections that have other causes, such as allergies or viruses, won’t benefit from antibiotics.
Most sinus infections don’t need antibiotics and will start to get better without treatment. Healthcare providers typically only prescribe antibiotics for sinus infections that don’t clear up on their own.
This article looks at what types of sinus infections can be treated with antibiotics. It also discusses over-the-counter treatments and home remedies.
Sinus Infection Home Remedies Recommended By A Doctor
Philip Scolaro, MD
You probably dont give too much thought to your ability to breathe through your nose until you wake up with a sinus infection and that ability is gone!
Sinus infections, sometimes called acute sinusitis, can steal your joy pretty quickly.
A lot of viruses start with nasal symptoms. If you have a scratchy throat, congestion, and a runny nose, youve probably got a virus on your hands.
But Sometimes Antibiotics For Sinus Infections Are Needed
So how does one judge when it is appropriate to prescribe antibiotics for a sinus infection? There are several sets of official guidelines, which are all similar. When a patient has thick, colorful nasal discharge and/or facial pressure or pain for at least 10 days, they meet criteria for antibiotic treatment. If a patient has had those symptoms, but the symptoms seemed to start improving and then got worse again, then even if its been less than 10 days, they meet criteria for antibiotic treatment.
The authors, however, also suggest that doctors discuss watchful waiting with patients and explain that most sinus infections clear up on their own in one to two weeks, and its a safe option to hold off on antibiotics. The symptoms can then be treated with a cocktail of over-the-counter medications and supportive care, like nasal saline irrigation, nasal steroid sprays, decongestants, and pain medications.
Of course, many patients expect and demand antibiotics for sinus infections, and even those who are open to watchful waiting may hear about the rare but possible complications of things like, oh, brain abscess, and opt to treat.
In the case of my patient above, she met criteria for treatment. She weighed the watchful waiting option against the potential risks of antibiotics for her sinus infection, and chose the prescription. I can tell you from very close follow-up that she improved quickly, though in truth, we will never really know if she would have gotten better anyway.
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When Should You Use Antibiotics
You usually need an antibiotic when you have an infection that is caused by bacteria, and the infection is not going away on its own. This may be the case when:
- Your symptoms last more than 10 days.
- Your symptoms start to get better, but then get worse again.
- Your symptoms are very severe. You should get immediate treatment if:
- You have severe pain and tenderness in the area around your nose and eyes.
- You have signs of a skin infectionsuch as a hot, red rash that spreads quickly.
- You have a fever over 102°F.
Antibiotic Treatment For Bacterial Sinusitis
Antibiotic treatment is usually only needed if the infection does not improve within 7-10 days, the person has another medical condition which may affect recovery, or if:
- Severe pain is present
- Swelling at the front of the head, cheeks or around the eyes occurs
- Nasal discharge contains blood
- High fever is present
These are indications that the bacterial infection is severe. Antibiotic treatment is usually prescribed for about 10 days, but shorter courses may be as effective, depending on the bacteria involved. The choice of which antibiotic to use will be based on which bacteria the treating physician thinks are likely to be involved in the infection.
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When Should I Go See The Doctor About A Sinus Infection
It is pretty easy to care for most sinus conditions on your own. However, if you continue to have symptoms that concern you or if your infections continue to happen, your primary care doctor might suggest you see a specialist. This could also happen if your CT scan shows something that does not look right.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Sinusitis, or swelling of the tissues of the sinus cavities, is a common condition with many causes, including viruses and bacteria, nasal polyps or allergies. Signs and symptoms may including facial pressure, fever and tiredness. You can treat symptoms at home by resting, taking over-the-counter products and increasing your fluid intake. Make sure you contact your healthcare provider if symptoms do not improve, if sinusitis happens often or if you have any symptom that worries you.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/04/2020.
How Long A Sinus Infection Lasts
While the symptoms youre experiencing wont necessarily help you determine the cause of your infection, the duration of the sinusitis can provide some clues. Often, viral infections dont last that long. If your sinus infection lasts for about a week, its usually due to a virus.
Bacterial sinus infections, on the other hand, can persist for some time. They usually last for 10 days or longer. While viral infections usually start to get better after a few days, bacterial infections tend to get worse over time. Bacteria are usually responsible for cases of chronic sinusitis.
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When Antibiotics Are In Order
The main reason to prescribe antibiotics is for patient comfort, Dr. Sindwani says. The medical field used to be more convinced than it is today than untreated sinusitis would inevitably become a chronic issue, he says.
We dont think that way as much, he says. We dont know that an untreated acute sinusitis, if left untreated, will grumble along and cause people to have a chronic sinus infection.
Some people think thats two separate things, with chronic sinusitis more likely due to underlying issues like allergies or immune problems.
Will My Sinus Infection Clear Up On Its Own
Topics in this Post
The first few weeks of the common cold aren’ fun, but the acute sinusitis that can develop afterwards doesn’t help either. Unfortunately, sinus congestion and the common cold go hand in hand. Acute sinusitis frequently is caused by the common cold, but also can be caused by allergies and bacterial and fungal infections.
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What Tests Diagnose The Cause Of Sinus Infections And Sinusitis
Sinus infection is most often diagnosed based on the history and examination of a doctor. Because plain X-ray studies of the sinuses may be misleading and procedures such as CT and MRI scans, which are much more sensitive in their ability to diagnose a sinus infection, are so expensive and not available in most doctors offices, most sinus infections are initially diagnosed and treated based on clinical findings on examination. These physical findings may include:
- redness and swelling of the nasal passages,
- purulent drainage from the nasal passages ,
- tenderness to percussion over the cheeks or forehead region of the sinuses, and
- swelling about the eyes and cheeks.
Occasionally, nasal secretions are examined for secreted cells that may help differentiate between infectious and allergic sinusitis. Infectious sinusitis may show specialized cells of infection while allergic sinusitis may show specialized white blood cells of allergy . Physicians prescribe antibiotics if the bacterial infection is suspected. Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections many physicians then treat the symptoms.
In addition, both rigid and flexible endoscopy has been used to obtain diagnostic material from sinuses. These procedures are usually done by an otolaryngologist under topical and local anesthesia. Occasionally, there may be a need to sedate the patient. Some investigators suggest that endoscopy specimens are comparable to those obtained by needle puncture.
Yoga Can Help Drain Mucus From Sinus Passageways
If you are in the midst of a sinus infection, a supported yoga pose where your head is elevated will help you feel better without putting too much pressure on your sinuses, says Leslie Kazadi, a certified yoga therapist who teaches around Los Angeles and online at YogisAnonymous.com.
One pose Kazadi suggests is Supported Reclined Cobblers Pose.
How to Try Supported Reclined Cobblers Yoga Pose
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How To Get Rid Of A Sinus Infection Without Antibiotics
This article was medically reviewed by . Dr. Litza is a board certified Family Medicine Physician in Wisconsin. She is a practicing Physician and taught as a Clinical Professor for 13 years, after receiving her MD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health in 1998.There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 75,464 times.
Sinusitis is an inflammation of paranasal sinuses most commonly due to an infection, underlying allergy or various autoimmune processes. The sinuses are small cavities in the skull that are normally filled with air. Sinusitis is an inflammation of the tissue that lines these cavities. In some cases, the swelling of this tissue blocks off the entry of the sinuses, trapping mucus and air inside them. This can cause pain in the cheeks, runny nose, and headache over the forehead region sometimes, it may lead to a secondary bacterial infection. Acute sinusitis resolves in 4 weeks whereas chronic sinusitis goes beyond 12 weeks and may keep on recurring for years. However, in most cases, sinusitis can be easily treated even without antibiotics.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Sinus Infection
So if youve ever had a sinus infection before, you know they feel pretty miserable: The more common symptoms are nasal congestion, discolored mucous from the nose, post nasal drainage, facial pain, facial pressure, decreased smell and taste, says Dr. Duyka. Some patients also experience ear pain, upper tooth pain, sore throat, bad breath, and/or cough.
But heres some quick advice: That whole thing about the color of your snot telling you whether or not you have a bacterial or viral infection? Thats a myth, Donald Ford, MD, a family medicine physician at the Cleveland Clinic, tells Health. The green-yellow color of mucus that can develop is a byproduct of our own white blood cells, which we use to fight any kind of infection, viral or bacterial, so we cant tell the cause from the color of the mucus, she says. When mucus is thick and dark it usually suggests some mild dehydration, and you should increase fluid intake and use lots of saline spray to keep the mucus thin.
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How To Prevent A Sinus Infection
Prevention is really the key, she said. Staying healthy by drinking plenty of fluids, getting adequate rest, decreasing stress and washing your hands are all good preventive steps.
Make sure you get recommended vaccines such as the flu vaccine. Also, dont smoke and avoid secondhand smoke. And avoid close contract with others who have colds or other upper respiratory infections, Melinda said.
What Happens When A Sinus Infection Goes Untreated
Although it may seem like it, your sinuses are not just contributing to your infections. They have many other functions like regulating air temperature, producing mucus to fight infections, and assist in communication. The sinuses are very important to your overall health and contribute to many different bodily functions.
Many sufferers are able to let their body clear up the infection on its own. They can suffer through their symptoms for a few days or even a week with only over-the-counter medication and feel better fairly soon. When sinus infections wonât seem to go away or continue to return, there may be a more serious problem going on. These particularly painful infections are known as chronic sinusitis and they need more attention and care than just over-the-counter medications.
Frequent sinus infections have been known to take a toll on all aspects of sufferersâ lives. When headaches, congestion, fatigue, facial pain, bad breath and much more continue, it can contribute to other serious issues such as:
- Relationship problems
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When Do I Need Antibiotics For Sinus Infection
- Oyewale Oyelami
Do I need antibiotics for sinus infection? Using antibiotics to treat a sinus infection depends on what caused the infection- a virus or a bacterium. Doctors wont prescribe an antibiotic if your sinus infection starts because of a virus. So lets dive into this a bit more.
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Can Sinus Infections Or Sinusitis Be Prevented
Currently, there are no vaccines designed specifically against infectious sinusitis or sinus infections. However, there are vaccines against viruses and bacteria that may cause some infectious sinusitis. Vaccination against pathogens known to cause infectious sinusitis may indirectly reduce or prevent the chance of getting the disease however, no specific studies support this assumption. Fungal vaccines against sinusitis are not available, currently.
If you are prone to recurrent bouts of a yearly sinus infection it may be important to consider allergy testing to see if this is the underlying cause of the recurring problem. Treatment of the allergy may prevent secondary bacterial sinus infections. In addition, sinus infections may be due to other problems such as nasal polyps, tumors, or diseases that obstruct normal mucus flow. Treatment of these underlying causes may prevent recurrent sinus infections.
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Treating A Viral Or Bacterial Sinus Infection
How you treat a sinus infection depends on whether bacteria or a virus is to blame. In the case of a viral infection, your surgeon or doctor is likely to recommend a wait and see approach, since there is no type of medicine that will kill the virus and speed up healing.
While you do have to wait for a virus to clear up on its own, there are some things you can do to make yourself more comfortable in the meantime. Your surgeon might recommend using a saline rinse in your nostrils to help clear away mucus and debris. Pain relievers can also reduce any discomfort youre experiencing due to headaches or facial pain. A pain reliever can also help lower a fever.
Medicine is available to treat a bacterial sinus infection. If your surgeon determines that bacteria is the source of your infection, he might prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria and speed up healing. Depending on the type of bacteria thats causing the infection, you might need to take antibiotics for just a few days or for a few weeks.
Theres one thing thats important to understand about antibiotics: They wont help viral infections at all. In fact, they might make things worse. While they wont exacerbate the infection, antibiotics can cause some unpleasant side effects. They can also lead to antibiotic resistance, making future bacterial infections more difficult to treat. Its important only to take antibiotics if your doctor prescribes them.
Sinusitis Wont Go Away Consider Balloon Sinuplasty
Whether this is your first bout with sinusitis that wont go away or you experience sinus infections on a regular basis, you should know that getting rid of sinusitis is well within reach.
At Sinus Solutions of South Florida, Dr. Napoleon G. Bequer has provided hundreds of patients with relief from chronic sinusitis using the balloon sinuplasty procedure. So if you have sinusitis that wont go away, contact us online, call us at 561-790-7744, or take our sinus quiz today to see if youre a viable candidate for balloon sinuplasty.
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Tips For Treating Chronic Sinus Infections
No matter the season, having a cold is never convenient. Its even worse when your cold turns into a sinus infection. A sinus infection will stick around long after symptoms of an upper respiratory infection are gone. You might even know its a sinus infection because you get sinus infections frequently. Perhaps your doctor diagnosed your sinus infection after you just couldnt seem to get better. After all, since almost 30 million Americans suffer from sinusitis, your doctor likely treats them a lot.
The question is, when do you need to see a specialist? If your sinus infection just isnt going away, or if you seem to get recurrent sinus infections, it may be time to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist.
How To Treat A Uti Without Antibiotics
Most urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria and can be treated with antibiotics. However, research has found that in many cases, uncomplicated UTIs are able to resolve on their own without antibiotic use.
Causes Of The Common Cold Covid
The common cold and COVID-19 are both caused by different viruses. The virus that causes the cold affects the upper respiratory tract, while the novel coronavirus can affect both the upper and lower respiratory tract.
A sinus infection is caused when your sinuses get blocked and fill with fluid, allowing bacteria to grow. The blockage can be due to allergies, nasal polyps, a deviated septum, or a virus like the cold. The infection can cause swelling or inflammation in the sinuses. This can cause several symptoms, many of which are similar to that of a cold.