Antibiotics Don't Help Sinus Infections -- Now What?

kleenix box for sinus infectionIf you're a frequent sinus infection sufferer, it's likely you at times depend on antibiotics to make you feel better -- I know I do! It's not that I drop everything and hightail it to my doctor at the first sign of sniffles; but if I have severe cold-like symptoms that last for days and days, I'll ask him for a prescription (hopefully instead of missing work). But now a new study suggests this line of defense may not be as effective as we assume: It says that antibiotics, specifically amoxicillin, do not fight sinus infections any more effectively than taking an inactive placebo pill.

What? Waaaaa!


Specifically, the study examined data from 166 adults who had acute sinus infections and were randomly assigned to either receive a 10-day course of amoxicillin or a 10-day course of placebo. The results showed that on Day 3, there was no difference between the treatment and placebo group. On Day 7, there was only a small improvement in the treatment group. The conclusion? Amoxicillin does not help you recover faster or reduce symptoms any more effectively.

What's interesting is that I myself typically haven't noticed an improvement in how I'm feeling until days 7, 8, or even 9 of taking an antibiotic for a sinus infection -- and by then I have no idea if it's the actual medication that's behind the improvement or the fact that the infection has run its course. But there is something to be said of the psychosomatic benefits of taking an antibiotic and assuming you'll be feeling better in no time. This study completely ruins that for me.

Of course, long-term implications of this study could be good news for public health: Doctors who may be over-prescribing antibiotics for certain illnesses will have to look for new, more effective treatment options at least in the case of some sinus infections.

But in the short term, though we can certainly use over-the-counter medications to relieve some symptoms such as pain, cough, fever, and congestion, it seems we're totally out of luck in terms of a fast cure.

Do you get sinus infections? How do you get relief?


Image via Robert S. Donovan/Flickr

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