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

Health Check 11

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

cold & flu, general health, medicine


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Jmsosa Jmsosa

Best way to relieve a sinus infection is to go get them drained. I've never been given a prescription for a sinus infection. I always just take sudafed.

Tommy... TommyAbby

Neti pots to flush out the infection and time.. your body can get rid of a sinus infection on its own even without the neti pot. This isn't new, it's been known for many, many years..


TeganB TeganB

I don't care about me. I never go to the doctor for a sinus infection unless I think it has moved into my chest and it's been there for weeks, or I have immense pain. But what about my toddler? She was congested and had an awful cough since the beginning of January, and because I didn't want her on antibiotics and figured it would go away on its own, I waited until last week to take her. The doctor said she had a sinus infection and prescribed amoxicillin (she's also been eating a lot of yogurt to off-set the anti-biotics) and five days later, her congestion is gone and there is no more cough. 

So now, I still have about three days to go in giving her antibiotics, and I don't know if I should stop because "it's not doing any good anyway" or keep giving it to her because "that's what the doctor says to do."

nv2507 nv2507

I'm actually a little jealous you've been given anything for your sinus infections. I've had one every winter, all winter, since grade school and have NEVER been prescribed anything for them.

I just was introduced to nasal spray, that seems to help a little. Excedrin Sinus too.

Loref... Lorefield

I use the netti-bottle! It does wonders for your sinuses- just make sure to sanitize it and use boiled water. I never did until I heard about the brain eating disease (RARE!) that you can get from some tap water. It might be a one in a million chance, but I like my brain thank you!

Besides that, Mucinex or the generic, and Afrin 12 hour which works wonderfully for about 6-7 hours lol.

puasa... puasaurusrex

My husband gets chronic sinus infections and antibotics have NEVER helped. We assumed he had built up a resistance.

Lovin... LovingKentucky

I have chronic sinus infections and Z-Paks usually knock them out for me, sometimes keflex is also prescribed.

Rami Najjar

Neti pots can really help alleviate symptoms, but I hadn't been sterilizing it between uses:

Marlene Blankenship

I haven't had a sinus infection since I started spraying nose with sterile salt water with a couple drops of original listerine added. That was 20 yrs ago. Also keep crock pot by bed on timer to keep humidity up in bedroom.

Vericima Vericima

Steam with eucalyptus EO, works every time.

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