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Study: Antibiotics don't help with sinusitis?

February 14, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The pain and pressure of a sinus infection can be debilitating. People who suffer from them will tell you their main objective is getting relief, and getting it quickly.

What's the best way to get relief from sinusitis? It may not be what you think. In the U.S., one out of every five patients with sinusitis is given an antibiotic.

Sometimes patients ask for them, sometimes doctors just prescribe them hoping they'll work. Now a new study shows a common antibiotic may not offer any real benefits.

At one time or another almost everyone visits their physician's office with a bout of acute sinusitis. The condition begins with inflammation in the airways around the nose, eyes and forehead, and then the sinus passages get infected.

"The inflammation causes pain, pressure, discharge. The most likely cause of the sinusitis is viral," said Dr. Jay Piccirillo, Washington University School of Medicine.

Most cases of sinusitis last about 10 days. However, many patients hoping for more immediate relief are treated with antibiotics, such as amoxicillin.

"It's among the most widely prescribed antibiotics for a variety of infections," said Piccirillo.

In a study provided by the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial including patients from the local community. All were diagnosed with acute sinusitis.

Eighty-five patients received a 10-day course of amoxicillin and treatment for symptoms; 81 patients got treatment only.

"We had expected that the use of antibiotics would get patients feeling better quicker, and that's just not what we found. At day three the patients with antibiotics had no better resolution of their symptoms than the patients who didn't have antibiotics," said Piccirillo.

One patient said hot showers with steam and eucalyptus oil seemed to lessen symptoms.

Researchers also mentioned antibiotic use didn't shorten the duration of symptoms nor did it prevent relapses.