Sinus infection? New guidelines recommend avoiding antibiotics


Many doctors might give you antibiotics for the infections, but now new guidelines may put a stop to that, and experts say it's for your own good.

Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses that occurs with a viral, bacterial or fungal infection. The cavities around the sinuses become inflamed and swollen, which interferes with drainage and causes mucus to build up.

But while sinus infections account for the fifth-leading reason that doctors prescribe antibiotics, the Infectious Diseases Society of America today says they're advising doctors not to prescribe them for most cases.

"Most people don't necessarily need antibiotics; they need to open their sinuses," said otolaryngologist Dr. Babak Larian, an ear, nose and throat specialist in Beverly Hills.

Experts say 98 percent of sinus infections are caused by viruses, which are not helped by antibiotics. And worse, when used inappropriately, antibiotics foster the development of drug-resistant "superbugs."

Dr. Larian says even when it is bacterial, antibiotics may not help all symptoms.

"You can use antibiotics, but antibiotics in and of themselves don't open the sinus," said Larian. "They just kill the bacteria that's in the fluid."

The new guidelines also say people with sinus infections should avoid decongestants and antihistamines, as they can make things worse.

"The downside of Benadryl and antihistamines during a time when you have mucus buildup is they make the mucus thicker, so it has a harder time getting out of the sinus," said Larian.

Instead, prescription nasal steroids can help ease symptoms. Experts also recommend using saline nasal irrigation for relief. Also, take acetaminophen for sinus pain and drink plenty of fluids.

So if you find yourself leaving the doctor's office without a prescription, don't feel slighted.

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