The Right Way To Treat A Sinus Infection
5 min Read Time
Your head is throbbing, especially around your eyes. You cant stop coughing, and for some reason, your breath is terrible. Blowing your nose is a mess.
Bad news: You could have a sinus infection. Most frequently triggered by the common cold, over 30 million American adults are diagnosed with sinusitis yearly.
So, what exactly are sinus infections? How can you tell if you have one? And holy cow how can you feel better as quickly as possible?
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How Is Watchful Waiting Done
If your doctor believes that you or your child dont need an antibiotic right away, theyll ask you to do the following:
- Closely track symptoms for several days, such as temperature, pain, cough, or runny nose. Note if symptoms worsen, stay the same, or improve.
- Take over-the-counter medications your doctor recommends to help you or your child feel better while waiting. Make sure to rest and drink extra water.
Your doctor will tell you how long to watch and wait. If your symptoms dont improve or if they worsen at the end of the watchful waiting period, call your doctor for further instructions.
Treatments For Sinus Infections Other Than Antibiotics
#1: Saline Nasal Wash
Saline nasal wash can be a great way to thin out the mucous in the sinuses enough to clear out the blockage. I recommend starting this early on in the course of the illness to prevent the infection from worsening.
You can even make this at home using 2 cups of water and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. I would add a 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of baking soda to prevent burning that can occur with use. There are also plenty of over the counter saline nasal sprays that you can purchase. You can use this 4-6 times per day.
Vaporizers are great because they can also thin out the mucous and make you feel a lot better. An easy home remedy, steam is probably the best way to use this treatment. Beware if you are an asthmatic as the steam could cause worsening of the asthma symptoms.
#3: Steroid Nasal Spray
Steroid nasal sprays such as Flonase have been my go to remedy recently and the great news is that they are now over the counter. The general recommendation is to use 1-2 sprays per nostril daily.
But I have found great relief using 2 sprays in each nostril twice daily. At these higher doses it is important to remember that you should use this short term, no more than 5-7 days.
These medications can significantly reduce inflammation allowing the congestion blockage to clear and significantly alleviate symptoms.
Guaifenesin such as Mucinex can certainly break up the mucous, allowing the congestion to clear more quickly.
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When And Why You Might Need An Antibiotic For A Cold
Daniel More, MD, is a board-certified allergist and clinical immunologist with a background in internal medicine.
Any given adult will get a cold at least a couple of times a yearusually in the fall and winter. Kids can get many colds, maybe even half a dozen or more a year. When you get a cold, also known as an upper respiratory tract infection, should you visit your healthcare provider and get antibiotics?
The truth is, antibiotics for respiratory infections arent going to make you feel better sooner, and they might even leave you with side effects that make you feel worse.
Colds are known medically as upper respiratory tract infections because theyre usually limited to the upper half of your respiratory systemthe nose, sinuses, upper throat, larynx, and pharynx. These infections dont, for example, include infections that affect your lungs, like pneumonia.
Upper respiratory tract infections are usually caused by viruses, like rhinovirus, coronavirus, or influenza, though rarely they are caused by bacteria. Bacteria that infect the upper respiratory tract are most often S. pyogenes , or sometimes H influenzae.
Due to the development and routine administration of the H. influenzae vaccine over the past 30 years, the incidence of this infection has dropped substantially.
Antibiotics may be prescribed in a few different situations:
When Do We Need Antibiotics For Sinus Infection
Antibiotics are not needed for many sinus infections, but your doctor can decide if you need an antibiotic. You doctor may recommend antibiotics if:
Most sinus infections usually get better on their own without antibiotics. When antibiotics arent needed, they wont help you, and their side effects could still cause harm. Side effects can range from minor issues, like a rash, to very serious health problems, such as antibiotic-resistant infections and C. diff infection, which causes diarrhea that can lead to severe colon damage and death.
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Dont Be Afraid To Ask Your Doctor Questions
I would encourage parents to always ask the question of their childs doctor, Are you sure this is really absolutely necessary? Is there any chance he or she will get better without an antibiotic? Dr. Mangione-Smith said.
Sometimes, she added, doctors are concerned that if they dont give parents an antibiotic after theyve brought their child in for an evaluation, the parents will be dissatisfied and unhappy and theyre just going to go to urgent care and get the antibiotic from somebody else.
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2018 found that 46 percent of people who visited urgent care centers in 2014 for viral illnesses such as colds, the flu or viral bronchitis were prescribed antibiotics, likely unnecessarily.
Dr. Mangione-Smith, whose research has examined communication between parents, doctors and nurse practitioners at 600 pediatric appointments in Los Angeles and Seattle, found that most parents want advice from their doctors on how to help their child feel better and many are happy to be leaving without an antibiotic.
No parent likes to watch their child suffering or in pain, she said.
How Can I Treat Sinusitis At Home
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Ways To Recognize Serious Signs Of Sinus Infections
The length of the infection is an important determinant of the seriousness of the infection.
I usually consider most infections less than 3 weeks to be viral or inflammation related to congestion. At this point, the best treatment is usually medications that decrease the congestion and inflammation. This in turn will alleviate the symptoms and ultimately cure the illness.
When the illness continues beyond 3 weeks, bacterial infection can begin to develop. Though antibiotics can be considered at this point, other treatments may still be the best answer if they have not yet been given a try.
#2: Mucous Color
I will dispel a myth right here and now. Yellowish/greenish mucous does not necessarily mean the infection is bacterial.
Viruses can cause the same color mucous. The reason for the mucous is generally not the actual bacteria or virus, but the bodys immune response to the intruder.
So dont worry just because you see a colored mucous when you blow your nose. This will also improve as the infection abates.
#3: Sinus Pain
Sinus pain can occur anytime throughout a sinus infection. This is normal and means there is inflammation in the sinuses, as we discussed previously.
However, severe pain, redness over the skin, hardened skin over the sinuses, or even a severe headache are not generally normal and can indicate a bacterial infection.
A fever can be caused by both viruses and bacteria. So how do you differentiate between the two?
Best Antibiotic Treatment For Sinus Infection
Physicians frequently recommend ten to 14 days of amoxicillin or amoxicillin-clavulanate treatment when a person has bacterial sinusitis.
However, amoxicillin is less effective in some areas because of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In these cases, a physician could recommend using another antibiotic when there is no improvement in sinusitis symptoms after a couple of days.
Some alternatives to treat sinusitis include:
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You Probably Dont Need Antibiotics For Sinus Infections Or Sinusitis
If you were wondering whether you needed antibiotics for a sinus infection, heres why antibiotics are rarely the right treatment for chronic sinusitis. According to the CDC, 9 out of 10 sinus infections are caused by viruses, while only 1 out of 10 cases of sinusitis are caused by bacterial infections. Antibiotics can only treat bacterial infections, and therefore an antibiotic treatment will not be effective for most sinus infections caused by chronic sinusitis.
For people with chronic sinusitis, taking antibiotics to clear up as many as four sinus infections a year can have some unintended long term consequences. The more often you take antibiotics for basic illnesses, the worse your body becomes at actually fighting them off. Not only will your sinus infections keep coming back, the effectiveness of antibiotics against other, more serious infections could become compromised.
How To Get Rid Of A Sinus Infection: Try These Methods Today
Sinus infections can really lower your quality of life, especially if they occur often. So if youre looking for how to get rid of a sinus infection, try these methods to see if they work for you.
While surgery can be effective, its also quite invasive. If you live or work in the Scottsdale/Phoenix Metro area, please give the Sinus & Allergy Wellness Center a call today for an appointment to learn more. The Phoenix area specialty sinus clinic offers an alternate method thats both quicker, in-office, less expensive, and more effective. Call 480-567-7098 to learn more about this method of treating sinusitis and see if you are a candidate!
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How Do You Know If You Need Antibiotics For A Sinus Infection
Sinusitis is when the hollow spaces in the bones of your face become inflamed. Your body will normally overcome the cause of inflammation in about 3 weeks without the need for medical treatment.
Sinusitis is a common symptom after colds and the flu. If you have sinusitis, your symptoms will usually get worse after 5 days, or will last for more than 10 days. In some cases, there is an infection in the sinuses caused by bacteria.
See your GP if:
- your symptoms are severe or getting worse
- your symptoms haven’t started to improve after around 7-10 days
- you have frequent episodes of sinusitis
Your doctor may prescribe medicines including regular pain relief, a saline nasal spray or a nasal decongestant. In some cases, your doctor may decide to give you inhaled steroids or an antibiotic. If you often get sinusitis, it could be due to an allergy so they may refer you to an ear, nose and throat specialist.
Tell your doctor if you develop bleeding from the nose, a stiff neck, swelling, or problems with your vision.
When Do I Really Need Antibiotics For A Sinus Infection
When do I really need antibiotics for a sinus infection? is a question many patients have when suffering from bothersome sinus and allergy problems. While sinus infections can be quite painful, antibiotics often do not help in treating the condition.
Sinus infections affect approximately 37 million people in the U.S. each year and can be caused by:
- Nasal polyps or deviated septum causing nasal obstruction
The majority of sinus infections are viral in nature, and antibiotics do not cure viral infections. Taking antibiotics for viral infections also will not:
- Keep you from being contagious to others
- Relieve symptoms or make you feel better
In order to distinguish a bacterial sinus infection from an infection caused by a virus or other contributing factor, your doctor will observe your symptoms and possibly conduct other tests, such as a CT scan or cultures.
Antibiotics are only effective on bacterial infections, and even in cases involving bacteria, the body can often cure itself of mild or moderate infections within a few days.
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How Long Does A Sinus Infection Last Over The Counter
Also, some of my patients spray nasal decongestants, like Afrin. But if used for more than three days, these over-the-counter medicines can cause more sinus swelling. Viral sinusitis should resolve in less than 10 days. But if the sickness is linked to allergies or bacterial infection, symptoms can last longer.
How Is Sinusitis Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider will ask you a lot of questions in order to develop a detailed medical history and find out about your symptoms. They will also do a physical examination. During the exam, your care provider will check your ears, nose and throat for any swelling, draining or blockage. An endoscope may be used to look inside the nose. In some cases, you might be referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist. If you needed an imaging exam, your provider would order a computed tomography scan.
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How To Get Rid Of Sinusitis
If you want to get rid of your sinusitis, you and your ENT will need to work together to discover the source of your sinus infections. For example, your sinusitis might always be precipitated by a cold, or you could have a deviated septum and sinusitis or sinusitis and sleep apnea. Regardless, finding the root cause behind your recurrent or prolonged sinusitis will help determine treatment.
Once the source of your sinus infections is found, you and your ENT will need to discuss treatment options. For those with recurrent sinus issues, one treatment, in particular, has proven itself effective again and again. That treatment option is balloon sinuplasty.
Balloon sinuplasty is a minimally invasive, in-office procedure that takes less than 20 minutes to perform and requires little to no recovery time.
When Does Antibiotic Resistance Occur
Antibiotic resistance occurs in a persons own body and within the community when certain drugs no longer work for a specific type of germ. This can occur when bacteria change in response to exposure to antibiotics so that the antibiotics no longer work efficiently against the bacteria.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to know if a sinus infection is bacterial, viral, or has other causes based on symptoms alone. Because viral sinus infections tend to improve in 5 to 7 days, healthcare providers will usually only prescribe antibiotics if your symptoms go on for longer than this. A sinus infection that persists for longer than a week or continues to get worse during this time period is more likely to be bacterial.
Therefore, allergists and other specialists recommend limiting the use of antibiotics unless:
- Symptoms last over seven to 10 days
- A fever is present
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When To Take Antibioticsand When Other Treatments May Work Better
If youve been knocked out by sinus infection symptomsstuffiness, face pain or pressure, nasal dischargeyour doctor might recommend that you wait it out for a week or so before resorting to an antibiotic. And she or he might be right: Antibiotics are often not necessary for clearing up a sinus infection, according to recent research.
As a result, many health experts, including Zara Patel, M.D., a sinus infection expert and assistant professor of otolaryngology at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., are urging doctors to think twice before prescribing antibiotics for sinus and other respiratory infections.
A 2016 study, published in JAMA, found that people who went to the doctor with a sinus infection were more likely to leave with a prescription for antibiotics than people seeing the doctor for any other reason . But some doctors, pointing to newer evidence, are starting to take a more cautious approach.
For acute sinusitis, there are very well-done studies indicating that antibiotics are not necessary in the vast majority of patients, and most people will be able to clear an infection on their own, Patel says.
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Why You Dont Need Antibiotics For Sinus Infections
If youve been knocked out by a sinus infectionstuffiness, face pain or pressure, and nasal dischargeits likely your doctor will recommend you wait it out for a week or so before resorting to an antibiotic. Thats because U.S. health experts recently called for doctors to think twice before prescribing antibiotics for sinus infections and other respiratory infections.
Sinus infections, or sinusitis, usually stem from a viral infection, not a bacterial oneand antibiotics dont work against viruses. Even when bacteria does cause your sinusitis, it usually clears up on its own without drugs. In a study of 166 adults with acute sinusitis published in the Feb. 15, 2012 issue of JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association,amoxicillin proved no better than a placebo at reducing symptoms after three days.
Not only will taking antibiotics not help you feel better, but also they come with some unpleasant side effects that might leave you feeling worse. Studies suggest that nearly 25 percent of people who take antibiotics experience side effects, such as a rash or, more commonly, diarrhea and stomach problems. The drugs also contribute to the spread of resistant superbugs, which sicken at least 2 million people in the U.S. every year.
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