Sinus infections are not pleasant. They often present with a runny nose, cough, pain around the face, fever and generalized fatigue. While some individuals may never develop a sinus infection, there are other unlucky people who tend to develop recurrent episodes of sinusitis.
Sinusitis often makes it difficult to work, breath and sleep. It can even confine one to the home.
Most individuals quickly go to their physician for treatment of the nasal drip and congested nasal passages. For the most part, doctors readily prescribe a variety of antibiotics for sinus infections.
It is estimated that nearly 20 percent of all antibiotics prescribed today are for sinus or ear infections. (3) This represents millions of doses of antibiotics with a cost running into billions of dollars for the consumer.
Now that may all be changing. A new study questions the wisdom of routinely prescribing antibiotic for sinus infections. The latest study suggests that instead of immediately prescribing antibiotics, the doctors should monitor the patient to determine if they develop worsening of the symptoms.
In this study conducted by Dr Jane Garbutt from Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, patients treated with antibiotic for their sinus infections only had a small improvement compared to people who were treated with a placebo (sugar pill).
So what is the explanation for these confounding results?
Dr. Garbutt indicated that in most cases, sinus infections are due to viruses and not bacteria. Since viruses do not respond to antibiotics, there will be no difference in outcome even when one is prescribed these drugs.
It is only the rare patient who may have a bacterial sinus infection but unfortunately the doctor cannot tell by just looking whether it is a viral or bacterial infection. (1)
Based on these observations, doctors are advised to follow the patients and only prescribe antibiotics to patients whose symptoms are getting worse.
In the last three decades there has been great concern that antibiotics are liberally prescribed by physicians.