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Study: Antibiotics Don't Help Sinus Infections

February 15, 2012, 6:03 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Study: Antibiotics Don't Help Sinus Infections
SIOUX FALLS, SD - When many people suffer from a sinus infection, they go to the doctor and expect to get a prescription for an antibiotic. But a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association says it found antibiotics may not help.

Roughly 20 percent of antibiotic prescriptions written in the U.S. for adults each year are for sinus infections, but they many not be helping.

"There have been several studies published over the last ten years or so showing that antibiotics really don't improve symptoms from sinusitis," Sanford Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Jennifer Hsu said.

In fact, Hsu is part of a group at Sanford working on a set of guidelines for when such medication should be used for respiratory tract infections.

"We're really trying to focus on patients who will benefit the most from antibiotics and really limiting antibiotic prescribing to that group of patients," Hsu said.

Not only do you not always need an antibiotic when you're sick, but it actually can do more harm than good.

"Antibiotics have the harms of individual side effects from the antibiotics, as well as promoting things like diarrhea. We also worry about driving antibiotic resistance from over-prescribing," Dr. Hsu said.

Hsu says a sinus infection should go away after seven to ten days. In the meantime, you can opt for other solutions.

"There are benefits from use of acetaminophen, ibuprofen, decongestants, sinus irrigations," Hsu said.

But Hsu emphasizes if you're not better within seven to ten days, you should visit the doctor.

Hsu says most sinus infections are caused by viruses, but one to two percent are bacterial. Those, too, should go away within seven to ten days without an antibiotic.

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