If you’ve been dealing with the symptoms of sinusitis for weeks or even months, it’s likely that you want to do something, anything, to get rid of your symptoms. A considerable number of people ask their doctor for antibiotics to help treat the symptoms of a sinus infection and to speed up the healing process. According to the CDC, 47 million prescriptions are written each year for antibiotics that patients don’t actually need.
Although antibiotics can help in some cases, they aren’t always the right option for a sinus infection. In fact, in some instances, antibiotics can do more harm than good. When people take medication that is meant to kill bacteria for a problem that isn’t caused by bacteria, they are helping the number of so-called super bugs, or bacteria that can resist medicine, thrive.
Learning more about the causes of sinus infections and what you can do to ease discomfort will help you avoid unnecessarily asking your doctor for antibiotics the next time you feel unwell.
Not All Sinus Infections Are the Same
The major reason why antibiotics don’t always help sinus infections is because not all sinus infections are caused by bacteria. In fact, the majority of sinus infections are viral. Others are caused by fungi or allergies.
Along with having different causes, there are different types of sinusitis. Acute sinus infections start suddenly, usually after a cold. Symptoms include facial pain and congestion. Usually, the infection clears up after a few weeks.
Chronic sinus infections last for a lot longer, usually at least 12 weeks. In some instances, a person might have symptoms on and off for weeks on end for a number of years. While a cold or allergies can trigger chronic sinusitis, it’s also often linked to an issue with the structure of the nasal passages. For example, a nasal polyp or an enlarged turbinate can increase a person’s risk for developing chronic sinusitis.
It can be difficult to tell what the cause of your sinusitis is without a medical exam. To see if your infection is caused by bacteria or a virus, your doctor might swab your nose and run some tests to determine the source of the infection.
Antibiotics Only Treat Bacteria
The key thing to remember about antibiotics is that they only kill bacteria. If your doctor determines that your infection is caused by a virus, fungus or something else that isn’t bacteria, antibiotics won’t do anything for you.
Along with not doing anything to treat the infection, taking antibiotics when you don’t need to increases your risk for side effects. The medication will also not help you feel better and won’t make the sinusitis any less infectious, unless it’s actually caused by bacteria.
How to Cope With a Viral Infection
While you want to avoid taking antibiotics to treat a viral sinus infection, you’re not out of luck when it comes to getting relief. Most viral infections run their course and clear up within a few weeks. During that time, you can try using decongestants, pain relievers and saline nasal sprays to help ease any pain and pressure you’re experiencing. Getting plenty of rest and drinking a lot of fluids can also help you feel better.
How to Cope With Other Types of Sinusitis
If your sinusitis is connected to allergies, getting the allergies under control can help reduce your symptoms. For some people, avoiding the source of the allergen can be enough to help reduce any ongoing sinus issues. For others, taking antihistamines might be the best option for coping with allergies. If your allergies are severe enough to interfere with your life, immunotherapy might be your best option for coping with them.
Patients who have chronic sinusitis might find that their best option is surgery. Sinus surgery can help reduce symptoms, make it easier for you to breathe, and reduce the number of infections you get.
ABOUT DR. RUBINSTEIN
Dr. Rubinstein has nearly sixteen years of experience in helping patients with sinus issues, including chronic sinusitis, in the Hudson Valley. A board certified facial plastic surgeon and board certified otolaryngologist, he has extensive knowledge of laser procedures, facial plastic surgery, and nasal and sinus treatments, which allows him to improve aesthetics as well as functionality of the nose and facial features. Dr. Rubinstein received his board certifications through the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. To learn more about your treatment options for sinusitis, schedule an appointment with Dr. Rubinstein at the Hudson Valley Sinus Center by calling 845-562-6673.