When To Use Antibiotics To Treat A Sinus Infection
Antibiotics only work against bacterial infections, so the best time to use them for a sinus infection is when you and your doctor suspect bacteria caused the infection.
Otherwise, you may be at risk for unwanted side effects or even antibiotic resistance.
When this happens, bacteria outsmart the medications designed to kill them, and the antibiotics no longer work when you need them.
That said, it can be hard to know whether a sinus infection is viral or bacterial.
Some scenarios, such as an infection that persists longer than 10 days or an infection that goes away and then returns, may indicate a bacterial infection and prompt a provider to prescribe antibiotics.
In some cases, a healthcare provider may also treat a sinus infection with antibiotics as a precaution to prevent complications in people with compromised immune systems that cant easily fight off infections.
If your doctor prescribes antibiotic treatment, follow their instructions.
Take the antibiotics at the same time every day. If you miss a dose, take it when you remember or, if its close to your next dose, wait until then and take one dose.
Do not double up on antibiotics doses.
If you experience unwanted side effects of antibiotics, your sinus infection isnt improving, or you develop new symptoms, contact your healthcare provider, who can help you figure out whats going on.
While sinus infections usually dont cause major medical problems, they can have severe symptoms and other complications.
Do I Still Need To Take Antibiotics For Every Sinus Infection
No. Sinus infections can be treated effectively without antibiotics. if you strictly adhere to the Sinus Survival program which utilizes a proven all-natural solution without the side effects. Sinus Survival followers report feeling better in days, not weeks. Also, with a natural solution, you will not disturb the balance of your gastrointestinal tract. To address bacterial, viral and fungal infections we recommended: Allimed, take 2 with meals 3x a day for 1o days. Also AlliUltra, which is a lower dosage, can be used effectively, especially with a cold. AlliUltra has been shown to shorten the duration of a cold to 1.5 days versus the average cold which can last for over a week.
How Long Do Antibiotics Take To Work On Sinus Infections
Often, sinus infections are treated with antibiotics. However, your doctor will determine the best treatment based on the root cause of your sinus infection. If antibiotics are prescribed, you may want to know how long it will be before you start to experience relief from symptoms.
Read on to find out how sinus infections are diagnosed, when your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, and how long it will take antibiotics to take effect.
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What Respiratory Tract Illnesses Need Antibiotics
While sinusitis rarely requires antibiotic treatment, there are some respiratory diseases that warrant use of antibiotics more often.
Pneumonia is one of them. Especially for young children and older people this lung infection can potentially be life-threatening. Typical symptoms are chest pain, high fever, breathing difficulties and general weakness. In particular, if the patient suffers from shortness of breath and associated blood oxygen depletion, its recommended to seek medical help.
Strep Throat is another respiratory sickness caused by bacteria that sometimes requires the use of antibiotics. Its symptoms include a severe sore throat that is accompanied by high fever and swollen infected lymph nodes . Swollen tonsils that show white spots is another symptom. Strep throat doesnt include coughing or runny noses. So, if you suffer from the latter two, its most likely not strep throat.
When To Call Your Provider
Occasionally, viral infections can set the stage for more complicated bacterial infections. If you experience any of the following, call your healthcare provider:
- High fever
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Coughing up bloody mucus
- Coughing so hard that you throw up
- Feeling worse after 7-10 days of symptoms, especially if you have worsening headache, congestion, or sinus pain
- If you dont start to feel better after 10 days of symptoms
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How Long Should It Take For A Bad Sinus Infection To Go Away
Before we delve into what to do when your sinusitis wont go away, lets figure out whether you have a sinus infection in the first place. The symptoms shared between the common cold, chronic sinusitis, and chronic allergies, are similar making it rather difficult to deduce which culprit is causing your sinus issues.
One major differentiator, however, is time. A cold should go away within a week. If your cold lasts longer than 7-10 days, its likely that your cold has either turned into a bacterial sinus infection, or you actually had a sinus infection from the very beginning. Whatever the case, if your symptoms persist for more than a week, its best to see a doctor.
Once your doctor determines treatment, your sinus infection symptoms should begin to subside within a few days.
Pain Or Pressure In Your Sinuses
Facial pain is a common symptom of sinusitis. You have several different sinuses above and below your eyes, as well as behind your nose. Any of these air-filled cavities can hurt when you have a sinus infection.
Inflammation and swelling can cause your sinuses to ache with dull pressure. This is because inflammation may alter the typical path of mucus from the nose to the back of the throat.
You may feel pain in:
- your forehead
- on either side of your nose
- in your upper jaws and teeth
- between your eyes
This may lead to a headache. Headaches caused by sinus infections can occur where the sinuses are or in other places.
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When Is A Z
Spoiler alert: its not! Because its so easy to use, the Z-Pak used to be a go-to prescription for sinus infections. But it turns out that only a minority of these prescriptions are appropriate because the majority of sinus infections are viral and not bacterial. In fact, studies have found that about a third of antibiotic prescriptions for sinus infections, sore throats, and ear infections arent even necessary. Overprescribing antibiotics increases the chance that bacteria will become resistant to them and disrupt the gut bacterial flora for months. Indeed, azithromycin is no longer recommended for bacterial sinus infections due to the risk of resistance.
If you have a sinus infection, expect to feel lousy for several days. After all, your body is waging war against an infection. You might experience:
A runny nose
A sore throat
Youre also likely to feel more tired and achy and maybe even experience a low-grade fever. Most people improve within a week, but symptoms can last up to 2 weeks. Coughs can linger for a week after that.
Treating a sinus infection boils down to whether its viral or bacterial. Colds, for example, are viral. And antibiotics like the Z-Pak are not effective against viral infections. In fact, viral sinus infections have no cure. Treatment is aimed at managing symptoms and includes:
If you still dont feel better, your healthcare provider may suggest nasal or lung inhalers for other symptoms.
But Sometimes Antibiotics For Sinus Infections Are Needed
So how does one judge when it is appropriate to prescribe antibiotics for a sinus infection? There are several sets of official guidelines, which are all similar. When a patient has thick, colorful nasal discharge and/or facial pressure or pain for at least 10 days, they meet criteria for antibiotic treatment. If a patient has had those symptoms, but the symptoms seemed to start improving and then got worse again, then even if its been less than 10 days, they meet criteria for antibiotic treatment.
The authors, however, also suggest that doctors discuss watchful waiting with patients and explain that most sinus infections clear up on their own in one to two weeks, and its a safe option to hold off on antibiotics. The symptoms can then be treated with a cocktail of over-the-counter medications and supportive care, like nasal saline irrigation, nasal steroid sprays, decongestants, and pain medications.
Of course, many patients expect and demand antibiotics for sinus infections, and even those who are open to watchful waiting may hear about the rare but possible complications of things like, oh, brain abscess, and opt to treat.
In the case of my patient above, she met criteria for treatment. She weighed the watchful waiting option against the potential risks of antibiotics for her sinus infection, and chose the prescription. I can tell you from very close follow-up that she improved quickly, though in truth, we will never really know if she would have gotten better anyway.
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Caveats: Refer Seriously Ill Patients And Complicated Cases
A very important caveat to our recommendation is that seriously ill patients must be managed differently. Very infrequently a patient develops a serious complication of acute sinusitis such as brain abscess, periorbital cellulitis, or meningitis. Therefore, seriously ill patients with signs and symptoms of acute bacterial sinusitis, such as high fever, periorbital erythema or edema, severe headache, or intense facial pain must be carefully evaluated and treated with great caution and close follow-up. These patients should be referred immediately for consultation with an otolaryngologist.
Untreated Sinus Infection Risks
Sinus infections often start to improve on their own after about 10 days. If your symptoms last longer without improving or if they worsen, a doctor may need to treat the underlying cause of the infection.
If a sinus infection affects a sinus cavity close to the brain, it can spread to the brain if left untreated. Though rare, an infection can also pass into the eye socket and cause vision changes or blindness. These types of infections are more common in kids.
While uncommon, a serious fungal sinus infection left untreated may pass into the bones.
Make an appointment with a doctor if you have severe symptoms, or if the following symptoms last longer than 10 days or keep coming back:
- facial pain
Because the cause of your sinus infection can affect your treatment options, its important to see a doctor for a diagnosis. The Healthline FindCare tool can provide options in your area if youre looking for a doctor.
If you believe you have chronic or recurring sinusitis, consider asking for a referral to an otolaryngologist, also known as an ear, nose, and throat specialist. You may need imaging and other tests to determine the cause of your symptoms.
An ENT specialist can take a culture of nose drainage to better understand the cause of an infection. The ENT specialist can also examine the sinuses more closely and look for any problem in the structure of the nasal passages that could lead to chronic sinus problems.
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Sinus Infection Treatment Timeline With Antibiotics
Our sinuses are hard to reach, so it can be two to three days before antibiotic treatment begins to take effect.
It is critical to continue the whole course of antibiotics, even if you start to feel better. If you dont finish the whole course, your body could begin to build a resistance to those antibiotics. This makes future treatment more difficult.
Sometimes, patients experience negative side effects while taking antibiotics. If you experience rash, hives or have difficulty breathing while taking antibiotics, call your doctor immediately. You may be experiencing an allergic reaction. In older adults, some types of antibiotics may cause inflammation in tendons.
In addition to clearing your sinuses of infection, antibiotics also work in other parts of your body, particularly the gut. This could cause diarrhea, so you may want to take a probiotic as well.
What You Need To Know About Sinus Infections
As the fall months approach, the potential for seasonal allergies, runny noses and sinus infections increases.
Sinus infections happen when fluid builds up in the air-filled pockets in the face. This allows germs to grow. Viruses cause most sinus infections, but bacteria can also be the culprit.
When people say they have sinus pressure, they may mean nasal congestion, Grayson said. Bilateral congestion could mean a person has a viral infection or an allergic reaction. Viral infections dont pick and choose a side.
Grayson adds that people who live in more humid climates like the South tend to suffer more from seasonal allergies because the humidity allows more fungus to grow, and long growing seasons allow for other trees, grasses and weeds. Living in cities can also affect people with allergies due to dust mites.
If your sinus pressure is isolated, you might have a bacterial infection, she said. Thats when you really should go see a doctor. With a virus, you just have to let it run its course.
Some people do get repetitive events, and people who work with small children, such as teachers or day care workers, are more likely to get recurrent viral infections.
Jessica Grayson, M.D.That pesky flu
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Challenges To Implementation: The Patient Who Wants A Pill
Some patients may be accustomed to receiving an antibiotic prescription for their sinus infections and may resist conservative management. It may be difficult to convince them that antibiotics wont make a difference when they attribute past resolution of symptoms to antibiotics.
Take enough time to educate your patients on the natural course of illness, the positive benefits of nasal saline, and the reasons not to use unnecessary antibiotics this effort will save you time in future visits. A just in case you dont get better prescription to be filled only if the patient is not improving in the next few days is about 50% effective in reducing antibiotic usage for upper respiratory infections.
Most Sinus Infections Dont Require Antibiotics
Ah, . The New England Journal of Medicine published a clinical practice review of acute sinus infections in adults, that is, sinus infections of up to four weeks. The need for an updated review was likely spurred by the disconcerting fact that while the vast majority of acute sinus infections will improve or even clear on their own without antibiotics within one to two weeks, most end up being treated with antibiotics.
It is this discrepancy that has clinical researchers and public health folks jumping up and down in alarm, because more unnecessary prescriptions for antibiotics mean more side effects and higher bacterial resistance rates. But on the other hand, while 85% of sinus infections improve or clear on their own, theres the 15% that do not. Potential complications are rare, but serious, and include brain infections, even abscesses.
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K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
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Antibiotics Are Not A Good First Choice For Sinus Infections
People often are quick to ask their doctor for an antibiotic prescription when they suffer from a bad flu or sinus infection. These infections can be annoying, with congested noses, headaches, pain all across the face and never-ending mucus. People just want to make the pain and discomfort go away and get on with their lives. Thats understandable, but antibiotics most likely wont better their situation, as has been shown in countless studies. This is because sinusitis, like most infections of the upper respiratory tract, are caused by viruses, not bacteria. And antibiotics only go after bacteria.
Actually, taking antibiotics can make you feel sicker, since your body is already weakened by the viral infection and now you expose it to the stress of antibiotics side effects. All antibiotics have side effects, so they should only be taken when it makes medical sense, such as when treating a bacterial infection.
More generally, you want to keep your antibiotics use at a minimum. Because the more you use antibiotics, the more likely you are to get ill in the upper respiratory tract in the future, as the antibiotics not just kill bad bacteria but also the good bacteria in your body that help protect your health.
It, therefore, is recommended not to immediately treat every sinus infections with antibiotics, but preserve them as heavy ammunition for the most severe cases.
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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.