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Are Antibiotics really justified for Sinusitis Treatment?

By Dr. Kristie

It’s not a pleasant feeling when your sinuses are clogged and your head and face ache. Sinusitis problems can, no doubt, be an uncomfortable experience for those unlucky enough to experience it. Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinus passages usually caused by a virus or bacteria.

Signs and symptoms might be a headache, facial pain, stuffy sinuses, fever, fatigue and lack of energy. When faced with these symptoms, many people visit their doctor who promptly prescribes an antibiotic.

Do antibiotics really work for sinusitis treatment?

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that antibiotics may not be a cure for sinusitis problems after all. It showed that antibiotics were no better than placebo for sinusitis treatment.

This study also looked at intranasal steroids which were also found to be no better than placebo. Several previous studies have also shown antibiotics to be ineffective for the treatment of sinusitis problems.


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The results of this particular study looking at antibiotics for sinusitis treatment may come as a surprise since the subjects in the study had sinus infections deemed to be caused by bacteria. Antibiotics are generally effective for treatment of bacterial infections when the right one is selected, but failed to show an effect for sinusitis in this study.

It’s unclear why antibiotic therapy wasn’t found to be effective. It may be that the bacteria are not as readily accessible to the antibiotic when they are located in the sinus cavities.

There’s also the possibility that the symptoms of sinusitis are predominantly due to the inflammation in the sinus passages rather than directly due to the infection.

Despite the results of this study, most doctors continue to prescribe antibiotics for sinusitis treatment. Unfortunately, antibiotics are not without their side effects including nausea, diarrhea, and an increased risk of yeast infections in women.

Overuse of antibiotics also leads to a greater risk of antibiotic resistance which is a growing problem in the medical world.

Are there other sinusitis treatments that don’t involve the use of antibiotics? Alternative therapies for sinusitis problems include mucolytic medications to help thin the mucous so it can be more easily cleared and the use of warm steam to help open up the sinuses. Saline nasal sprays can also be effective for sinusitis treatment.


Should you take antibiotics for sinusitis treatment? There may be some cases where an antibiotic may be justified as when there’s a high fever or in a person who is immune compromised due to other medical problems. The best course of action would be to ask your doctor if he feels an antibiotic is really needed or if use of steam and a mucolytic might work as well.

About the Author

She is a Medical Doctor with a concentration in Family Practice. She also has an undergraduate degree in both Biology and Psychology and masters in Clinical Pathology.



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Disclaimer: Articles not intended to Diagnose, Treat, Cure or Prevent Diseases!

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