According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, using antibiotics for the common sinus infection provides no benefit versus placebo. This shouldn't be surprising, since a vast majority of sinus infections are viral in nature. Antibiotics fight against bacterial infections and typically do not help viral infections.
However, antibiotics are constantly prescribed for sinus infections. In fact, 1 in 5 adult antibiotic prescriptions in the US are for sinusitis. The over utilization of antibiotics for viral infections adds to the developing problem of antibiotic resistance. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that antibiotic resistance is "one of the world's most pressing health problems."
This new study aims to educate doctors about the ineffectiveness of antibiotics for viral infections. Although many doctors are aware of the abundance of evidence showing antibiotics do not help conditions such as sinusitis, they face pressure from their patients who want relief from symptoms. Doctors need to educate their patients about the true benefits of getting a prescription in these cases and resist the urge to simply prescribe medicine to satisfy the patients' desire.
So, what should a person with a sinus infection do to get relief if antibiotics don't work? The answer...watch and wait. Most uncomplicated sinus infections will clear up within 10 days...with or without an antibiotic!
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