Sinusitis: When antibiotics should be used
The prescription of antibiotics is often the first action to be taken by doctors in the treatment of sinusitis. However, antibiotics are not always effective and should not be used in all cases.
Antibiotics are used to counter bacterial infections of the sinuses. However, if sinusitis is caused by a virus then the use of antibiotics will not be helpful. On the contrary – when the sinusitis is caused by a virus, treatment with antibiotics has no effect and can even cause undesirable side effects.
Diagnosis of the type of sinusitis is difficult
In order to work out if treatment with antibiotics makes sense it is key to identify if the sinus problems are caused by a viral or bacterial infection. In general you can recognise a bacterial infection by the following symptoms:
- Strong and resilient symptoms for longer than 2 weeks
- Yellow nasal secretions
However the symptoms of a sinusitis are not always very clear cut. It is very difficult to solely base a diagnosis on the symptoms or indications on x-rays. When sinusitis is suspected, many doctors tend to prescribe antibiotics. However, studies have shown this is often not necessary.
When do antibiotics help with sinusitis?
When nasal decongestants are ineffective and symptoms like fever and yellow secretions do not recede after 10 days of acute sinusitis, the treatment with antibiotics is indicated. Antibiotics should be taken for several days for an effective therapy, 5-7days are usually recommended.