Sinus Infections: To Treat or Not to Treat?

With as brutal of a winter as the country has faced this year, including snow and freezing temperatures even in the Deep South, sinus infections are running rampant. With many who are unaccustomed to cold-related illnesses, sinus ailments can be more than a nuisance; they can be crippling. Many are running to doctors for treatment, but the question remains: Is treating such an infection always the best thing?

Sinusitis

Also called sinusitis, sinus infections occur when the lining of the air passages in the nose become inflamed and swell up. This blocks the air passages and creates a backup of mucus. Symptoms include congestion, runny nose, coughing, face-aches and headaches, pressure around the nose and fatigue, similar to a bad head cold.

In most cases, sinusitis is viral and treatments focus on controlling symptoms. This includes the use of expectorants, decongestants, analgesics and spray or irrigation treatments. For viral sinusitis, antibiotics are not effective and taking them could do more harm than good. Generally speaking, a viral case of sinusitis lasts up to ten days.

Bacterial Sinusitis

In some cases, bacterial infections can cause or exacerbate a case of sinusitis. In such cases, there is often more pain or discomfort, and the infection is accompanied by a low-grade fever. These cases can last more than ten days. In cases of acute bacterial sinus infections, doctors often prescribe a course of antibiotics along with the symptom-targeting treatments. Antibiotics are usually taken for up to ten days

Curing Sinus Infections

A sinus infection is considered cured when the sinuses open up and are no longer swollen or inflamed. This clears the nasal passages for air and restores normal drainage. Any viruses, bacteria or other pathogens are killed and the symptoms clear up entirely.

To Treat or Not to Treat?

The question of whether or not to treat a case of sinusitis depends largely on whether a virus or bacteria is the underlying cause. Prescribing antibiotics for a viral infection is never helpful and can, in fact, be harmful by causing the patient to build up a resistance to antibiotics when they may actually be needed. In such cases it is best to simply attack and control the symptoms of the illness, drink plenty of fluids, rest and wait for it to clear up.

In cases of bacterial sinusitis, on the other hand, antibiotics may be necessary to stop the illness. A five-or ten-day course of medications such as amoxicillin, Augmentin, cephalosporin, Bactrim, azithromycin or similar drugs can make all the difference. As with any course of antibiotics, make sure that you follow your doctor’s instructions explicitly and take the entire course, even if you feel better and there is still medicine left. Failing to take all of your antibiotics can result in a recurrent strain of the bacteria which is resistant to treatment

If you are prone to sinusitis, or would like more information about symptoms and treatment, we are here to help. Give us a call today!

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