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Health Team

Sinus Infections Don't Always Need Doctor

Posted December 7, 2007

That stuffy, runny nose feeling that won't go away could be a sinus infection, but new research shows that you might want to think twice before seeing a doctor.

Donna Shearer, a nurse manager at an allergy clinic, is among many with personal experience of how painful sinus infections can slow people down.

"I'm very tired. I have a lot of nasal congestion in and pain in my sinus area here," Shearer said. "I'm feeling miserable today. And I'm getting on a plane to get out of town, and I'm petrified."

Sinus infections often happen 10 to 28 days after a cold. Symptoms may include thick and discolored nasal drainage. Sufferers also feel pressure in their face. Their top teeth might hurt, and their ears feel full.

At times like those, many people go their doctor begging for an antibiotic. Commonly, "Those patients who are getting worse rather than better after a cold are put on 'antis' to treat the bacterial growth in the sinuses," Dr. Rober Fox, an allergist, said.

New research into what sinus treatments worked best, though, suggests that common approach might be off base.

Researchers divided patients into test groups. Some patients received steroid nasal sprays or antibiotics or both. They were compared with patients who toughed it out with no medicine.

"There was no major difference between those who were on antibiotics, inter-nasal steriod sprays versus a sugar pill or saline nasal spray," Fox said.

Patients might get impatient waiting for the body to cure itself, though, so doctors recommend reducing congestion symptoms with an inexpensive nasal wash. Those washes are on drug store shelves, or individuals can make their own with just a quarter tablespoon of salt and 8 ounces of water. It's an alternative to antibiotics – and helps everyone.

Using that alternative to antibiotics can help anyone, doctors say.

"We're creating resistance in the community, that there are superbugs or bacteria that are resistant to the common antibiotics," Fox said.

Patients who have severe sinusitis – documented by CT scans – do require antibiotics and possibly surgical drainage of their sinuses. People with fever, severe facial pain or recurrent sinus infections should contact their doctor.

People with chronic or recurrent sinus infections were not part of the study.

4 Comments

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  • ObamaMustGo aka NCcarguy Dec 9, 2007

    I have had terrible problems in the past, it got so bad that when I did take antibiotics they made me feel worse than the problem I had to begin with, then I discovered the Sinus Irrigator.....I could NOT be without it!!! see alerg.com

  • woodwire Dec 8, 2007

    I also get at least 3 sinus infections a year and I have started something new for treatment. I use a syringe with a 50/50 mixture af peroxide and water, it is not plesant but is very effective. I have had infections in the past that were so bad that if I could I would traded heads with someone! This preventitive measure has helped me lots.

  • room Dec 8, 2007

    I used to get sinus infections a couple times a year. Even discussed getting the sinus surgery done with my doctor. Then I found out about a neti pot. I have been using one now for about 4 years and not one single sinus infection. In fact, many of my coworkers have bought and use one now that they have seen what it has done for me. Do a google search on neti pot and you will find hundreds of sources. It sounds a little gross and takes some getting used to, but it definitely works. Its a lot cheaper then going to the doctor and has to be better for you then antibiotics.

  • LuvLivingInCary Dec 8, 2007

    OK, enough is enough. They say we don't need cough medicines, antibotics for ear infections, and now antibotics for sinus infections.

    Who's running these quackery studies. Maybe they can determine we don't need prostate exams and mamograms next and make everyone feel better.