For sinus infections, medication no more effective than tissues

 
By Carrie Johnson Weimar O'Brien • Published: May 24th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
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Dealing with congestion, cough, sore throat and a runny nose? Chances are you’ve got a sinus infection, a common — if unpleasant — ailment. For many of us, this means making a call to the doctor to get a prescription for antibiotics, the treatment of choice for battling infections. But here’s a startling fact: You might be better off skipping the meds altogether.

New research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows that the common antibiotic amoxicillin is no better than a placebo in treating the symptoms of sinus infection. Taking an antibiotic also didn’t reduce the number of days patients missed from work or improve patient satisfaction.

Why is this? Well, for starters, most sinus infections are caused by viruses, not bacteria, so antibiotics won’t make a difference. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, even bacterial sinus infections don’t really need antibiotics. In most cases, the infection will go away on its own within two weeks.

For the study, 166 participants with moderate to severe sinus infections were divided into two groups. Half took amoxicillin three times a day while the other half took a placebo on the same schedule. All were given over-the-counter cold medications to relieve symptoms as needed.

By day three, one-third of all the participants from both groups reported feeling better. By day 10, 80 percent said their symptoms had lessened.

Doctors have long suspected that antibiotics are ineffective when it comes to sinus infections. But many physicians have continued to prescribe them because patients expect it. The researchers hope this new study will encourage doctors to tell their patients to take it easy and grab the tissues instead of a prescription the next time a sinus infection hits.