Thursday, February 16, 2012

Give sinus infections time - not antibiotics!

We're staying in France for 6 months and being from Australia it's been the coldest winter we've experienced for over 35 years - but fun! Despite preparing for the trip by having a flu shot, we did succumb to some rogue virus that entrenched itself in my sinuses and trachea causing a chronic post nasal drip, sinus congestion and a productive cough. Luckily my lungs themselves were not affected.

Sinus infections seem to be one of my Achilles heels (I think that the aging process has revealed that I must be genetically related to centipedes as I appear to be developing more and more heels!) and so dealing with it has become more personal with me.

In a recent edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Jay F. Piccirillo, MD, professor of Oto-laryngology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has shown that taking antibiotics for the vast majority of sinus infections makes no difference after 3 days and gives only a tiny advantage at day 7. "Our results show that antibiotics aren't necessary for a basic sinus infection -- most people get better on their own" he reports.

So what can you do to help with sinus infections?

Being sure of the diagnosis is the first thing to do and that means a trip to a Doctor to make sure that's what you're dealing with. There are several paired sinuses in the front of the skull that drain into the nose through narrow openings, and when the lining of the nose becomes thickened and inflamed by viral infections, then these opening become blocked and the contents of the sinus become sealed in and prone to secondary infection. Most commonly people report local pain over the affected sinus as well as a nasal discharge with symptoms lasting from 7 to 28 days. The key to resolving the problem is to open up the sinuses and let the contents drain. This means using nasal decongestants - appropriately for 3 or 4 days - and simple analgesia to relieve the pain. If the swelling is severe, your Doctor may even prescribe a short course of steroids to reduce the inflammation and open up those sinuses.

But don't put pressure on the Doc to give you antibiotics - according to Jane M. Garbutt, MD the papers first author, "We hope this study provides scientific evidence that doctors can use with patients to explain that an antibiotic is not likely to help an acute sinus infection."!

The message is to be patient and the infection will settle down: if you're worried, then talk to the person who knows more than you on the subject, and that's the guy/lady with the stethoscope!
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Homemade Alaska said...

Thanks for posting this! My favorite is the I've had symptoms for one day and it ALWAYS turns into a sinus infection, I just wanted to get antibiotics now to prevent it....

Anonymous said...

Just got over a month long doozie of a sinus infection..all by myself..just keep clearing and it will go away. You may wish you were dead but it won't kill you.

Anonymous said...

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Mariodacatsmom said...

Another timely post. Around here we do sinus rinses with a saline solution. It has helped me and I no longer seem to get the infections. Or maybe it's all been a coincidence.