The Difference Between Regular Antibiotics and a Z-Pak for Sinus Infections
According to the CDC, 11.6%, or 28.9 million Americans, suffer from sinus infections. These can cause symptoms such as nasal inflammation, a runny nose, a cough from postnasal drip, congestion, facial pain, and a reduced sense of smell and taste.
What is a Z-Pak?
A Z-Pak is a quick course of the antibiotic azithromycin, which is used to treat bacterial upper respiratory tract infections. It used to be a go-to for sinus infections too. However, doctors now know better, and Z-Paks is no longer recommended for sinus infections. Z-paks can also have side effects, which are usually gastrointestinal.
What are Antibiotics?
Antibiotics are a broad class of medicines that are designed to kill bacteria-causing infections. If you have a sinus infection that lasts more than 7 days, your doctor may prescribe a 5 or 10-day cause of either amoxicillin or amoxicillin combined with potassium clavulanate. These antibiotics work better in the rare case that your sinus infection is caused by bacteria than azithromycin.
However, they have the same side effects. Antibiotic use leads to two problems. The first is that antibiotics will also kill off some of the bacteria you actually need to stay healthy. This is why antibiotics upset your stomach and why you may be told to take probiotics or eat probiotic-enhanced yogurt for a few days after a course of antibiotics.
The second is that over-prescribing antibiotics leads to the development of resistance and makes these medicines less useful in the future.
Most people with a sinus infection will, in fact, get better on their own within a few days. However, the symptoms can make you miserable.
What Can Ease Sinus Infections Symptoms?
If you have a sinus infection, you can try the following:
- Get plenty of rest, as with any other infection your body might be fighting.
- Take an OTC decongestant to help break down the sinus mucus and clean it out.
- If you are experiencing facial pain, take acetaminophen (Tylenol).
- If you have a postnasal drip causing a cough or a sore throat, take OTC throat lozenges or cough drops.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Take a hot, steamy shower. Or hold your head over a bowl of hot (but not boiling) water with a towel over your head. Steam also helps break up the mucus.
- Drink mint tea, which can help clean out your sinuses.
- Eat spicy food. Capsaicin, the chemical that makes spicy food “hot,” stimulates your sinuses and clears out your drainage system. Other spice compounds are helpful such as ginger, garlic, and quercetin, which is the chemical that makes you cry when you chop onions.
Make sure you have tissues handy if you do anything to clean out the mucus, as it will temporarily increase the amount your nose will run.
What if Your Sinus Infection Symptoms Don’t Go Away?
If this is the case, you may be a candidate for a simple procedure called balloon sinuplasty. A small balloon is inserted into your sinuses and slowly inflated to remove the blockage causing your problem, then deflated and removed. This is safe and long-lasting for most people. It is typically covered by insurance. Find out more here.