Why Antibiotics Didn’t Help Your Sinusitis
In one study, it was found that patients who took antibiotics healed at the same rate as patients who took a placebo. In both cases, 40% of patients were symptom free by a week, and the remaining patients’ symptoms resolved by 10 days. Despite these results, antibiotics are consistently prescribed by doctors for sinusitis.
Why Won’t My Sinus Infection Go Away with Antibiotics?
There are few reasons that antibiotics may be ineffective for sinusitis. Antibiotics are only capable of killing bacteria, so inflammation from other sources can’t be managed by them. Sinusitis is often a result of a viral infection like a cold or the flu. Viruses replicate by infecting body cells, which makes killing them much more difficult than bacteria. For better and worse, the immune response is the quickest way to manage these infections. Home remedies and over the counter medications can help make being sick more tolerable, but don’t actively fight the infection.
Sinus inflammation can also be a result of allergies. Allergies are an overactive immune response to something like pollen or dust. In this case there’s no infection to fight, so antibiotics provide no benefit at all. Allergies are best handled by nasal sprays, decongestants, and allergy immunotherapy. Allergy immunotherapy is the best way to prevent allergic sinusitis from becoming a chronic issue. Immunotherapy works by exposing patients to low doses of allergens and reducing the immune response over time.
One scenario that is becoming more common is antibiotic resistant bacteria. Many bacteria that cause respiratory infections are beginning to develop resistances to the most common antibiotics. For example, S. pneumoniae and H. influenzae cause infections that can turn into sinusitis. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to tell when a bacteria is resistant to antibiotics until treatment begins and fails. Luckily, a bacteria resistant to antibiotics isn’t necessarily resistant to the immune response, but leaves you with fewer options to ease your illness. If the infection manages to become too severe you’ll have to rely on a more potent or specialized antibiotic which can have worse side effects. You can learn more about antibiotic resistance and its effects from our infographic here.
Alternative to Antibiotics for Sinus Infections
Our immune system is usually the best line of defense against sinusitis, but there are some things you can do to make pesky symptoms more manageable. Most symptoms can be handled with home remedies or over the counter medicines. Congestion can be reduced with the use of steam or nasal irrigation to help make breathing easier, and nasal sprays can help keep your sinuses moist which also limits congestion. Read more helpful tips about home remedies on our blog here.
These remedies will help short term infections and minor inflammation for a couple of weeks, but if your symptoms aren’t gone by the end of two weeks, you may have a chronic issue. Allergies and infections can cause recurrent inflammation leading to symptoms lasting for months at a time. Treatment for chronic sinusitis is focused on solving the root of the inflammation.
For allergies, this can be through prescription nasal sprays, immunotherapy, and avoiding allergens. Recurrent infections can be treated with different administrations of antibiotics, but treating the infection doesn’t always alleviate inflammation. Deep inflammation can create blockages in the sinuses that prevent proper healing. When this happens, surgery is often required to remove these blockages.
Removing these blockages can be accomplished by cutting away the inflamed tissue, like in an endoscopic sinus surgery. If the inflammation is blocking sinus openings, the tissue can be reshaped instead of cut away using a procedure called balloon sinuplasty. For a more in depth look at these procedures, click here.
When taken in the right situations, antibiotics are a marvel of medicine. It’s important to make sure we understand when it’s right to take them and when we should avoid them. With sinusitis, there’s always a solution, it’s a matter of finding the right one.