Sinus Problems: It’s Usually Best to Watch and Wait Rather Than Reach for an Antibiotic, From the November 2015 Harvard Men's Health Watch

Share Article

Sinusitis is inflammation of the sinus passages, producing a stuffy head and pain. Antibiotics are usually not effective. Try to use saline rises, decongestants, and pain relievers to ease symptoms until the body heals itself.

Everybody thinks of antibiotics as the magic cure-all, but the vast majority of people will get better without ever having to consider an antibiotic

The sinuses (the hollow spaces behind the nose) are prone to infection by various microorganisms. In a sinus infection, also called sinusitis, the sensitive lining of the sinuses swells up and gushes mucus, triggering nasal stuffiness, a runny nose, and facial pain. Once upon a time, sinus sufferers headed straight to a doctor to get an antibiotic, but we now know this is usually a waste of time. Most cases of sinusitis are associated with viral infections, which are bulletproof to antibiotics.

Taking simple steps to ease symptoms while the body clears the infection makes the most sense, according to the November 2015 issue of Harvard Men's Health Watch. “Everybody thinks of antibiotics as the magic cure-all, but the vast majority of people will get better without ever having to consider an antibiotic,” says Dr. Jeffrey Linder, a primary care physician and associate professor of medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Basic self-care steps to soothe symptoms include:

  • saline (salt water) rinses, using either a neti pot or prepackaged saline nasal sprays
  • decongestants, either in nasal spray or pill form
  • pain relievers — any kind is fine, but nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), or aspirin will ease inflammation in addition to pain.

“If you have been doing all the right things for 10 days and you’re not getting better, then it’s totally reasonable to call your doctor and ask about an antibiotic,” Dr. Linder says.

Read the full-length article: “Inflamed sinuses: It’s best to watch and wait”

Also in the November 2015 issue of the Harvard Men's Health Watch:

  • Exercise to banish aches and pains
  • Easy diet upgrades
  • Is your heartburn pill really working for you?
  • How to stop the flu in its tracks

The Harvard Men's Health Watch is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $20 per year. Subscribe at http://www.health.harvard.edu/mens or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).

XXX

Media: Contact Kristen Rapoza at contact information above for a complimentary copy of the newsletter, or to receive our press releases directly.

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Kristen Rapoza
Harvard Health Publications
+1 (617) 432-4716
Email >
@HarvardHealth
Follow >
Harvard Health Publications
Like >
Follow us on
Visit website