New guidelines may mean no more antibiotics

September 27, 2012 4:10:38 PM PDT
If you have fall allergies, prepare yourself. You're entering the season. And if your allergies tend to morph into sinus infections, those of you who go to the doctor for antibiotics may leave empty-handed.

Sinus infection sufferer Stephanie Santino said, "There were times where just literally sitting upright, that pain of holding your head upright was just really intense."

Santino describes the pain of her sinus infections. Typically, when it happened, she'd get an antibiotic from her doctor. But this year that is likely to change. Because doctors say, antibiotics often just don't work.

Sinus specialist Dr. Subinoy Das explained, "For the vast, vast majority of people we give antibiotics, it's not really providing the benefit that we would have hoped."

In fact, antibiotics for sinus infections may be making things worse. Up to 90 percent of sinus infections are caused by a virus and antibiotics don't help at all. For decades doctors prescribed them anyway and now we've grown some drug resistant bacteria.

"We are creating a race of super-bacteria for which we will not be able to treat," Dr. Das said.

So how do you treat sinus infections? Here are the new guidelines from infectious diseases experts: try an over-the-counter saltwater rinse. But do go to a doctor if your face swells, if you have fever, or your vision changes.

"Seek medical attention early but go with an open mind that I'm not going expecting an antibiotic," Dr. Das said.

Besides saltwater rinses you can buy at the pharmacy, some people with chronic problems get relief with sinus surgery, where passages are cleaned out and opened up. Talk to your pharmacist about other over-the-counter options that might give you relief.


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