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Antibiotics For Sinus Infection
When is nasal congestion more than just a stuffy nose?
A sinus infection, also referred to as sinusitis, is more than just having trouble breathing through your nose. It’s an infection and inflammation of your sinus cavities. When this infection is caused by bacteria it's likely that you'll need antibiotics from a doctor to treat your sinus infection.
You have several air-filled sinus cavities located on either side of your nose, as well as between, above and below your eyes, so there may be pain in various places throughout your face otherwise known as a sinus headache.
What do you need to know about this miserable malady? Here’s a brief rundown about sinus infections, and when/how to get antibiotics for sinus infections.
Sinus Infection Causes
There are many different causes of sinus infections as they can be brought on by different types of germs. Treatment and whether or not you need antibiotics for your sinus infection depend on the cause. Let's go over the potential causes of sinus infections.
Viral Infection | Cold and Flu
A preceding cold or flu are the most common causes of a sinus infection. The cold and influenza (flu) viruses causing sinus infections are contagious. Be sure to dispose of tissue properly when you blow your nose and cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze and cough. It is also important to regularly wash your hands to prevent germs from spreading.
Viral sinusitis should start to improve if not resolve within 10 days. If it exceeds this time period chances are it’s more likely bacterial sinusitis. In which case your doctor is very likely to prescribe you antibiotics. Read the clinical practice guidelines for adult sinusitis for more information.
Allergens & Pollutants
Allergies can lead to sinus infections as they cause swelling in the sinus cavities and nasal passages which prevent mucus from draining. Accumulation of mucus creates a hospitable environment for bacteria to flourish.
It’s important to note that allergies and sinus infections are two separate conditions, but often get confused for one another due to the similarity of their symptoms (i.e., facial pain, headache, pressure behind the eyes, runny nose, congestion, etc.).
If you are experiencing the onset of sinus infection symptoms, but didn’t just have a cold or case of the flu, then you may actually just have allergies.
Addressing your allergies is of particular importance if you want your sinus infection to clear up, as this will remove some inflammation from your sinuses and allow for proper drainage of mucus.
Exposure to air pollution and other pollutants is also a risk factor for sinus infections due to the inflammation that chemical irritants cause in the nasal passages.
Fungi or mold
Natural disasters may also prompt the dispersal of mold spores into the air and lead to sinus infections for affected individuals in the area.
Weakened immune system
People with weak immune systems may be more prone to develop sinus infections compared to other healthier individuals depending on certain health and environmental factors. A cold in a healthy individual usually will not turn into a sinus infection if proper care is taken. Having an occasional sinus infection isn’t much of an issue, but recurring sinus infections (happening 2-4 times a year or more) is most likely a sign of having a compromised immune system.
If you think you have a weakened immune system, this could be caused by:
- lack of sleep
- poor dietary choices
- repeated rounds of antibiotics
- chronic illness/disease
You can try some home-remedies for sinus infections before taking antibiotics, or add more immune-boosting foods to your regular diet, such as garlic and ginger. If you suffer from recurring infections and don’t think you have a weakened immune system, the cause may be related to anatomical anomalies.
Nasal polyps are small, benign growths that can develop in the nasal passages and sinus cavities due to:
Since these growths are painless, most people do not even realize they have them. One indicator that you might have nasal polyps is if you suffer from chronic or recurring sinus infections or experience difficulty breathing. Nasal polyps obstruct airflow and interfere with mucus drainage, which can lead to a sinus infection.
A deviated septum is another abnormality that may be causing your sinus infections. A deviated septum is when the bones and cartilage that make up the bridge of your nose are crooked or off-center. This leads to obstructed airflow and drainage interference resulting in breathing problems. If you have chronic or recurring sinus infections caused by a deviated septum, you may want to consider a surgical procedure known as septoplasty to correct it.
A septoplasty is a very low risk, outpatient procedure. Most people breathe normally again shortly after the procedure, though cartilage and tissues can take up to a year to recover entirely.
A bacterial sinus infection may develop after a virus such as the flu or cold. While you’re sick, your sinuses become blocked and therefore are unable to drain mucus. Mucus trapped in a warm, moist environment lays the breeding ground for harmful bacteria to develop and multiply, ultimately leading to a bacterial infection of the sinuses.
If built up mucus in the sinuses causes a bacterial sinus infection you will likely need antibiotics for your sinus infection.
Antibiotics for Sinus Infection
Since most sinus infections are caused by viruses or allergies, antibiotics are not typically prescribed. When a sinus infection lingers for more than a week or ten days, a bacterial infection is more likely and antibiotics may be prescribed. Commonly prescribed antibiotics for sinus infection include:
- Amoxicillin (Amoxil)
- Amoxicillin-clavulanate (Augmentin)
- Cefaclor (Ceclor)
- Loracarbef (Lorabid)
- Clarithromycin (Biaxin)
- Azithromycin (Zithromax)
- Sulfamethoxazole (Gantanol)
- Trimethoprim (Bactrim, Septra)
- Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)
Always remember to take the full course of antibiotics prescribed by your doctor.
It is important to understand that despite feeling better as soon as you begin taking antibiotics, the whole course should be completed as prescribed by the doctor.This is because there is a possibility that you are not fully recovered and some bacteria remain in the sinuses, which could lead to antibiotic resistance.
By discontinuing antibiotic use too early you allow these remaining bacteria to build up their defenses for this antibiotic and in the future you will need some other antibiotic for the same infection. Figuring out which antibiotic to use, can lead to difficulties in managing your health in the future. This phenomenon is referred to as antibiotic-resistance and is a growing concern within the medical community.
According to statistics, 2 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. This causes approximately 23,000 deaths a year. It is for this reason that patients are cautioned to continue taking their antibiotics for the remainder of the entire treatment as per the guidelines given by the doctor.
Sinus Infection Symptoms
- Facial pain, tenderness, or swelling
- Nasal congestion
- Nasal discharge
- Severe pain around the eyes, ears, jaw or teeth
- Postnasal drip
- Sinus headache
- Sore throat
Are Sinus Infections Contagious?
If you have a sinus infection or are around someone who does, you're probably wondering if sinus infections are contagious. The answer is yes and no.
If a sinus infection is caused by a virus like the flu or cold virus, then that illness is most likely contagious. But it also depends on the individual. For example, you and a family member could both have the same flu or cold, but only one of you ends up with a sinus infection afterwards. This is typically due to personal health, immune function, environmental factors and your nasal anatomy.
You should always practice good hygiene like frequent hand-washing to avoid spreading any contagious diseases.
How to Relieve Sinus Pressure
- Oral decongestants (pseudoephedrine) and mucolytics (guaifenesin) can help drain a sinus infection.
- Over the counter pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) can help relieve the pain of a sinus headache.
There are also some natural remedies you can try to relieve sinus pain:
- Saline nasal rinses can help remove mucus.
- Inhaling steam, such as during a hot shower, can help loosen and drain mucus.
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and healthy.
- Spicy foods can help clear your sinuses.
- Use a humidifier during dry months, since moist air is gentler on your sinuses.
If these remedies do not help your sinus infection, or your sinus infection gets worse over the course of a week, the cause may be bacterial, and you may need an antibiotic prescription for your sinus infection.
Book an appointment with a PlushCare doctor today and get prescribed antibiotics for a sinus infection right away.
Read More About Antibiotics for Sinus Infection:
- Best Sinusitis Antibiotics
- Can an Online Doctor Write a Prescription?
- Sinus Infection Medicine
- How to Treat a Sinus Infection
- Chronic Sinusitis Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments
- Natural Remedies for Sinus Infection
- Get Antibiotics Online
- WebMD. (2014). Picture of the Sinuses.
- Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. (2015). Clinical practice guideline (update): adult sinusitis.
- Medicine Net. (nd). Deviated Septum
- Healthline. (2017). Septoplasty.
- Mayo Clinic. (2019). Nasal Polyps.