Antibiotics Fail to Clear Up Sinus Infections
Credit: Sick photo via Shutterstock

Antibiotics should not be taken to treat run-of-the mill sinus infections, according to a new study.

After three days of treatment, people taking amoxicillin saw no better improvement in their symptoms than people taking a placebo, the study showed. The research involved 166 participants who took either the antibiotic amoxicillin or a placebo to treat their sinus infections for 10 days, and did not know which they were taking.  

"Our findings support recommendations to avoid routine antibiotic treatment for patients with uncomplicated acute rhinosinusitis," the researchers wrote in their study, to be published tomorrow (Feb. 15) in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers focused on day 3 of the treatment because most sinus infection symptoms clear up on their own by day 10, according to the study. The symptoms most frequently reported were congestion, pain or pressure in the face and coughing.

Some previous studies have found that antibiotics make the symptoms of sinus infections to clear up faster, but other studies have not found this benefit, according to the study. Moreover, analyses that have looked at the results of many studies together have found little evidence of a benefit. Still, of all prescriptions for antibiotics in the U.S., 20 percent are written to treat sinus infections, according to the study.

"Considering the public health threat posed by increasing antibiotic resistance, strong evidence of symptom relief is needed to justify prescribing of antibiotics," the authors wrote in their study.

The study showed that on day 7, more participants taking amoxicillin said their symptoms had improved, compared with those taking the placebo; however, the difference was small, and for most people with sinus infections, antibiotics would not likely make a difference, according to the study.

Neither group reported serious side effects — about a fourth of the people in each group experienced a headache, according to the study.

The researchers noted that their study was limited in that the diagnosis of a sinus infection relies on a person to report their symptoms, rather than on any objective, lab-based test. They also noted that patients with signs of a serious infection were not included in the study, and such people would likely need a different type of treatment.

Pass it on: Antibiotics have been found ineffective in treating sinus infections.

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