This cold and flu season don't get carried away - sinus infections don’t need antibiotics


Colds, like the flu, are caused by viruses
Colds, like the flu, are caused by viruses

This is cold and flu season. Colds, like the flu, are caused by viruses. Typical symptoms of a cold usually include headache, fatigue, sore throat, nasal congestion, runny nose, and occasionally a mild fever. Although very unpleasant, colds tend to run their coarse and formal medical treatment is usually unnecessary.

Occasionally colds will produce a more severe swelling of the nasal passage ways causing the mucus to become trapped in the sinuses resulting in a more persistent infection; a condition known as sinusitis. Signs of a sinus infection include prolonged headache, or pain behind the eyes, usually lasting a week or more. The mucus will often turn yellow or green, and may even have an unpleasant odor – especially if the infection becomes bacterial.

It is important to keep in mind that only bacterial infections are helped by antibiotics.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

“When sinusitis is caused by a virus or irritation in the air (like cigarette smoke), antibiotics will not help it get better. Acute sinusitis will almost always get better on its own. It is better to wait and take antibiotics only when they are needed. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed can be harmful.”

The CDC also points out:

“Sometimes antibiotics may be needed if the sinus infection is likely to be caused by bacteria. By asking about your symptoms and doing a physical examination, a healthcare provider can determine if you or your child needs antibiotics.”

Over use of antibiotics has become a huge problem in the US over the years. Unnecessary antibiotic use leads to a weakened immune system and more resistant strains of bacterial diseases.


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