What should I take for a sinus infection?
Eric Van Bean, FNP
Asante Physician Partners, Family Medicine, Medford
If you indeed have a sinus infection, you’re not alone.
One in seven people are diagnosed with a sinus infection every year, and they all have one thing in common—they’re miserable. Sinus infections inflame the sinuses and nasal passages, causing pain and pressure on either side of the nose as well as headaches, congestion, sore throat, and fever.
Many people assume the standard treatment for a sinus infection is a round of antibiotics, yet up to 98 percent of all sinus infections are caused by viruses, not bacteria. Since antibiotics work only against bacteria, they are useless in treating most sinus infections and may cause your body to develop antibiotic resistance.
There is no easy test to determine if a sinus infection is viral or bacterial, which is why in the past doctors would prescribe antibiotics “just in case.” If you think you have a sinus infection, you should see your primary care provider. He or she may prescribe an antibiotic only if:
- Your symptoms last 10 days or longer without improving
- You have a fever of 102 degrees or higher, nasal discharge, and severe facial pain lasting three or four days in a row
- Your cold seems to improve then turns worse, generating a fever. This may indicate a bacterial infection has settled into the inflammation first caused by a virus.
If you’re looking for over-the-counter relief, keep in mind that decongestants and antihistamines actually may make symptoms worse. Stick with acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain, try a saline rinse, and drink plenty of fluids to ease symptoms.
If your pain is unbearable or the infection lasts more than 10 days without improving, see your primary care provider.
Eric Van Bean is a family nurse practitioner with Asante Physician Partners–Family Medicine. To make an appointment, call (541) 789-6460 or schedule it online.