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Should I Always Take Antibiotics for a Sinus Infection?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated May 17, 2024
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You should not always take antibiotics for a sinus infection, primarily because most sinus infections are caused by viruses. Antibiotics are only suitable for the treatment of bacterial infections, and they have no impact on viruses or allergens. If your infection is determined to be caused by bacteria, you may still choose to hold off on antibiotics until the infection becomes severe. Most times, your sinuses will heal on their own.

The only case in which you should use antibiotics for a sinus infection is when the infection is caused by bacteria. Preferably, you would have the bacteria cultured to determine exactly which strain it is so that you receive the most tailored and effective treatment. It is generally best to avoid using antibiotics for mild infections, since using them too frequently can lead to drug-resistant strains of bacteria.

Most of the time, antibiotics for a sinus infection would not be beneficial, as the majority of infections are caused by viruses. Viruses are separate organisms from bacteria, and they cannot be killed by antibiotics. Only the immune system can destroy a virus, so you best bet for ridding yourself of a sinus infection is to get plenty of rest so your body can do its job. Eating immune-boosting foods and drinking antioxidant rich fresh juices may also be beneficial, as well as taking a daily multivitamin or other supplements. Discuss any supplementation you wish to take with your doctor.

Allergies may also cause sinus infections, and these are also not responsive to antibiotics. Taking an allergy medication may help to alleviate symptoms. You should also avoid areas in which allergens may be found in higher numbers, such as in attics, dusty areas, in the woods or outdoors, or around animals. Learn your individual allergy triggers, and slowly introduce allergens that do not bother you once the infection has subsided.

Many patients ask their doctors for antibiotics for a sinus infection, even if it is caused by a virus. Some doctors do this with the assumption that it is not harmful; however, sometimes bacteria can become out of whack with the overuse of antibiotics. Not all bacteria may be killed, and some may begin to grow more rapidly without other strains to hold them at bay. Yeast is another common problem with frequent use of antibiotics. Overuse is the primary cause of drug-resistant strains of bacteria.

If you believe you have a sinus infection, speak with your doctor and ask to have him or her determine if your infection is caused by a virus, bacteria, or allergens. He or she may offer you antibiotics without checking, so insist that he find out the reason behind your symptoms before prescribing medication. If it is determined that a virus is to blame, get as much rest as possible and drink plenty of fluids.

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