Not all sinus infections need antibiotics.

It is very important that if you suspect you have that good old sinus infection you communicate carefully with your provider. If you have been sick for less than a week your sinus infection is viral and does not require antibiotics.  To qualify as bacterial rhino sinusitis several key symptoms should be present.  1)duration longer than 10 days, 2)purulent (pus) nasal drainage,  and 3) re-sickening meaning that you began to get better and then were pretty sick once again.

Sinus infections are usually (9 out of 10 cases in adults; 5-7 out of 10 cases in children) caused by a virus. They are less commonly (1 out of 10 cases in adults; 3-5 out of 10 cases in children) caused by bacteria.[CDC website]

I’ll be honest.  Often we will give you a z-pak to get you out of the office faster instead of trying to convince you that you don’t really need antibiotics.  There is no such thing a “nipping it in the bud”.  We are sorry you don’t have time to be sick but taking an antibiotic when you have a viral illness will simply contribute to the every growing number of antibiotic resistant bugs.


So, what do you do to manage the symptoms of a viral sinus infection?

  • Get some extra rest, and stay hydrated
  • oral zinc can decrease the length of a viral illness
  • Put a warm compress over the nose and forehead to help relieve sinus pressure
  • Use a decongestant or saline nasal spray
  • Breathe in steam from a bowl of hot water or shower
  • Take acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen to relieve pain or fever
  • flush out the area with a neti pot or sinus rinse

So now you are armed with information to be a responsible  citizen when it comes to antibiotic overuse.

Author: Nurse Meesh

I am a disabled nurse practitioner, mom, wife and woman.

One thought on “Not all sinus infections need antibiotics.”

  1. Very informative. I grew up having these, post nasal drip etc. Glad to know I’ve been caring for them similar to above.


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