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May-June 2012, Vol. XXVII, No. 3
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Health Briefs

Sinus woes? Antibiotics may not be best treatment

Sinus antibiotics

If you suffer from bouts of acute rhinosinusitis - an inflammation of the nasal cavity and sinuses - your doctor may have prescribed an antibiotic for this common, uncomfortable condition. Antibiotics for rhinosinusitis, often referred to simply as sinusitis, account for 20 percent of all antibiotic prescriptions written for adults in the U.S., according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

However, a study published recently in JAMA suggests treatment with an antibiotic is no better than a placebo when it comes to relieving sinus symptoms.

JAMA reports that researchers at Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis conducted a clinical trial involving 166 adults diagnosed with acute bacterial rhinosinusitis. The study was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one of the National Institutes of Health.

Symptoms reported by study participants included facial pain or pressure, postnasal discharge, cough, and runny nose. All participants were given a supply of nonprescription remedies for symptoms to be used as needed. One group also was given a 10-day course of the antibiotic amoxicillin. A second group was given a placebo.

After several days of treatment, researchers asked both groups to assess their quality of life related to sinus symptoms. "There were no statistically significant differences in reported symptom improvement at day 3 or at day 10," researchers write. (They did find more participants treated with amoxicillin reported symptom improvement at day 7.)

Researchers note there is a "public health threat posed by increasing antibiotic resistance" and a "considerable body of evidence" that the drugs are of little benefit in most cases of acute rhinosinusitis. Since the condition is usually self-limiting, researchers say findings suggest "watchful waiting" as a viable alternative approach to immediately prescribing antibiotics for sinus woes.

If you are currently taking antibiotics for a sinus infection, however, don't stop taking them without your doctor's approval.

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