Fact-check: Antibiotics are not always needed to treat sinusitis

Fact-check: Antibiotics are not always needed to treat sinusitis

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Dr Deepak XX, an ENT specialist at Civil Hospital, Rohtak, Haryana, India, helps debunk common myths about sinusitis.

Sinusitis is a common condition wherein the tissue lining the sinuses (air-filled spaces within the bones between one’s eyes, behind the cheekbones, and in the forehead) becomes inflamed. Despite its prevalence across socio-economic sections of the society, there are numerous misconceptions that persist about the medical condition. 

Contrary to popular perceptions, antibiotics are not always necessary to treat sinusitis. Antibiotics only work against bacterial infections, and not all sinusitis is bacterial. Some cases are viral, and others may be due to allergies or fungal infections. 

“The common belief that all sinus infections require antibiotics is incorrect. Most sinus conditions can be effectively managed without these medications,” says Dr Deepak XX, an ENT specialist at Civil Hospital, Rohtak, Haryana, India. 

Unnecessary use or overuse of antibiotics can actually increase the risk of developing antibiotic resistance. “Antibiotics should only be used when necessary and are typically reserved for severe or persistent cases of bacterial sinusitis,” warns Dr Deepak.

Another important factor to note is that while sinusitis can cause headaches, not all headaches are due to sinusitis. Conditions such as migraines or tension headaches can also cause sinus-like pain. “If you have recurring headaches, it’s important to get a professional diagnosis to ensure proper treatment,” says the ENT specialist.

Sinusitis per se is not contagious. However, the viruses and bacteria that can cause sinusitis can be spread from person to person. “While the germs causing an upper respiratory infection, which can lead to sinusitis, can be contagious, sinusitis itself is not. It is an inflammation response that occurs within your body,” explains Dr Deepak.

Similarly, it’s scientifically incorrect to assume that sinusitis is a life-long problem. While some people may have chronic sinusitis, which can last for 12 weeks or more despite treatment attempts, the fact remains that many cases of sinusitis are acute and resolve with appropriate treatment.

“Most people with acute sinusitis recover in a week or two with proper treatment. Individuals with recurrent or persistent sinusitis should seek medical attention to determine any underlying causes and appropriate treatment strategies,” maintains Dr Deepak.

While Over-the-counter (OTC) nasal sprays may provide temporary relief from nasal congestion, it is important to remember that they cannot cure sinusitis. In fact, prolonged use of such sprays can actually worsen the symptoms. “Long-term use can lead to a rebound effect, causing more swelling and congestion. It’s always better to consult a healthcare provider for persistent sinusitis symptoms,” notes the doctor.