Do I Need Antibiotics for a Sinus Infection?
The sinuses are air filled spaces around the nose and eyes. Sinus infection (sinusitis) occurs when fluid builds up in the sinuses. Sinusitis most often occurs after a cold but most colds do not lead to bacterial sinusitis. The symptoms of sinusitis are more severe and last longer than a cold.
Why You Probably Don’t Need Antibiotics for a Sinus Infection
While both bacteria and viruses can cause sinusitis, viruses are up to 200 times more common. Therefore, antibiotics are unlikely to work for most sinus infections.
Symptoms of Sinus Infection
- Facial pain or pressure, headache, toothache, feeling tired, cough, fever.
- Blocked nose with yellow or green nasal discharge that lasts for more than 10 days is a sign that you may need antibiotics.
Management of Sinus Infection
- Consider using acetaminophen (like Tylenol) or ibuprofen (like Advil) for pain and fever. Ibuprofen should not be given to children under 6 months of age without first speaking to your health care provider. Please follow dosing instructions on the box or speak to a doctor or pharmacist for more information.
- For children, use saltwater drops or spray to help relieve nasal discharge; for adults, saltwater washes are more effective.
- Decongestants may relieve stuffiness but will not shorten the length of the illness.
NOTE: Do not give these products to infants or children under the age of six years.
NOTE: Decongestants might also contain fever reducing medication. Read labels carefully and check with your pharmacist or doctor to avoid overdosing.
In British Columbia, you can call HealthLink BC (at 8-1-1) or visit healthlinkbc.ca if you need advice or are unsure of the best course of action.