Sinus infection symptoms and antibiotics

Does that stuff coming out of my nose mean I need an antibiotic?

While a runny nose is a common sinus infection symptom, the color of the mucus shouldn’t be used as a guide for when an antibiotic is called for.

A runny nose is the body’s way of clearing the germs out of the nose and sinuses. Even once the mucus turns yellowish after a couple of days, that’s just the body’s immune cells fighting back, according to Rachel Alexander, APRN, nurse practitioner and program coordinator for Norton eCare.

Green mucus? Not necessarily a bacterial infection. At this point there’s increased inflammation and extra mucus, but that doesn’t mean it’s time for an antibiotic, according to Alexander.

Sinus infections (also called sinusitis) are almost always caused by a virus in adults. The same is true for children, with five to seven cases out of 10 being caused by a virus. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, and antibiotics’ overuse can lead to bigger problems down the road.

Common signs and symptoms of a sinus infection include:

·       Headache

·       Stuffy or runny nose

·       Loss of the sense of smell

·       Facial pain or pressure

·       Postnasal drip (mucus drips down the throat from the nose)

·       Sore throat

·       Fever

·       Coughing

·       Fatigue (being tired)

·       Bad breath

But it still may not be time to go to a medical professional until any of the following happen:

·       Temperature higher than 100.4° F

·       Symptoms that are getting worse or lasting more than 10 days

·       Multiple sinus infections in the past year

·       Symptoms that are not relieved with over-the-counter medicines

Antibiotics will not help a sinus infection caused by a virus or irritants like secondhand smoke. These infections will almost always get better on their own.

To relieve the symptoms of congestion and coughing, the CDC recommends:

·       Get plenty of rest

·       Drink plenty of fluids

·       Use a clean humidifier or cool mist vaporizer

·       Avoid smoking, secondhand smoke and other pollutants (airborne chemicals or irritants)

·       Take acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen to relieve pain or fever (read about safe over-the-counter medicaitons for children)

·       Use saline nasal spray or drops

More detailed treatment recommendations tailored to your symptoms can be found at the CDC’s website.

Get care without leaving home or office

Wondering if you have a sinus infection that needs attention? Try a “virtual” visit with a Norton eCare nurse practitioner. You can choose from a video visit or eVisit.