ThinkstockPhotos-184738753

Another sinus infection? Don’t rush to get antibiotics right away

Do you rush off to your primary care physician, or an ear, nose and throat specialist every time you get a sinus infection, looking for that antibiotics prescription?

Not so fast, say a group of researchers who recently released a report intended to help you figure out whether your inflamed sinuses are caused by a virus or bacteria — before you make an appointment.

If your symptoms indicate you have a viral infection, you may not need to see a doctor — and you shouldn’t take antibiotics, according to the guidelines.

“The idea is to empower everybody, whether it’s a primary care doctor or a patient,” said Dr. Richard Rosenfeld of the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, the lead author on the study.

“We’re not encouraging people to stay home and do nothing, [but] people can self diagnose and they can prioritize seeing a doctor.”

So what do you need to know?

If you think you have a sinus infection (plugged up sinuses, pressure in your face, drippy nose):

• And you stay sick for more than 10 days with no sign of improvement, or you initially get better but then get worse again over 10 days, its likely bacterial.

• If you improve over ten days — or don’t get worse as time passes — the infection is likely viral.

If you think you have a bacterial infection, you should see a doctor, Rosenfeld said. But getting an antibiotic when you don’t need one may make it harder for the drug to work when you really do need it, he added.

Please note: Bacterial sinus infections can spread beyond your sinuses, Rosenfeld said, and if you have any symptoms of a spread it’s very important you see a doctor.

These symptoms are:

• Severe progressive headache
• Progressive high fever
• Changes in your vision
• Changes in your mental status

“The more educated the patients are, the better they can participate in their care,” Rosenfeld said.