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.