Why children do not need antibiotics for sinus infections

Each year in the United States, over 200 million prescriptions are written for antibiotics. Antibiotics can be disease fighting tools for bacterial infections, however for viruses such as cold and flu they may be worse than useless. According to the CDC, antibiotics don’t work for sinus infections, most coughs and bronchitis, sore throats not caused by strep, or for runny noses. Unfortunately, the public does not totally understand the proper use of antibiotics. These misunderstandings are more important than ever with the rise of drug resistant bacteria.

Recently the respected British medical journal The Lancet published the research of Dr. Jim Young of the Basel Institute for Clinical Epidemiology which summarized numerous clinical trials on sinus infections and antibiotics. Amazingly, Dr. Young and his Swiss colleagues discovered that 15 patients with sinusitis-like complaints would have to be given antibiotics before an additional patient was cured. In an interview with Web-MD, Dr. Young put it this way: “We found that overall, you would need to treat 15 patients … for one patient to benefit.” If Dr. Young is correct, 15 out of 16, or 94% of patients do not get well with standard treatment. The study was so news worthy that both CNN and the BBC aired segments breaking the story worldwide. In their report, the BBC quotes study co-author Dr. Ian Williamson who said, “Antibiotics really don’t look as if they work.”

Not only do antibiotics not work for colds, coughs, and sinus infections, they also put kids at risk for side effects. Common side effects of antibiotics include rash, diarrhea and stomach upset, and fungal infections. Each year, more than 140,000 people are rushed to the emergency room from adverse reactions to antibiotics. Sadly about half of these prescriptions are unnecessary. Still, when asked by a concerned parent, doctors will prescribe antibiotics for viral infections almost 2/3rds of the time according to a 1999 study published in the journal Pediatrics. Conditions where antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily for kids include sinus infections, coughs, and some ear infections. In fact according to a recent study, using antibiotics for ear infections can increase the likelihood of getting another ear infection!

Nova Sinus Center offers a new way to treat sinus pain, pressure, and congestion without antibiotics. Our REST treatments are safe and effective for folks of all ages. Naturally!

Dr Jake Felice, Sinus treatment specialist at Nova Sinus Center

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3 Comments on “Why children do not need antibiotics for sinus infections”


  1. It sad to hear that there has been media hype and renewed enthusiastic interest in a common problem such as “Rhinitis”.

    I think it would be sensible if doctors stopped using the word “Cold” because patients have been totally confused by doctors diagnosing common illness such as cold, flu and chest infections. I think the word “Cold (Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease) was a word used to explain Asthma and was later removed because doctors got confused with the word COPD.

    We know excessive secretion in the nose is often a protective response to prevent dust and allergens entering the lung. This rarely causes any serious problem needing medication. Using nasal spray containing some steroids may help but certainly using antibiotics is a waste of time.

    We do know various antibiotics are not secreted in the secretion and so unlikely to help bacteria colonised in the nostrils. Using nasal spray containing antibiotics is not good because it often gets diluted by the secretion and so will result in bacteria colonised in the nose developing resistance.

    I wish the doctors find out what was published in the past and not waste funds to prove a hypothesis we already know. We are now desperately running out of options and ideas to find a cure to a simple problem that can bring us down on our knees if we are not careful.


    • I agree Dr. Srivatsa. I firmly believe that the nasal sprays, rinses and other products can actually disrupt the optimal physiology of the rhinosinus passages and encourage colonization by opportunistic pathogens.

      The theory behind application of rinses sounded good in theory, but clearly application beyond the immediate short-term creates to much disruption in the mucociliary blanket that serves to inhibit attachment by microbes to the mucosa.

      Best regards,

      Dr. Jana Hagen

      If we continue as a society this trend of inappropriate use of these products as well as antibiotics, we will only add to a rapidly escalating problem.

      • drfrank7 Says:

        Thanks for your comments! I agree that long term use is simply too drying for the delicate mucous membranes of the nose and sinus.


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