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Steroids and Antibiotics May Not Be Necessary in Sinusitis (Interview with Dr. Ian Williamson, MD)
Steroids and Antibiotics May Not Be Necessary in Sinusitis (Interview with Dr. Ian Williamson, MD)

(December 4, 2007 - Insidermedicine) Two treatments commonly given to people with acute sinusitis – antibiotics and inhaled steroids – are probably not helpful in most cases, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Here are some facts about sinusitis:

•    Sinusitis refers to an inflammation in the lining of your sinuses, the air chambers in the bone behind your cheeks, eyebrows, and jaw.

•    Many things, including cold air and swimming, can irritate your sinuses. Sinusitis can also be caused by an infection with either bacteria or a virus, and while antibiotics are effective against bacteria they are not effective against viruses.

•    Some good home care remedies for sinusitis include resting in a position that allows you to breathe, sipping hot liquids, holding a warm, wet towel against your face, or breathing in steam through a cloth or towel.

Researchers from the University of Southampton randomly divided 240 adults with acute sinusitis into one of four groups. One group was treated antibiotics and steroids, the second received only antibiotics, the third only steroids, and the fourth group received only placebo.

Taking the antibiotic, the inhaled steroid, or both together did not have an effect on how long symptoms of sinusitis lasted. No matter what treatment they received, about 30% of adults had symptoms for 10 days or longer.

Based on these results, the authors conclude that antibiotics and inhaled steroids are not beneficial for most people who walk into their family doctors office with symptoms of sinusitis. This research calls into question the use of antibiotics in particular because inappropriate use of antibiotics contributes to the development of germs that are drug resistant.

For Insidermedicine in Depth, I'm Allison Chow.