ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The nation’s ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctors say you can diagnose your own sinus infection from home, no doctor necessary.
Dr. Richard Rosenfeld is the lead author of new guidelines published Wednesday by the American Academy of Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery Foundation.
He told NPR Wednesday
that the overuse of antibiotics is makes it important for patients to get involved in figuring out what’s causing the infection.
If it’s viral, antibiotics won’t help; they only work on bacterial infections.
“For the first time we’ve really made it crystal clear how to self-diagnose your own bacterial sinus infections without going to the doctor, with a high degree of accuracy,” says Dr. Rosenfeld
So, how can you tell if it’s bacterial or viral? Just remember this 10-day rule:
- If you’ve been sick for less than 10 days and you’re not getting worse, it’s almost certainly viral.
- If you’re not improving at all in 10 days or if you get worse in that 10 days after having improved a bit, bacteria are probably to blame.
According to NPR, sinusitis gets diagnosed 30 million times a year. They say that infections count for 20 percent of all antibiotic prescriptions, so ENT doctors see this as an opportunity to reduce overprescription of those medications.
They’re going even further than their previous guidelines, saying that even if you’re really sick, it’s OK to wait before getting meds.
It’s a break in ranks with fellow physicians who say everyone with a bacterial infection should get an antibiotic.
Rosenfeld told NPR that there’s a good chance you’ll get better on your own without it.
That doesn’t take into account the misery of a sinus infection, and its symtoms, be it viral or bacterial in origin.
Rosenfeld says saline nose washes and over-the-counter medications can provide some relief.
He warns that this applies to just acute, not chronic sinusitis. Chronic sinusitis lasts more than three months.
Also, doctors say that significant complications can occur from bacterial sinusitis.
Worsening headaches, visual problems, changes in mental activity, facial swelling and progressive fever can indicate these impending complications.
If these signs are present, they say you should seek medical care.
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