Just in time for runny nose season, new research suggests routine sinus infections aren't really helped by antibiotics and other medicine that's often prescribed.
In the British study, people with facial pain and a runny nose with greenish or yellowish mucous generally improved within about two weeks - whether they took the standard antibiotic amoxicillin, steroid nose spray or fake medicine.
The results, based on patients' reporting whether their symptoms had improved, echo previous findings in children.
Antibiotics, particularly the penicillin-like drug amoxicillin, are among the most commonly prescribed medicines for sinus infections, diagnosed in about 32 million Americans a year.
Steroid sprays sometimes are used, but the study found they also were no better than dummy drugs, although they appeared to provide some relief for patients with only minor symptoms.
The study should lead to a "reconsideration of antibiotic use for acute sinusitis. The current view that antibiotics are effective can now be challenged, particularly for the routine cases which physicians treat," said lead author Dr. Ian Williamson, of the University of Southampton in England.
"Physicians can focus on effective remedies that improve symptom control," which include ibuprofen and other over-the-counter painkillers, Williamson said.
Inhaling steam and squirting salt water into the nose to flush out thick mucous are among other methods that sometimes provide relief, he said.
The study appears in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers randomly assigned 240 adults to receive one of four treatments: 500 milligrams of amoxicillin three times daily for seven days and 400 units of steroid spray for 10 days; only amoxicillin; only steroid spray; or fake medicine.