Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Treating Sinusitis - Don't Rush To Antibiotics



I came across this article on treating sinusitis which reminded me of the dreaded experience I had (or rather we had) of sinusitis.

What happened
About 2-3 years back, my spouse and I came down with the flu one after another. After several days when we did not get better, we visited the GP and was given some flu medicine. After a week had passed, we still did not get better. We were both having loads of thick greenish mucus and phlegm. We went back to the GP who is not one that prescribes antibiotics freely. But on this second visit, antibiotics was prescribed as its unusual for typical flu (virus) to not get better after almost 2 weeks.

So off we went, hoping that the antibiotics would quickly relieve us of the nasal congestion and phlegm. Morning was the worst time of the day, I was feeling congested and I could hear the wheezing in my air pipes as I breathe - the wheezing sound coming from the thick phlegm. Every now and then, I would be trying to cough up the phlegm and had to run to the toilet to spit it out. To be honest, it was quite embarrassing to be coughing with tons of phlegm and having to cover your mouth and excuse yourself for not being able to speak and dashing to the toilet to get the chunk out. I also lost my sense of smell.

Another few days passed and I was not hopeful about the antibiotics. From my experience, if antibiotics were to work, it would have taken effect quite quickly, probably in about 2 days. Nonetheless, we had to complete the course of medicine.

We went back to the GP for a 3rd visit. It was wearing us out. This time, his diagnosis was Sinusitis. We were given yet another dose of antibiotics, together with a nasal steroid spray to reduce the swelling around the sinus passages. The GP assured us that the nasal spray will not have rebound effect.  I was also given some antihistamine due to my allergic rhinitis history. We finally got some relief from the nasal spray!

How long did I take to recover
All in all, it took about 2 months from the time our flu kicked in to the time we were completely healed from sinusitis! Imagine feeling sick for like 1/6 of the year! According to The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease , we fell under the category of subacute sinusitis - sinusitis that last between 4 - 12 weeks.

My afterthought 
Although we took a long time to recover, I think my GP did the right thing in delaying the prescription of antibiotics until the second visit. This is because antibiotics are only effective for bacteria infection, NOT virus infection.

I am not sure if the antibiotics actually helped us at all as we only felt significantly better after using the nasal steroid spray. We also did not take any test to confirm its bacteria infection. The test result will take time and incur cost, so the GP did not even mention about taking a test. But in all likelihood, our GP, after assessing our condition and the fact that it dragged on for so long, thought its the right step forward in prescribing antibiotics to us.

I will share in another post what you can do on your own to get some relief from sinusitis.

Note: This is based on my personal medical condition and not meant to be medical advice. Please seek advice from medical professional for your own condition.