Nasal congestion; Rhinosinusitis
Decongestants are drugs that help reduce nasal congestion. They are available in both pill and nasal forms. However, decongestants will not cure sinusitis. Nasal decongestants may actually worsen sinusitis by increasing sinus inflammation. Due to the lack of evidence for the benefit of nasal decongestants in treating sinusitis, the FDA ruled ordered manufacturers of over-the-counter (OTC) nasal decongestant products to remove from their labeling all references to sinusitis.
Your doctor may still recommend that you take either an OTC or prescription nasal decongestant to help relieve blockage symptoms associated with sinusitis. If you think you have sinusitis, check with your doctor before taking a decongestant. Do not try to treat sinusitis by yourself.
Decongestants should not be used at all in infants and children under the age of 4 years, and some doctors recommend not giving them to children under the age of 14. Children are at particular risk for central nervous system side effects including convulsions, rapid heart rates, loss of consciousness, and death.
Expectorants are drugs that cause mucus to be coughed up from the lungs. The most common type is guaifenesin, which is found in many over-the-counter (OTC) cough syrups as well as prescription products. Expectorants used to be recommended for treatment of sinusitis-associated cough, but some recent guidelines advise against their use. Like decongestants, cough medicines should not be given to children younger than age 4 years.
According to the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), expectorants and cough suppressants do not help treat cough. The ACCP recommends that adults instead take a decongestant or antihistamine to relieve cough. The ACCP also recommends against OTC cold and cough medicine for children ages 14 years and younger. Parents should talk with their childā ' s pediatrician for advice on treating cough.
Penicillins. Amoxicillin (Amoxil, Polymox, Trimox, Wymox, or any generic formulation) has been the most widely prescribed antibiotic for acute sinusitis. This penicillin is both inexpensive and at one time was highly effective against the S. pneumoniae bacteria. Unfortunately, bacterial resistance to amoxicillin has increased significantly, both among S. pneumoniae and H. influenzae, and penicillin is no longer as reliable as it once was.
Amoxicillin-clavulanate (Augmentin) is a type of penicillin that works against a wide spectrum of bacteria. An extended release form has been approved for treating adults with sinusitis infections that have become resistant to penicillin.
Cephalosporins. They are often classed by generation:
Macrolides. Macrolides are often used to treat mild-to-moderate bacterial sinusitis in patients who are allergic to penicillin. Some of the most common macrolids are azithromycin (Zithromax), clarithromycin (Biaxin), and roxithromycin (Rulid). An extended-release form of azithromycin (Zmax) is available as a single dose treatment for mild-to-moderate acute bacterial sinusitis. These antibiotics are also effective against many strains of S. pneumoniae and M. catarrhalis, but macrolide-resistance is common. Erythromycin is not effective against H. influenzae.
Macrolides have anti-inflammatory actions, which may have benefits for some patients with chronic sinusitis.
Trimethoprim-Sulfamethoxazole. Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Cotrim, Septra) is another first-line antibiotic for sinusitis. It is less expensive than amoxicillin and particularly useful for patients with mild sinusitis who are allergic to penicillin. It is no longer effective, however, against certain streptococcal strains. It should not be used in patients whose infections occurred after dental work or in patients allergic to sulfa drugs. Allergic reactions can be very serious.
Fluoroquinolones (Quinolones). Fluoroquinolones (also simply called quinolones) interfere with the bacteria's genetic material so they cannot reproduce.
Newer generation fluoroquinolones, which include levofloxacin (Levaquin), gatifloxacin (Tequin), and moxifloxacin (Avelox), are currently the most effective antibiotics against the common bacteria that cause sinusitis. They are recommended for adults with moderate sinusitis who have already been treated with antibiotics within 6 weeks or who are allergic to beta-lactam antibiotics.
Some of the newer fluoroquinolones only need to be taken once a day, which make compliance easier. Some, but not all, quinolones cause photosensitivity. S. pneumoniae strains resistant to the quinolones have been uncommon in the U.S. but their numbers are increasing.
Lincosamides. Lincosamides prevent bacteria from reproducing. The most common lincosamide is clindamycin (Cleocin). This antibiotic is useful against many S. pneumoniae bacteria but not against H. influenzae.
Tetracyclines. Tetracyclines inhibit bacterial growth. They include doxycycline, tetracycline, and minocycline. They can be effective against S. pneumoniae and M. catarrhalis, but bacteria that are resistant to penicillin are also often resistant to doxycycline. Tetracyclines have unique side effects among antibiotics, including skin reactions to sunlight, possible burning in the throat, and tooth discoloration. They should not be used by children or pregnant women.
Benefits of Corticosteroid Nasal Sprays. Nasal-spray corticosteroids, most commonly called steroids, are effective drugs for treating allergic rhinitis. They also help in the treatment of chronic sinusitis and are sometimes used for acute sinusitis. Some studies have reported that, when combined with antibiotics, they speed recovery and improve healing rates of complicated or chronic sinusitis compared to antibiotics alone. Nasal spray steroids are safe and have the following benefits:
Nasal-Spray Brands. Corticosteroids available in nasal spray form include:
Side Effects. Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs. Although oral steroids can have many side effects, the nasal-spray form affects only local areas, and the risk for wide spread side effects is very low unless the drug is used excessively.
[For information on more serious complications of corticosteroids, see In-Depth Report #77: Allergic rhinits.]
Scientists are investigating whether antifungal drugs may help treat chronic sinusitis. One such drug, Amphotericin B (SinuNase), is currently in Phase III trials for patients who have had sinus surgery but are still experiencing recurrent sinusitis.
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