What are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are medications derived from naturally occurring chemicals produced by bacteria and molds to inhibit the growth of competing microorganisms.  Penicillin was discovered in 1929 by Alexander Fleming and its popular derivative amoxicillin remains effective for 80% of acute bacterial sinus infections and 99% of strep throat infections.  Although 60% of episodes of acute bacterial sinusitis will resolve without treatment, antibiotics have been consistently demonstrated to shorten the course of illness and reduce the frequency of complications from sinusitis.

When should antibiotics be used?

Antibiotics are recommended for acute bacterial sinusitis lasting longer than 10 days, or getting worse after the first week.  The most common symptoms include facial pain or pressure, nasal stuffiness or congestion, and thick, discolored nasal drainage.  Antibiotics are also commonly prescribed for chronic sinusitis, although many cases of chronic sinusitis are not caused by bacteria.

Nasal irrigation

Wash my hands, brush my teeth, and … flush my nose?

Absolutely! The fastest way to clear out a clogged nose is with an old-fashioned saline rinse.  Warm saline (salt water solution) dissolves crusts, loosens thick mucus and even reduces swelling in the nasal membranes. There is no better way to clean the nose of dirt and grime from the workplace, pollen from the golf course, or germs from the child who just sneezed on you. A little spritz from a squeeze bottle can get the mucus flowing properly, while an 8 ounce flush can really hose things out!

That sounds uncomfortable… but it isn’t!

Most of us have experienced the burning pain of a nose full of pool water. The key to sinus irrigation is to use normal or hypertonic saline – a solution that is at least as salty as we are. This can be made at home by adding your own salt to warm water, but commercially available sinus rinses have better purity and more predictable concentration, with fewer additives, compared to food grade salt.  It is also strongly recommended to use distilled water.

How do I get it in my nose?

The easiest way to prepare and use saline irrigation is with the NeilMed Sinus Rinse Bottle Kit, which contains a nasal irrigator bottle and 50 to 100 premeasured packages of salt solution. After washing your hands, add one packet of salt to the bottle and fill distilled, micro-filtered, or boiled water.  You may warm it carefully in the microwave if desired.  Shake well. Leaning over the sink, insert the bottle tip fully into one nostril and squeeze gently until the saline drips out of the other nostril. Breathe through your mouth until half of the bottle is empty.  Repeat on the other nostril. Gently blow your nose, unless you have had sinus surgery within the past two weeks.  Clean and store the bottle.