NEW GUIDELINES advise healthcare professionals to avoid prescribing antibiotics to treat sinus infections, except in cases where the symptoms are prolonged. The guidance, from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), developed with Public Health England, aims to reduce the number of antibiotics given to patients with the condition.
Data show that 91% of patients who visit their GP with symptoms of sinusitis are prescribed antibiotics. However, the NICE emphasises that, because the infection is usually viral, antibiotics should not be routinely prescribed. A back-up prescription might be appropriate if a patient has had the symptoms for more than 10 days, and if there are signs of a more serious illness, such as double vision, these patients should be referred to hospital.
With resistance to antibiotics growing, this guidance is part of an overall effort to try and prevent the inappropriate prescription of this type of drug. “Antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest dangers to our health, which is why we must all work together to fight it,” commented Prof Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive, NICE. “Our new guidance will help healthcare professionals to use antibiotics efficiently and only when they are really needed. This will help to protect these vital medicines and ensure that no one experiences side effects from treatment they do not need.”
To prevent patients from feeling unsupported, the NICE suggests that healthcare professionals should provide patients with further details about their sinus infections. Patients should be informed how to manage their aches and pains with over-the-counter painkillers and that there is no evidence that oral decongestants or steam inhalation will make any difference. Additionally, healthcare professionals should tell patients that they are likely to feel this way for 2–3 weeks and should seek further medical advice if they do not start to feel better after this time period, or if their symptoms worsen.
“Public Health England welcomes this new guidance and in particular the advice to manage the symptoms of pain or fever with paracetamol or ibuprofen instead of antibiotics; and highlighting the use of steroid inhalers in those over 12 who have symptoms longer than 10 days,” said Dr Susan Hopkins, Lead Healthcare Epidemiologist, AMR Programme, Public Health England. “Using antibiotics when they are not needed means that they are less likely to treat future infections which may have become resistant, potentially putting you and your loved ones at risk of longer and more serious infection.”
James Coker, Senior Editorial Assistant