PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — One in five antibiotic prescriptions in the U.S. are for sinus infections.

“Many patients demand a treatment. They get sick and they think they’re going to get better with an antibiotic,” explains Dr. Deborah Gentile of Allegheny General Hospital’s Department of Allergy and Immunology.

But is this really the right thing to do? A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association says antibiotics work no better than placebo.

Researchers looked at 166 adults with symptoms of a sinus infection.

“Very severe pain behind their sinuses here, as well as here, many of them will also have tooth pain, jaw pain, headaches, many of them have bad breath, and they also have a purulent or pussy nasal discharge,” lists Dr. Gentile.

The patients were randomly assigned to get either the antibiotic Amoxicillin or a placebo. They also all took Tylenol, a decongestant, and saline nasal spray.

There was no difference between the two groups in terms of symptom relief after a few days, a week, or even several weeks.

“Many times what people think are sinus infections are just viral upper respiratory infections,” Dr. Gentile continues. “You also have to think about allergies as a potential cause.”

Medicine to fight a bacterial sinusitis doesn’t help, and only increases the risk of stronger germs.

The lesson here? Skip the antibiotics. Stick to over-the-counter symptom relief.

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