A Note about Antibiotics and Sinus Infections

This post is one of a series about the ongoing health issues I have had recently beginning in February 2011.

As I mentioned previously over the past few months I have had probably the worst period of continuous illness I’ve ever experienced. A common feature across all of this period has been a continuous post nasal drip from my sinuses.

As with anybody, my first port of call when it seemed like these illnesses were going on a bit was my GP, after the initial sympathy routine they diagnosed a sinus infection, and followed what I have now discovered is the standard strategy, which is to prescribe a wide spectrum antibiotic, and when that doesn’t work, up the strength and length of the course. When that still didn’t work the diagnosis switched to allergies and I was prescribed antihistamines and a nasal steroid inhaler.

However the standard strategy really doesn’t help in the vast majority of cases one reason for this being pretty obvious – if you’re taking an oral antibiotic it struggles to reach an infection in your sinuses in any large capacity. Given that there are already concerns that the overprescription of antibiotics is leading to the rise of resistant bacteria and that in my case at least my already weakened immune system was further weakened by the several courses of antibiotics, leading to my second bout of norovirus this did start to point me in the direction of any other strategies for beating my sinus problems.

So what are the problems with taking a few antibiotics? How could they, in my case, make things worse? You can see the basic issue if you look at how they work. When a GP prescribes antibiotics, pretty well always he has no idea what bacteria you’re infected with, so a broad spectrum antibiotic is prescribed, i.e. it goes after everything. By way of an analogy, think of the infection as a terrorist cell infiltrating a town, in the town you also have defenders, who are trying, but failing to defend the town. Then in comes the help, which kills everything, including some of the defenders. Yes it defeats the invaders, but at the expense of collateral damage. An antibiotic is much the same, it comes in, but takes out more than just the infection, a normal healthy person can then recover, but repeated courses of antibiotics weaken your immune system. There are alternatives, Phage therapy was largely superseded by the discovery of antibiotics in western medicine, but targets specific bacteria with a specific virus, and is now being touted as a possible option as more and more antibiotic resistant bacteria develop, but we’re not there yet.

Just to be clear here, I’m not saying don’t ever take antibiotics, they certainly have a place, it’s more that I wasn’t really aware of the issues surrounding them before this bout of illness, and if, as evidence suggests they’re not going to be much help treating what I’ve got, I’d rather not waste my time taking them! So what have I done instead that has helped? More of that in subsequent posts.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.