The correlation of sinus infection and antibiotics is pretty clear cut, but for some reason it is a natural response of the doctor to dole out prescription antibiotics when you go to his office complaining of a sinus infection. I am thinking maybe this is because if the pain, swelling, cloggy feeling is bad enough to get you there then it must be bad enough to treat. A good thing to know in sinus drainage is, that if it is clear it is viral and if it is colored it is bacterial. You only treat bacterial infections with antibiotics as they will not work on viruses.
Another bit of advice for people that is good to know is that colds are not sinus infections. The sinus infection can be caused by the cold and the doctor will not prescribe an antibiotic until you have had the sinus infection longer than 7 days.
There are two thought to prescribing antibiotics; one is to prescribe a broad spectrum one that will “most likely” catch the bacteria and kill it that is causing the problem. The other is to provide a specific antibiotic for a specific bacterium. In order to that he will have to take a culture and identify the bacteria.
Once you are on a course of antibiotic usually ten days worth there are certain things you should expect. The first is that you should feel fifty percent better within 24 hours. After that you will get better a bit each day. This means that if you are taking the antibiotic and just slowly getting better and not feeling good till the tenth day that the antibiotic did not really work and it was your own immune system fighting off the infection. Yes our bodies have the ability to fight infections, even bacterial ones without antibiotics. So the advice here would be if you are not much better in 48 hours call your doctor so he can prescribe something else.
It is also very important that if you start an antibiotic that you take the full course, for if you stop as soon as you feel better two things can happen: one you will get sick again and two your body might build up antigens for the bacteria and the antibiotic that would have initially worked will not work anymore.
Another thing to know is that not all antibiotics work on all bacteria. That is why there are so many antibiotics out there. There are broad spectrum antibiotics and narrow spectrum antibiotics. The broad will try and catch a bunch of different types of bacteria and the narrow will go for specific bacteria.
Scientific studies have shown that treating patients with a broad spectrum antibiotic is the best way to go, but it has one big draw back. People are more apt to become resistant to broad spectrum antibiotics. This is why most doctors will prescribe narrow first and if they do not work will follow up with the broad spectrum.
Narrow spectrum antibiotics
Amino glycosides- This can be administered by inhalation or through irrigation. They have serious side effects and are only given in the presence of a doctor. The side effects include: kidney damage, balance problems and hearing damage. Common name: gentamicin, neomycin, streptomycin and tobramycin.
Macrolides- Made to fight Cocci bacteria. This can be taken orally and tests have shown that it is very effective in slowing or blocking protein formation in the bacteria and thus killing them. Common names: Zithromax, biaxin and erythromycin.
Broad Spectrum Antibiotics
Cephalosporins- Is taken orally or in the ear. They are mostly used for people allergic to penicillin. Side effects tend to be rash and diarrhea. Common names: Duricef and Keflex.
Penicillin- Is the original broad spectrum antibiotic. It inhibits the metabolic processes needed in bacterial cell wall formation by stimulating the enzymes that will destroy the cell walls. It is one antibiotic that will only attack actively multiplying bacteria. Commonly used as Amoxicillin, PenVK
Other antibiotics that deserve mention are Quinolones and Fluoroquinolones. They are rarely used but if needed are used for legionella and mycoplasma. They are harsh antibiotics with strong side effects that can actually interfere with the DNA activity of the patient.
So even with just the basics explained it is pretty evident that you will need to let you doctor decide what is good and right for what you have. Knowing expectations is always useful when you begin to take a new medicine. When something is prescribed to you it is never wrong to ask for documentation on the drug.