Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson

Most sinus infections do not need antibiotics

1/14/2021 by Kelly Holtz, A.P.R.N., C.N.P., D.N.P.


Did you know that most sinus infections will go away on their own without antibiotics? 

It's true. 

Upward of 90% of sinus infections are typically caused by cold viruses or allergies, and only rarely do they develop into bacterial infections. Even if bacterial in origin, sinus infections can still clear on their own. 

Does a green nasal discharge mean you have a bacterial infection?

In most cases, a green nasal discharge does not mean you have a bacterial infection. In most cases, this is a normal response to a virus. 

As the body's immune system is responding to the infection, there are more white blood cells present, which in turn causes the thickened and discolored nasal mucus. 

Why shouldn't you take antibiotics?

Antibiotics are often overprescribed, and overuse can cause risks of antibiotic resistance (meaning these antibiotics won't work as well in the future). Antibiotics also cause many side effects, some of which can be serious or life-threatening. 

What will help my symptoms? 

To help with your symptoms, try these steps: 

  1. Perform a nasal saline rinse with a sinus rinse bottle or neti pot. 
  2. Following the sinus rinse, try a nasal steroid spray, such as Flonase or Nasacort. 
  3. Use an over-the-counter decongestant. 
  4. Relieve headache or sinus pain with an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. 
  5. Use steam or a humidifier. 
  6. Get plenty of rest. 
  7. Drink plenty of fluids. 

If you have severe or persistent symptoms, are immunocompromised, or have underlying health conditions, you should seek medical care to determine the best treatment for your symptoms. 

Kelly Holtz, A.P.R.N., C.N.P., D.N.P., is a certified nurse practitioner at Mayo Clinic Express Care in Rochester, Minnesota.