Antibiotics – Are You Taking Them for Longer Than You Should?

Antibiotics – Are You Taking Them for Longer Than You Should?

According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, many doctors are prescribing antibiotics to patients who are suffering with sinus infections for durations that are too long. Infectious disease doctors recommend only taking acute sinus infection antibiotics for five to seven days, yet many people are taking them for ten or more days.

“Any time antibiotics are used, they can cause side effects and lead to antibiotic resistance,” Dr. Katherine Fleming-Dutra, deputy director of the Office of Antibiotic Stewardship at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, explained. The findings published recommend that people only take antibiotics when absolutely necessary and to only take them for the minimum effective duration.

Side effects for antibiotics include: rash, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, and yeast infections, as well as life threatening allergic reactions. They can also cause Clostridium difficile infection, which can lead to severe colon damage.

When antibiotics are over prescribed and used for longer time periods, bacteria develop the ability to beat the drug, causing the antibiotic to lose its effectiveness in the future. For acute sinus infections, patients typically  recover within 5-7 days. Therefore, there is no need to take an antibiotic for longer and risk becoming immune to it. The reason many people take antibiotics for too long is largely due to people firmly believing they should take their full prescription and many doctors have not yet switched to the new guidelines. Most doctors are still prescribing these antibiotics for 10 or more days.

“Older . . . acute bacterial sinusitis guidelines were written with the belief that if antibiotics were taken for shorter durations of time, that the bacteria would not be completely eradicated and that would risk persistent, recurrent and antibiotic resistant infections,” said Dr. Sharon Meropol, a researcher at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, who wasn’t involved in the study. However, the recommendations for this have changed after several subsequent studies. The medical community learned that it not necessary to stay on antibiotics for acute sinus infections for 10 or more days, and doing so can make you resistant to the drug.

Dr. Steven Lipsky

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