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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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Antibiotics for Sinusitis


amoxicillin amoxicillin-clavulanate Augmentin azithromycin Zithromax levofloxacin Levaquin trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole Bactrim Septra

Antibiotics can be taken orally or intravenously (IV).

How It Works

Antibiotics kill or prevent the growth of bacteria that cause some sinus infections.

Acute sinusitis

When using antibiotics to treat acute sinusitis, it may be helpful to remember that:

  • The number of days you take antibiotics depends on your general health, how serious your sinusitis is, and the type of antibiotic you are taking.
  • A different antibiotic may be needed if your condition does not begin to improve within 3 to 5 days.
  • Other medicines, such as decongestants, inhaled corticosteroids, and medicines that help thin the mucus (mucolytics), may be prescribed as well to improve sinus drainage.

Chronic sinusitis

When using antibiotics to treat chronic (long-term) sinusitis, it may be helpful to remember that:

  • The number of days you take antibiotics depends on your general health, how serious your sinusitis is, and the type of antibiotic you are taking.
  • The choice of antibiotic often depends on which antibiotics have worked well for you in the past. If an antibiotic normally used to treat your sinusitis was successful in the past, it may be used again. If it did not work very well, a different antibiotic may be tried.
  • Other medicines, such as decongestants, inhaled corticosteroids, and medicines that help thin the mucus (mucolytics), may be prescribed as well to improve sinus drainage.

Why It Is Used

Antibiotics may be needed when symptoms of sinusitis do not respond to home treatment, symptoms are severe, or complications (such as pus forming in sinus cavities) develop.

  • Amoxicillin is often the first choice in treating sinusitis because it is usually effective and has few side effects. It should not be used if you are allergic to amoxicillin or have been diagnosed with mononucleosis.
  • Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole may be prescribed for people who are allergic to amoxicillin.

Other antibiotics may be prescribed to treat bacterial infections that are resistant to amoxicillin and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole.

How Well It Works

Antibiotic treatment of sinusitis is generally safe and very effective. Most people recover completely when they are treated with antibiotics.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call911or other emergency services right away if you have:

Call your doctor if you have:

Common side effects of this medicine include:

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

It is important to take all of the medicine your doctor prescribes. Keep taking it even after you begin to feel better. This is especially important when treating sinusitis because the antibiotics do not easily penetrate the mucus inside the sinuses.

Your doctor will try to select an antibiotic that is most likely to kill the bacteria causing your sinusitis. If the antibiotic fails to cure your sinusitis, another may be tried. If your condition does not improve, further testing may be needed to find which antibiotic will work best for you.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.


Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerPatrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerDonald R. Mintz, MD - Otolaryngology

Current as ofNovember 14, 2014

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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