The main goals of sinus infection medication are to remove the general feeling of discomfort due to the pain and clogged nose; to help reduce the swelling and the inflammation of the nasal passages; allow for open sinuses; promote drainage, and to eliminate the infection caused by the bacteria which entered the nasal passages.

antibioticAntibiotics are a great way to treat the infection which caused the ethmoid sinus disease. Antibiotics are antibacterial in nature. They have the ability to kill the bacteria, prevent it from getting worse, and hamper further multiplication.

Our body has its own antibodies that work as the body’s natural antibiotics. Our immune system is responsible for eliminating these bacteria from our bodies. However, not all times can the body do this alone. This is why we seek for help using antibiotics. While antibiotics are good for the body, there are some types which use must be minimized as these can compromise the antibiotic resistance of the body.

Penicillin is one of the common narrow-spectrum antibiotic which is prescribed for sinus infections. They work by interfering the bacteria cell wall building function which hampers the growth of the bacteria stopping it in its tracks. It is very effective in attending to sinus infections.

Here are 7 tips to save money on sinusitis

1. Ask your doctor if it’s truly bacterial sinusitis. If he makes a convincing argument, then ask for a $4 antibiotic. Rarely do you need something more expensive? The $4 antibiotics include amoxicillin, sulfa drugs, doxycycline, erythromycin, cephalexin, and ciprofloxacin. Of these, the first four are considered first-line antibiotics for respiratory infections.

2. Otherwise, what you want/need is symptom relief. We’ll start with pain – facial pain, head pain, or even sometimes tooth pain. You’d be surprised how often a patient hasn’t considered standard pain relievers such as Tylenol®, aspirin, Advil® or Motrin® (ibuprofen), or Aleve® – they all provide effective relief for most patients – for under $5.

3. Mucus. Snot. Phlegm. Take your pick. If you have excess mucus you’ll either want to dry it up or make it run thinner, like maple syrup in the spring (see #5). Tasty metaphor! Antihistamines such as Benadryl® (diphenhydramine) and Zyrtec® dry up mucus. This can be good or bad. For some people, it provides real relief. For others, it makes them feel worse – they can’t get the snot out (see #4). OTC medications are as good as prescription medications – most were prescription some time ago anyway – and cost under $10. And by the way, whereas Claritin® (loratadine) works great for allergies, the above work better for infections.

4. If you can’t get the snot out, try nasal douching. Fancy words. If you have a clogged pipe, run water through it. The same goes for the nose. Use a penny’s worth of warm saltwater and run it through from one side to the other. This flushes out germs, mucus, chemicals, allergens (things you’re allergic to), and sometimes paper clips. Here’s a video from the Mayo clinic that shows you how to perform the irrigation:

5. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Rather than dry up the mucus, many patients feel better if the mucus is allowed to run more freely. Mucolytics – primarily guaifenesin, the active ingredient in Mucinex®, and some cough medicines – make mucus more watery. Then it feels like you’re swallowing saliva rather than snot, just like you’re supposed to. Don’t spend $40 on a fancy product. Just get a $7 store brand.

6. And now my personal favorite, pseudoephedrine. In the good old days, a few years ago, you could buy pseudoephedrine over-the-counter. Now you have to ask a pharmacist for it, thanks to the meth labs. The new Sudafed PE® contains phenylephrine, not nearly as effective in my experience. Pseudoephedrine opens the nasal/sinus passages, allowing mucus and air to flow more freely. It also has a bit of a drying effect. If I could choose only one therapy, this would be it – relief for under $10. Even though the medication is OTC, prescription plans often cover it, even cheaper than OTC! Common side effects include insomnia and palpitations, much like excess caffeine.

7. Ask your pharmacist for free advice. Tell your pharmacist your symptoms and she can tell you what medications will help you most. They deal with this stuff every day – skip the doctor and save 50 bucks. Since you’re seeking symptom relief, be as specific as possible. If you have multiple symptoms, a multi-relief medication may be your best bet.

Copyright 2010 Cynthia J. Koelker, M.D.

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