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Questions raised about antibiotics for sinus infections

Doctors routinely treat painful sinus infections with antibiotics, but a new study questions this practice because the drugs worked no better than placebos at clearing up symptoms. The finding suggests that doctors may want to switch to monitoring many patients with sinus infections to see whether symptoms worsen instead of immediately handing them a prescription.

In the research published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 166 adults who were recently diagnosed with sinus infections - because of symptoms such as a stuffed and runny nose, sinus pressure, and facial pain that often stem from a lingering cold - were randomly assigned to take the antibiotic amoxicillin or a placebo for 10 days while their symptoms were regularly monitored. On day three, 37 percent of the amoxicillin group reported feeling significantly better, compared with 34 percent of the control group. By day 10, about 80 percent of those in both groups said their symptoms had improved.

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