GPs should not prescribe antibiotics for sinusitis, NICE says

Antibiotics should not be used to treat the majority of sinus infections, NICE has said.

New NICE guidance advises GPs that most sinus infections will resolve without antibiotic treatment. It also says that there is little to no evidence that oral decongestants will help to relieve symptoms.

The guidance is part of a new series of advice on antimicrobial prescribing for managing common infections from NICE, which has been developed with Public Health England.

Most cases of acute sinusitis are caused by vital infections, however NICE said that data has shown that antibiotics are given to 91% of people who visit their GP with symptoms of the condition.

NICE said that patients with sinusitis should be advised to rest and manage their symptoms with paracetamol.

However, if a patient has experienced symptoms for more than 10 days then it may be appropriate to offer them a back-up prescription, NICE added. If there are signs of a more serious illness, for example double vision or a severe headache, patients should be referred to hospital immediately, the guidance says.

Antiobiotic campaign

The guidance comes the same week as Public Health England launched its campaign to encourage patients not to pressure their GP to prescribe antibiotics.

GP Dr Tessa Lewis, chair of NICE’s managing common infections guidance committee, said:  ‘We know that most people with sinus infections will recover in a couple of weeks without needing any antibiotics, but that doesn’t mean we should be sending them home without any information or advice.

‘Health professionals can help their patients cope with this infection and the sometimes unpleasant symptoms it can cause. They should tell them that they’ll probably be feeling this way for a while, and that unless they are very unwell, the best thing to do is to take paracetamol and "take it easy".’

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive at NICE said: ‘Antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest dangers to our health, which is why we must all work together to fight it.

‘Our new guidance will help healthcare professionals to use antibiotics efficiently and only when they are really needed. This will help to protect these vital medicines and ensure that no one experiences side-effects from a treatment they do not need.’

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

NHS prescription and packet of pills

GPs can now prescribe flu antivirals on the NHS

GPs and other prescribers are now able to issue NHS prescriptions for antivirals...

GP sign

Prevention set to be key battleground for 2024 GP contract

Negotiations on a new GP contract from 2024/25 will need to 'align closely' with...

Talking General Practice logo

Podcast: What makes a strong PCN and how will integrated care systems affect networks?

Talking General Practice speaks to GP and PCN clinical director Professor Aruna Garcea,...


GP core funding rise outstripped by staff pay awards under five-year contract

Staff pay awards have outstripped increases in core GP practice funding between 2019/20...

BMA sign

Fifth of GP time spent on non-medical work as NHS absorbs cost of 'government failure'

Doctors are 'picking up the pieces of government failures' as the cost-of-living...


How the five fundamentals of COPD care can help GPs support patients

GP Dr Andrew Whittamore, clinical lead at Asthma + Lung UK, explains NICE’s five...