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.
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.’