Antibiotics have been a wonder drug since their beginning. You can’t overstate penicillin’s impact on medicine and society, especially its role in treating bacterial infections, preventing the spread of disease and minimizing serious complications of disease.

But sometimes too much of a good thing does more harm than good. For example, what happens when antibiotics are overprescribed? They should be used for serious bacterial infections, but now, due to overprescriptions, have become less effective, even ineffective, because certain strains of bacteria have become resistant to newer and stronger antibiotics.

Some main reasons for this trend in antibiotics losing their effectiveness is due to overuse and misuse by doctors and hospitals. Both play a role in ensuring best practices of such drugs. Granted that bacteria develop resistance to any drug is normal and expected. But also the way drugs are used affects how quickly and to what extent drug resistance occurs.

If you didn’t know, a bacterium becomes more resistant to a drug when it has changed in some way that either protects itself from the drug or neutralizes that drug. And any bacterium that survives an antibiotic treatment strengthens itself and can multiply and then pass its resistant properties on. In short, bacteria become stronger and more resistant to treatment.

In general, antibiotics are only for bacterial infections, not viral ones. For example, we use antibiotics for strep throat, caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes, but it’s not the right treatment for sore throats caused by viruses such as a severe flu, because the flu originates from a virus.

If you take an antibiotic for a viral infection, the antibiotic attacks the good and bad bacteria in your body.  The good bacteria can then promote antibiotic-resistant properties in harmless bacteria and that can be shared with other bacteria.

Yet many people with severe sinus ailments—like facial pain, fever and nasal congestion—want immediate relief and often wonder why their doctors don’t prescribe antibiotics right away. As mentioned in the last blog, patients and doctors need to bide their time wisely, and that means even if you’re really sick with a high fever, it’s still okay to wait out the use of antibiotics. Research shows that there’s not any greater benefit with antibiotics.

The American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery Foundation recommends “watchful waiting” for people with sinusitis before they resort to antibiotics. This is not a new guideline and has always been part of best practices for ENT specialists.

For those acute sufferers, the guideline applies to acute sinusitis, even when symptoms last 10 days or more. In addition to this time, seven more days for a total of 17 days should pass before antibiotic therapy should begin. We understand that such a wait is dreadfully painful, but in the long run, it’s essential to keeping the good bacteria strong and the bad bacteria weak by your body’s natural immune system when suffering from acute sinusitis. Remember, your body needs to keep a certain balance and part of it is its good and bad bacteria.