By Dr. Mallika Marshall, WBZ-TVBy Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) – Antibiotics are over prescribed in this country and as it turns out, 20 percent of them are used to treat sinusitis.

Sinusitis gets diagnosed about 30 million times annually, but not every sinus headache is sinusitis and not every sinusitis requires antibiotics. So in an effort to limit their use, leading ear, nose, and throat surgeons are arming doctors and patients with information to decide whether a prescription is actually needed.

Symptoms of sinusitis include colorful nasal discharge, stuffy nose, facial pain and pressure and sometimes fever.

Most of the time those symptoms are caused by a virus and will resolve on their own. But how do you know if it’s just a virus or if it’s a bacterial infection that could benefit from more aggressive treatment?

If you’ve been sick for less than 10 days but you’re slowly getting better, it’s probably viral.

But, if you’ve been sick for more than 10 days and you’re not getting better or you were getting better and now you’re getting worse, it’s probably a bacterial sinusitis. And even then, you may not need an antibiotic, which may only help a little bit.

More likely to give you relief are those saline nasal rinses, like the Neti pot, and over the counter pain relievers.

Nasal steroids can also provide some benefit.

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