ANSWER: NOT VERY OFTEN
The CDC has published guidelines as to when antibiotics are needed for a sinus infection (sinusitis). Here are the bullet points:
- Most episodes of sinusitis are due to viral infections. Symptoms may include nasal congestion, discolored mucus, teeth pain, facial pain, fever and ear pain. The symptoms may last 1-33 days.
- Occasionally bacteria cause sinusitis (sinus infections). This usually occurs after a viral sinus infection but only occurs in 2% of cases.
- X-rays cannot tell if the infection is due to a virus or bacteria, so are not particularly helpful.
- Antibiotics should be reserved for patients whose symptoms persist for over 10 days, are severe, or deteriorate after initial improvement. Severe symptoms include fever over 102, discolored nasal drainage, facial pain for over 3 days.