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Pop quiz. Colds are caused by:
Unless you believe in witchcraft, there’s really only one correct answer – viruses – but the virus/bacteria question has caused untold confusion, even among GPs, who used to frequently prescribe antibiotics “just in case” to reassure their sick patients even though antibiotics are not only useless against viral infections, their misuse has caused drug-resistant bacteria to proliferate across the globe.
Why all the confusion? It’s understandable: the common cold often manifests the same symptoms as some bacterial infections, including sinusitis. Here we help you distinguish between the common cold and a Sinus infection so you can get the treatment you need.
Before you consult an ENT to see if you have sinusitis, there are things you can do to diagnose yourself. Though symptoms vary, there are usually some key differences between a normal cold and a sinus infection. The most significant is the duration of symptoms.
|Sinus drainage||Sinus drainage|
|Swollen, blocked sinuses||Swollen, blocked sinuses|
|Runny nose for 2-3 days then stuffy nose for 2-3 days||Blocked nose for 7 days or more|
|Clear mucous||Greenish or yellow coloured mucous|
|Typically no fever||Fever symptoms can occur|
|Pain, pressure in the head and face|
Only a small percentage – less than 6 percent – of colds progress into bacterial sinus infections that can be treated by antibiotics.
But Allergy symptoms and even Nasal polyps can also cause sinusitis to develop, because anything that causes the mucous membranes in the sinuses to swell, or causes a blockage in the sinuses themselves, prevents the sinuses from draining properly.
The resulting accumulation of fluid in the sinuses can become a breeding ground for bacteria.
Most sinus infections will resolve if left alone, but there is no need to suffer with pain, pressure and inability to breathe through the nose for weeks on end.
An antibiotic will speed the healing process by up to five days, and can begin to provide relief with just one dose as it begins to attack the infection-causing bacteria.
Over-the-counter decongestants may help you breathe easier, but shouldn’t be used for longer than three days in a row because they can have harmful side effects or even cause rebound congestion.
If you prefer to go ‘au naturel’, the following home remedies should provide relief:
If you have chronic sinusitis – a sinus infection that keeps coming back, or one whose symptoms last weeks on end – it could be causing permanent damage to your sinuses.
If suspected sinus infections are interfering with your work and daily activities, you’re better safe than sorry. By having an experienced ear, nose and throat specialist assess your condition, you’ll have a better idea how to treat it.
Dr. Nguyen has over 10 years experience treating countless patients with sinus infections, with a variety of methods. Learn more about sinus infection treatment at Houston Sinus & Allergy, or book an assessment to get your symptoms professionally evaluated, and put an end to that chronic cold!