When is a Cold More Than a Cold?
When a cold lasts for more than 10 days, with symptoms of discolored nasal drainage and blockage, or if the symptoms worsen after they get better, it could be sinusitis. For patients experiencing sinus symptoms, it is important to understand what these are and to know what treatment options may be available.
The symptoms of sinusitis include:
- purulent (colored) nasal drainage
- pain or pressure in your cheeks, forehead, and nose, or between your eyes
- nasal congestion or obstruction
- coughing, which may be worse at night
- purulent drainage in your throat
- reduced sense of smell and taste
- weakness or fatigue
- dental pain
Differences Between Acute (Sinus Infections) and Chronic Sinusitis
Acute sinusitis is inflammation of the cavities around your nasal passages (sinuses) in which symptoms last up to four weeks. Acute sinusitis can be caused by a virus or bacteria. Acute sinusitis caused by a virus is usually present for less than 10 days and could be triggered by a common cold or bad upper respiratory infection. Acute sinusitis caused by a bacteria is usually when sinus symptoms last longer than 10 days and/or are worsening.
Chronic sinusitis is when that inflammation continues for more than 12 weeks and can be caused by bacteria or viruses. Chronic sinusitis is often associated with allergies, asthma, or nasal polyps. Chronic sinusitis occurs when the cavities around nasal passages (sinuses) become inflamed and swollen for several weeks, despite treatment attempts. If there is persistent sinus pressure for more than 12 weeks or more than four acute sinus infections within one year, it may be time to see an otolaryngologist - ear, nose and throat specialist - as this could be chronic sinusitis. The condition most commonly affects young and middle-aged adults, but it also can affect children.
Treatments for Sinusitis
Treatment for acute sinusitis includes getting rest, staying hydrated, using decongestants, over-the-counter pain medication and nasal saline sprays/irrigations. If symptoms are not improving after 10 days or are worsening, then a bacterial infection is suspected and an antibiotic might be suggested. If possible, getting a culture (sample) of the pus can help determine the best antibiotic choice to treat the infection.
Common treatments to relieve chronic sinusitis may include:
- Saline nasal irrigation
- Nasal corticosteroids
- Oral or injected corticosteroids
- Oral antibiotics
- Surgery for cases resistant to treatment or medication