"There is a lot of confusion between cold, sinus and allergy symptoms," says Dr. Ronald Yuko, Ear Nose and Throat specialist with Carolina ENT. Since the symptoms can be so similar, here's a cheat sheet to help figure out what is causing your misery:
How long it lasts: If your congested nose and breathing difficulty last longer than a week, it's probably more than a cold. Most likely, allergies are involved. Some patients experience allergy symptoms during the spring and fall seasons, while others can have allergies year round (perennial). Sinusitis can follow a cold or allergies.
Facial pressure and pain: The severity of facial pain and pressure is one telltale sign of a sinus infection. Allergies usually don't cause nearly as much facial pain and pressure as sinusitis does. If you have sinusitis, you can feel pressure and pain in your nose, cheeks, forehead and even upper teeth.
Itching: An itchy, runny nose and watery eyes indicate allergies. This happens as a result of your immune system reacting to a foreign substance (called an allergen - we're looking at you, pollen) by releasing histamines. Histamines are responsible for starting the chemical reaction that results in allergy symptoms.
Fever, body aches and nausea: If you experience these symptoms, sinusitis is likely the cause. Sinus infections result when mucus does not drain properly and becomes infected with bacteria. This infection causes you to feel sicker and more fatigued than you would with allergies or a cold.
While the sniffling and congestion may be similar in all three, the treatments will differ. A simple cold can be relieved by over-the-counter medications, such as decongestants. Seasonal and perennial allergies need to be treated with antihistamines, antihistamine sprays, steroidal nasal sprays or a combination of these. "If symptoms persist for more than two weeks despite medical treatment, a more thorough evaluation and treatment plan is indicated," Dr. Yuko says.
For acute sinusitis, a prescription antibiotic is often prescribed to help control the symptoms. Chronic sinusitis refers to sinus infections that occur multiple times a year or persist for three months or more. Patients who suffer from chronic sinusitis often benefit from minimally-invasive surgery as the best option for long term control of their symptoms.
One such procedure, called Balloon Sinuplasty, safely and effectively opens breathing passages and sinus drainage areas. This procedure is done through the nostrils and doesn't require tissue or bone removal, allowing for quicker healing and faster recovery. Most patients return to work in just one or two days.
Learn more about balloon sinuplasty >>
Bon Secours Medical Group
The Bon Secours Medical Group has ENT specialists available at both Carolina ENT and Foothills ENT. Visit mybsmg.com to find an ENT specialist near you.
Looking for more information like this? Are you one of the millions of Americans who suffers from chronic sinus infections? If so, join Bon Secours Medical Group ENT physicians to learn about a minimally-invasive sinus procedure that can immediately provide lasting relief from sinus infections.
The free event will be held Tuesday, March 26 at 6:00 p.m. at ST. FRANCIS eastside. Click here to register and learn more.