Coughing, sneezing, and a runny nose are a normal part of a common cold. But if your cold symptoms seem to worsen or last for weeks, you may have a more serious condition known as sinusitis.
Skilled otolaryngologist Wade Han, MD, FACS understands how frustrating it can be to differentiate between a cold and sinusitis. Our team recommends scheduling a consultation if what you thought were cold symptoms last longer than 7-10 days, or if pain begins interfering with your life.
Determining the root cause of your symptoms is important for ensuring you get the right treatment.
How colds and sinusitis develop
The common cold is a viral infection that spreads from person to person through contact with infected objects or in the air. After touching something infected with the virus and then touching your mouth or nose, the virus enters your body.
You may also be more likely to develop a cold if you’re around someone with a virus who’s coughing and sneezing.
While the common cold is linked to a viral infection, sinusitis may relate to a bacterial infection or allergies. When you make contact with a bacteria, virus, or allergy trigger, the membranes in your sinuses become inflamed, blocking the opening of your sinus cavity and making it difficult to breathe.
Your body also produces more mucus to fight the infection, further limiting your ability to take in air through your nose. This excess mucus can build up inside your sinus cavity and increase your risk for an infection.
Symptoms of colds vs. sinusitis
Many people mistake colds and sinusitis because their symptoms are very similar. With both a cold and sinusitis, you may experience symptoms like:
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
Sinusitis, however, may cause additional symptoms and increased discomfort. As your sinus membranes swell, it can also cause pain in your head and behind your eyes. Infections relating to sinusitis can also change your sense of smell and taste, and often leave you with a persistent bad taste in your mouth.
As your sinusitis symptoms persist, you may also experience an increase in fatigue and difficulties concentrating on anything but your breathing difficulties and sinus pain.
If your sinusitis is triggered by allergies, you might experience persistent sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, and irritation in your throat.
Why a true diagnosis of sinusitis matters
When your symptoms last for a week or more, or continue worsening, it’s important you receive a diagnostic evaluation. If you have sinusitis that progresses into an infection, you need the right treatment to prevent it from spreading and causing other complications, like an ear infection.
Bacterial infections, like those common in sinusitis, can be treated with a course of antibiotics. However, antibiotics won’t work on a viral infection or the common cold. For this reason, you need the guidance of Dr. Han and the team at Florida Ear, Nose, Throat & Facial Plastic Surgery Center who can determine the root cause of your symptoms and create a custom treatment plan.
Treatment for sinusitis focuses on both the short-term and long-term relief of your symptoms. Initially, you may find relief of pain and nasal congestion with over-the-counter products for acute sinusitis, allergies, and common cold symptoms.
If you suffer from chronic sinus inflammation associated with allergies or have recurrent sinus infections, Dr. Han can prescribe medications to keep symptoms under control or recommend a balloon sinuplasty.
Balloon sinuplasty is an in-office treatment that uses a small balloon to open blocked sinus passages and help you breathe more efficiently. By inflating the balloon inside the sinus cavity, Dr. Han also reshapes the passageway to promote long-term drainage of excess mucus.
If you have recurrent sinus infections or unexplained pain behind your eyes, schedule a diagnostic evaluation for sinusitis at Florida Ear, Nose, Throat & Facial Plastic Surgery today by calling the office or by requesting an appointment online.