Has your sore throat, congestion and headache lingered for weeks? It’s possible that what you thought was a cold is actually a sinus infection, otherwise known as sinusitis.
A common illness affecting adults and children, sinusitis occurs when a virus or bacteria infects the sinuses, the hollow spaces around the bones of the nose. It can come on at the end of a cold, with allergies or as a result of any condition that partially blocks the nasal cavities. The good news is that if you seek medical attention early, symptom relief usually occurs more quickly and you’ll be breathing better in no time.
If your cold hasn’t resolved in a week or so, it’s time to see your doctor.
Colds and sinus infections cause the lining of your sinuses to swell. This can trap mucus in the cavities and make it difficult to breathe. Often, sinus infections improve with the help of over-the-counter decongestants and antihistamines, such as Mucinex DM, DayQuil, NyQuil or Sudafed. In addition, nasal sprays and honey and lemon in warm teas or water can clear the nasal passages and soothe the throat.
What won’t work? Vitamin C and other supplements. Instead, you’d be better off washing your hands frequently and avoiding others who are sick.
There are times when antibiotics or anti-inflammatories, such as prednisone, a steroid that helps shrink inflammation, are prescribed for sinusitis. A visit to your doctor can also rule out influenza or strep throat and better target the correct medications for your specific illness.
Primary care physicians refer some patients, particularly those who don’t respond to medications or have recurring or chronic sinusitis, to an otolaryngologist ― an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.
By inserting an endoscope (a small tube with a camera at the end) up the nose, the ENT can see if you have other issues, like nasal polyps, and can widen the nasal passages to allow mucus to drain better. The ENT may also order a CT scan, an imaging study to view the nasal cavities in more detail.
If your child has a lingering cold, see your pediatrician or family medicine physician. The treatment for sinusitis is similar for adults and children, however, physicians don’t recommend some medications for kids.