Can You Differentiate Between the Cold and a Sinus Infection?

The sinuses are hollow spaces in the bones behind the face, and sinusitis or a sinus infection refers to the inflammation that occurs in these cavities. It can begin with a viral, bacterial or fungal infection and is characterized by inflamed sinus and nasal passages that make breathing difficult.

Causes and Symptoms of Sinusitis

While some pollutants and allergens can trigger acute sinus infections, a cold is one of the most common starting points for a sinus infection. A humid environment increases the risk of contracting an infection, which can cause inflammation that puts pressure on the cheeks, nose and forehead.

The symptoms of sinusitis are different from the cold and flu and can include:

  • Face pain or pressure
  • Congestion
  • Nasal discharge
  • Reduced ability to smell
  • Aching upper jaw and teeth
  • Fever

Diagnosis and Treatment of Sinusitis

Distinguishing sinusitis from a common cold or flu can be difficult, and a proper diagnosis is usually based on physical examination, symptoms and medical history.

Additional testing might require a computerized tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to visualize the sinuses. In some cases, sinusitis can be triggered by allergies and the doctor may recommend an allergy test to pinpoint the allergen.

In case of a viral infection, the condition is allowed to run its course, supported by nasal sprays and anti-fever medications. For bacterial infections caused by streptococcus pneumoniae or streptococcus pyogenes, among other types of bacteria, the individual may be prescribed antibiotics to attack the infection and reduce the symptoms.

Some home remedies that seem to help with sinusitis include:

  • Drinking lots of water and fluids like hot ginger tea or tea with lemon and honey
  • Drinking chicken soup may ease the congestion and provide a soothing effect
  • Inhaling steam either in a hot shower or by covering your head with a towel and hovering over a bowl of steaming hot water can decongest the nasal cavities
  • Applying a warm compress to the face could reduce the inflammation and pain
  • Getting plenty of rest can allow the body to heal

The best way to prevent a sinus infection is to:

Though sinusitis or a sinus infection is not life-threatening, it can cause some disruption in your daily life. So in case you are diagnosed with it, make sure you stay hydrated, take the right medicines and get enough rest to recover completely.

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