Is It an Allergy, Cold or Sinus Infection?
When your runny nose persists, you could have a sinus infection. Learn the difference between allergy, cold and sinusitis.
When is it a sinus infection?
Sneezing, runny nose and itchy, watery eyes may signal the start of allergy season. But if you also have face pain, coughing or fever, you could have a cold or even a sinus infection.
Most people can’t tell the difference between allergies, a cold or sinusitis. A few things may help you tell them apart.
Timing and symptoms
If you are prone to hay fever, and you watch the pollen counts rise on the nightly news, then chances are you will know when your allergies start to act up. But it’s not always that easy.
Allergies usually involve itching and clear, watery nasal discharge. Your eyes may itch and tear. You may sneeze. But if there is a change in your mucous, if it becomes thick or sticky yellow-green, or you develop a bad taste in your mouth, seek the advice of a doctor.
A head cold or allergies can prime the sinuses, making them inviting to bacteria. Sinusitis generally lasts 10 to 28 days and usually follows a cold or allergies. So if you have pain in the forehead or the face, together with coughing, fever and nasal congestion that lasts more that two weeks, you should see your doctor. Other clues that you might have a sinus infection include pain in the upper teeth, bad breath or loss of sense of smell.
What causes a sinus infection?
An unusually bad allergy season doesn’t make it any easier on sinuses. In bad allergy seasons, doctors see a jump in the number of sinus infections.
Blame swollen sinus passages caused by an allergy or a cold for sinusitis. Those warm, wet passages are a playground for bacteria. An inflamed, swollen sinus passage leads to blockage of the sinus opening and backing up of nasal and sinus mucus.
Can children get a sinus infection?
Diagnosing sinusitis correctly in children can be a challenge. It’s important to remember that children get between two and nine viral respiratory illnesses, or colds, a year. Antibiotics do not work against viruses and will not cure a cold.
Children’s coughs and congestion sometimes last for up to two weeks, after other symptoms have already faded. Check in with your child’s doctor about persistent or severe symptoms. Also report symptoms like fever and facial pain or tenderness. These may signal a sinus infection.
Infants 12 weeks and younger with a fever of 100.4 degrees F or higher must be seen by a doctor right away. The same is true for any child with a fever of 105 degrees F or above. Also, talk with your doctor if your child is very young or has special health problems. And always call your doctor right away, regardless of your child’s age, if the child “looks sick” to you. Trust your gut.
Sinusitis is one of the most commonly reported diseases in the United States. It affects millions of adults and children each year. Know the symptoms and when to see the doctor.