Never-ending sneezes, watery eyes and runny nose are common during this time of the year as winter has no plans to spare anyone easily. Clinics and hospitals too are crowded with people suffering from a bad cold. Or is it a sinus infection? Oh! Its just confusing given the choices between the two and their similarities in symptoms.
Rhinitis or Sinusitis?
Got to understand the heading? If no, don’t worry as it is not a great deal and the terms rhinitis and sinusitis refer to cold and sinus infections respectively. It’s no fun tackling the watery nose, headaches and rolls of tissue paper during winter but its more terrible staying unaware whether its cold or sinus as the symptoms often overlap.
It might be surprising to know that more than 200 viruses can cause cold, but it is also good to realize that 40% of colds are due to a single family of viruses called the rhinovirus. It is highly likely that cold spreads when an infected person sneezes or coughs sending droplets of the virus-infected fluid into air. A cold-infected person who touches/sneezes on a surface leaves it open for infection to spread.
Sinuses are a group of air-filled and connected spaces in the skull. These spaces are present in between your eyes, behind your nose, cheeks and forehead and this information might answer your questions on a lingering headache that often happens when you suffer from cold. There are membranes in the sinuses walls that produce mucus. It is essential to know that mucus is not the result of an allergy/infection but is produced by each of us for protecting us against germs and other pollutants. The sinuses also contain hair-like structures called cilia that push the mucus out of the sinus walls and into your nose. But when sinusitis occurs the sinus walls swell, and this prevents the mucus from draining out of the nose.
Children too experience similar symptoms, but additional symptoms of sinusitis include ear pain, tooth pain, bad breath, headache, swelling around the eyes and persistent cough.
Subtle yet Stable Difference
The main difference between a cold (also called as viral sinusitis) and a bacterial sinusitis is that symptoms of cold begin to improve in a couple of days (3-5 days probably) whereas bacterial sinusitis symptoms stay for weeks or even month together. So, what you probably guessed as cold might be a sinus infection if it is not resolved within 10 days or so. Also, cold symptoms might start to diminish making you heave a sigh of relief but bounce back and worsen indicating that what began as cold has changed into a bacterial sinus.
Cold often goes away on its own and there is also a famous proverb that ‘Cold disappears in seven days with medication and in a week without medication’. People often choose home remedies to tackle the problem. Often, a sinus infection too resolves on its own without any medication but sometimes the following treatments can make the affected individual feel better:
Its ok to wait for a few days to check whether the symptoms resolve on their own before consulting a doctor. If symptoms linger on, it might be a bacterial infection that needs the doctor’s intervention. Also, symptoms such as wheezing, fever above 103 degrees, rash, shortness of breath and persistent cough need a doctor’s attention immediately.
AVOID FRAUD. EAT SMART.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.