The holiday season is over, and quickly taking its place is cold and flu season. In all parts of the UK and most parts of the US you’ll be lucky if the temperature goes above 50F/10C and it’s only getting colder. That means the viruses which cause colds spread more easily in the cooler air. Add to this the fact that most people prefer to stay inside and cuddled up with a duvet or a loved one, and the chances for colds to spread becomes even higher. We all know the symptoms of a common cold, and most of us can deal with it and overcome them in a couple of weeks with a small amount of grumbling, but what happens when your cold turns into an infection? We’ve put together the symptoms and treatments for a sinus infection, so you can understand how to spot the condition, and get the help you need to get back on track with the year.
A sinus infection occurs when the sinuses, small cavities behind your cheekbones, forehead, and into your nose and mouth, become inflamed. Healthy sinuses are simply filled with air and a thin layer of mucus, which helps to clean and moisturize the nose. When we get a cold, however, the cold virus can travel to the sinuses, causing them to become inflamed. The sinuses then become blocked with fluid and swollen as they struggle to fight off the viral infection.
The main symptoms of sinusitis, particularly the ones that distinguish it from a common cold or the flu, are:
Sinusitus is a viral infection, which means it is less easy to treat than a bacterial infection. Our bodies are usually able to clear up the condition without any medication within two to three weeks, and during this time you can take painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol to relieve the symptoms. Decongestants can also help with trying to unblock the sinuses, which in turn will help the inflammation to go down and the body to fight the infection. However, if the symptoms persist for more than two weeks, pop them into the Isabel Symptom Checker and go and visit your doctor. They may try a course of antibiotics to see if that will help, although these are usually only effective on bacterial infections. Another course of action is draining the sinuses with a saline solution, and consulting an ear, nose and throat specialist for further examination. This treatment referral is usually only considered in patients suffering from recurrent sinusitus, or chronic sinusitus.
If you are concerned about your cold, flu and sinusitis symptoms this winter, place them into the Isabel Symptom Checker and visit your doctor to discuss the results.
Mandy has worked for Isabel Healthcare since 2000. Prior to this, she was a Senior Staff Nurse on the Pediatric Infectious disease ward and high dependency unit at one of London's top hospitals, St Mary’s in Paddington which is part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. Her experience in the healthcare industry for the past 28 years in both the UK and USA means she's a vital resource for our organization. Mandy currently lives and works in Scottsdale, Arizona.