We've all experienced the common cold with its nasal congestion, cough and runny nose. Some colds are worse than others and some progress into more serious illnesses. It is important to know the difference so that you can treat the problem most effectively.
The common cold is not usually a reason for concern. However, when a cold becomes persistent it may just mean that it has turned into a sinus infection. Many of the symptoms of a sinus infection are the same as those of the common cold. Nasal discharge, cough and sore throat can be symptoms of a cold or of sinusitis.
Sometimes what seems to be a cold is not a cold at all but a sinus infection or allergy instead. But how can you tell when what you are experiencing is a sinus infection? There are some telltale signs to look for.
To start with if you have sinusitis you will typically have a stuffy nose. The nasal passages become blocked with thick mucous. When the mucous does not move for a while it produces bacteria and that leads to infection. The stuffy nose associated with an infection is usually more severe than what you have with a cold. While a typically cold has some stuffiness it is typically not severe for longer than a day.
If you have a thick yellow or green nasal discharge this signals an infection. Usually nasal discharge is thin and clear. The thick mucous may not drain properly which can cause pressure and pain in sinuses and face. You may have a headache.
You may also develop a fever. A fever is the body's way of fighting an infection. The fever usually indicates infection is present. Chills can also accompany a fever. The fever is typically low-grade unless the infection becomes more severe. A high fever requires immediate attention by a doctor.
A sinus infection can cause the face to become painful to the touch. This is because the swollen nasal cavities are located on the face. The first place you may notice pain is on either side of the bridge of the nose but pain can be anywhere on the face. This type of pain does not accompany the common cold.
A typical cold usually lasts several days and then the symptoms improve. If after a few days the symptoms are not showing improvement or are worsening you may have more than a cold. Keep track of your symptoms so you can determine how your illness is progressing.
If your symptoms have worsened or you have developed a fever you should see a doctor. He can help to determine if the problem is a cold or if it is an infection. Sinus infection can usually be treated with antibiotics successfully, especially when they are caught early. The doctor will examine the nose. A red and swollen nasal passage suggests there may be an infection. If he can not tell for sure he may order a CT scan or MRI.