Almost all of us have experienced being ill during the winter months, but can you tell the difference between the common cold and a more serious sinus infection? Both types of illness involve swelling and inflammation of the sinuses that blocks normal mucous drainage, but there are some key contrasts:
Most colds resolve themselves without treatment, though there are a variety of over-the counter medications that can relieve the symptoms. Always be sure you are aware of side effects, allergies and drug interactions before taking cold medications as they may contain blood-pressure raising components and/or analgesic pain relievers.
Sinusitis should be diagnosed by a physician through a thorough history and physical examination that may even include sinus x-rays. Once diagnosed, the condition will be treated with medications designed to reduce swelling and antibiotics to kill the bacteria. Hot, steamy showers may also be recommended to loosen drainage. In the worst cases, there are surgical procedures that can be used to improve drainage in the sinus cavity.
Adapted from Coping With Allergies and Asthma and material provided by the Cleveland Clinic Foundation