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Andrew S. Kim, MD
Is it a Cold or Something More?
Allergy & Asthma Center Of Fairfax
. http://www.allergyasthmadoctors.com/

Is it a Cold or Something More?

The stuffy-nosed, headachy, tired all the time feeling that many people experience every winter is often thought to be a cold. But is it really a cold, or is it something more serious?

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), millions of Americans think they're suffering from a cold when they're actually experiencing sinusitis. Sinusitis is an acute or chronic inflammation of the nasal sinuses affecting approximately 31 million people each year.

The inflammation is usually triggered by inadequate draining due to allergies, infections or structural problems of the nose. People suffering from sinusitis miss an average of four days of work a year.

Symptoms of sinusitis include

Nasal congestion

Green or gray nasal discharge

Postnasal drip

Pressure in the face


Chronic cough

Acute sinusitis may be caused by a preceding viral infection that causes swelling of the sinus membranes. As a result, one or more of the sinuses may become blocked. A bacterial infection may then occur as a result of the sinus blockage. Symptoms may last for three to four weeks.

A diagnosis of chronic sinusitis is made when sinusitis symptoms persist for more than four weeks. Chronic sinusitis symptoms are similar to those of acute sinusitis; however, patients usually do not have a fever. Factors such as allergies or bacterial infection also play a major role in chronic sinusitis by producing inflammation in the sinus membranes.

Although colds are the most common cause of acute sinusitis, it is more likely that people with allergies will develop sinusitis. Allergies can trigger inflammation of the sinuses and nasal mucous linings. This inflammation prevents the sinus cavities from clearing out bacteria and increases your chances of developing secondary bacterial sinusitis.

If you test positive for allergies, your physician can prescribe appropriate medications to control your symptoms, thereby reducing the risk of developing an infection. People with sinus problems and allergies should avoid environmental irritants such as tobacco smoke and strong chemical odors, which may increase symptoms.

Proper diagnosis and management of sinusitis requires a physician who recognizes the signs and symptoms. Once sinusitis is diagnosed, the physician or allergist/immunologist can work together to provide you with an effective management and treatment plan.

Consider seeing an allergist/immunologist if you

Have chronic or recurrent infectious rhinosinusitis

Have other types of chronic rhinosinusitis

Have allergic fungal rhinosinusitis

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