Difference between a Cold, Sinuses or Allergies

Let’s face it, your nose often goes unnoticed until there’s something wrong with it. Then, you wake up one morning hardly able to breathe through your nose and suddenly it becomes the largest thing in the room. Is it a cold, your sinuses, or allergies?

Self-diagnosis is a common problem when it comes to nasal issues, such as congestion or a runny nose. If someone has had allergies before, they assume that is the culprit. If the weather is changing, they assume that is the reason. It could also be the symptoms of a sinus infection. In reality, the symptoms for all three can be similar, though treatment is not.

So what exactly are the differences between a cold, allergies and a sinus infection?

Colds are caused by viruses and are contagious, with symptoms lasting approximately three to five days while your immune system fights off the attack of germs. Symptoms should then dissipate completely.

Allergies, on the other hand, are due to an overactive immune system trying to fight off what it perceives to be germs, but are actually harmless substances like pollen or cat dander. The immune system’s misunderstanding causes your body to mimic the symptoms of a cold with a runny nose, coughing or sneezing, just as if it were fighting off germs instead of allergies.

A sinus infection, or sinusitis, occurs when bacteria begins to grow in the nasal passages due to blocked airways and causes inflammation. Blocked airways can sometimes occur after a cold or with allergies. Symptoms of sinusitis include pain around the eyes or face, a cold that doesn’t seem to go away, congestion and headache. Sinusitis that lasts for most than three months or is recurrent in nature may requires and benefit from intervention.

Allergies can be treated with antihistamines and decongestants, though allergy sufferers who do not find relief through these methods should seek help from a healthcare provider for additional treatment options, such as immunotherapy. Sinusitis can be treated with nasal sprays or medications to reduce swelling, but chronic sinusitis could require additional medication or even new cutting-edge in-office sinus procedures.

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