Symptoms of the cold or flu may closely mirror those of a sinus infection, but their causes and subsequent treatments are very different. Before you can start to recover from your illness, it’s important to identify which condition you’re suffering from.
Viral infections are caused by, well, viruses. Viruses that cause the cold and flu can enter the body through the mouth, eyes or nose and are spread through saliva droplets when someone coughs or sneezes. Symptoms of a viral infection include:
- Runny/stuffy nose
- Facial pain/pressure
- Sore throat
- Body aches
Cold and flu symptoms can be similar, although the flu is generally associated with worse symptoms and a higher fever. In addition, flu symptoms typically hang on for about two weeks, while cold symptoms will normally clear up in three to five days. The cold and flu can typically be managed by over-the-counter medications.
Sinus infections typically are caused by bacteria becoming trapped in the sinuses. In many cases, a patient may first experience a cold or the flu, and then experience a sinus infection after the virus has passed. It is common for patients with sinus infections to experience a double worsening of symptoms, where they start to feel better after viral symptoms have passed, then feel worse again once the bacterial infection takes hold. Symptoms of a sinus infection are:
- Facial pain or pressure
- Runny/stuffy nose
- Loss of smell
- Bad breath
Sinus infections can last between seven days and 12 weeks. They do not typically resolve on their own and require antibiotics prescribed by a physician.
If your sinus infection has lasted more than 12 weeks, or if you experience more than three sinus infections a year, your doctor may recommend a more long-term treatment. Endoscopic sinus surgery and balloon sinuplasty are two surgical procedures that can open the pathways of the sinuses and clear blockages. Balloon sinuplasty is a minimally-invasive option that involves inserting a small catheter into the sinus and inflating it to create more space.
To learn more about options for treating sinus infections long-term, talk to a physician at Arizona Desert ENT Specialists today!