Ever get a sinus infection following a bad cold? It's called sinusitis. After a cold, you are at greater risk of developing a sinus infection because a cold causes inflammation and swelling of the sinuses. While sinusitis and cold symptoms can make you miserable, they are common problems and affect millions of Americans each day. Here's up-to-date information about sinusitis and colds.
The common cold, an upper respiratory infection, is usually caused by a virus that infects the nose and throat.
Common cold symptoms include nasal congestion; runny nose; post-nasal drip, which is a drop-by-drop release of nasal fluid into the back of the throat; headache; and fatigue. Cough and mild fever may also accompany these symptoms.
Cold symptoms usually build, peak, and slowly disappear. No treatment is necessary for a cold, but some medications can ease symptoms. For example, decongestants may decrease drainage and open the nasal passages. Pain relievers may help with fever and headache. Cough medication may help as well. Colds will typically last from a few days to about a week or longer.
In some instances, a cold may cause swelling in the sinuses, preventing the outflow of mucus. This can lead to a sinus infection. If you have sinus pain -- pain around the face and eyes -- and thick yellow or green mucus that persist after a week, then you should see your health care provider to determine if you have a sinus infection.
What Is a Sinus Infection?
A sinus infection is inflammation or swelling of your sinuses. Normally, your sinuses are filled with air. When the sinuses become blocked and filled with fluid, bacteria can grow there and cause infection. This infection is sinusitis.
What Are the Symptoms of a Sinus Infection?
Symptoms of a sinus infection include:
Thick, yellow, foul-smelling nasal discharge
Pressure or pain around the face and eyes
Headache (generally in the forehead area)
A cold that won't go away or gets worse
Fever or cough
Keep in mind that these symptoms can also be seen with a cold. But if they continue for more than 10 days, you may have sinusitis.
What Causes a Sinus Infection?
Any condition that blocks off the sinus drainage channels can cause a sinus infection. Such conditions include colds, allergies such as hay fever, non-allergic rhinitis, and nasal polyps, which are small growths in the lining of your nose.
A sinus infection may occur after a cold or may result from anatomic problems such as a deviated septum, which refers to a shift in the nasal cavity. If not treated, a sinus infection can last for weeks.