When you get those familiar symptoms of a runny or stuffy nose, watery eyes, and sneezing, you may quickly conclude that you must have a cold. But how can you be so sure? The fact remains that colds and sinus infections might appear similar, but they are two different things and their treatments can diverge.
The Common Cold Virus
A famous saying in health is that there is no cure for the common cold. While this may be true, it's important to understand the symptoms you're dealing with in order to aid the recovery process. Because the common cold is, in fact, a virus, antibiotics won't help. Essentially, you have to let a cold run its course, but therein lies the problem.
While there are plenty of remedies to help ease the symptoms of a cold, one of the biggest things you can do is get proper rest. It is common for people to work through colds or try to resume their normal daily activities, but this can make a cold stick around longer. While colds typically only last for a week, not getting proper rest can allow them to linger longer.
Common cold symptoms can include: Sore throat, cough, headache, stuffy nose, mucus buildup, sneezing, fatigue, swollen sinuses, and in some cases a low-grade fever in adults. The remedies you choose to combat your cold symptoms should be specific to that symptom. Taking a cold or sinus pill and expecting it to work on everything can be a mistake. Target a headache, runny nose, mucus buildup, and fever differently. Acitamenophine tablets can help ease headaches and other discomfort, but make sure not to exceed the recommended dosage. Drink plenty of hot fluids such as chicken soup to stay hydrated. If you have one, a neti pot can help drain thin mucus and flush out your sinuses with a mix of distilled water and salt.
A Sinus Infection and Its Symptoms
A sinus infection starts in the nasal passages. When the sinuses become inflamed it can be harder to get rid of than a common cold. While colds don't usually directly cause sinus infections, they can present an apt breeding ground for them. Camelia Davtyan, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), explains how this can happen.
"You touch your nose a lot when you're sick, and each time you bring more bacteria to the sinuses," she says. "Because your sinuses can't drain, the bacteria stay there and grow."
Symptoms of sinus infections, while similar to the common cold, can be slightly different, including: Sinus pressure behind the eyes and the cheeks, a runny or stuffy nose lasting more than a week, a persistent headache, dizziness when shifting position, fever, cough, mucus draining from your nose or down the back of your throat (postnasal drip), fatigue, and a decreased sense of smell.
If you think you have a sinus infection rather than a cold, see your doctor right away. Most sinus infections will go away after a course of antibiotics. While you wait for the antibiotics to do their job, you can also ease your symptoms through nasal irrigation and with over-the-counter nasal decongestants.
Protecting Your Immune System
Even before you feel any symptoms it's always important to boost your immune system. Supplements like vitamin C, zinc, and even a daily multivitamin can help aid daily nutrition, which in turn can give your immune system the consistent boost it needs to keep you feeling healthy each day.
Knowing the Difference and Attacking with the Right Remedy
It is commonplace for the symptoms of a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and headache to be chalked up to the common cold or allergies. The truth is, while some symptoms are similar, their origins and, consequently, methods of treatment can differ. Everyone deals with colds, sinus infections, and allergies at some point in time. Recognizing the differences and following the right treatments can help you feel better faster, allowing you to get back to operating at your best sooner.