“How do I know if I have a cold or sinus infection?” It’s a question the doctors at CT ENT Sinus Center, Hearing & Balance say they hear from busy moms every day. With everyone sniffling constantly this time of year, it can be a tough question to answer on our own! So, we talked to Dr. Robert Weiss, Director and Founder of CT ENT about the difference between the two and the treatments available for sinus pain.

How do I know if my sinus pain is the result of a sinus infection or a cold?
The typical rule of thumb is any cold that lasts more than 5 to 7 days or is becoming worse as the days go by is usually a bacterial sinus infection. This typically requires medical evaluation and possibly medication, which could include an antibiotic.

Other telltale signs are pain that develops just on one side of the face or one portion of the face or forhead, a worsening of nasal congestion, or generalized headache.

Keep in mind, yellow or green mucus is not always indicative of sinusitis and may also occur with a viral cold.

When should I see a doctor for sinus pain?
You should seek medical attention for any sinus infection or bad cold that has lasted more than 5 to 7 days or symptoms become worse such as a severe headache, toothache, fever or nasal congestion. We recommend seeing a specialist if you get frequent sinus infections, which is defined as more than three per year that require you to seek medical attention go on antibiotics, or interfere with your daily life or productivity.

Will a sinus infection clear up on its own?
By definition, a viral cold is usually self limited and will clear up on its own. Sometimes a bacterial sinus infection will also clear up on its own, but this may take several weeks to occur. Very often once we determine a sinus infection is due to bacteria we intervene with some type of antibiotic as well as decongestant nasal steroid spray. For patients who are frequent sufferers and have either recurrent sinusitis or chronic sinusitis, we have the option to intervene with many new advanced techniques. One such option is a minimally invasive technique called balloon sinus dilation.

Are there any at-home remedies for sinus infections?
At home remedies include a daily salt water irrigation with a Netty Pot. Other at home remedies include over-the-counter medications such as nasal steroid sprays, which are now available without a prescription such as Flonase or Nasacort. For those of us that have allergies antihistamines can sometimes help. There are also some natural remedies that have been shown to offer relief such as essential oils like peppermint lemon and lavender.

What causes a sinus infection?
Sinus infections are usually caused by swelling inside the sinus cavity to the point where the sinus can no longer drain properly and the viruses and bacteria get trapped and become infected. This is usually seen in the setting of a viral cold, which initiates the process or even sometimes bad allergies. Some patients are more prone to this because of the way their sinuses developed. They tend to have much more narrow drainage pathways than the average person. This predisposes them to get blocked a lot more easily. Sinus dilation can open up the diameter of their drainage pathways so that they don’t continue to suffer from these infections.

How do you determine best treatment options for sinus pain?
The best way to find the optimal treatment for sinus problems or sinus pain is to make an appointment with an ENT specialist who is an expert in treating sinus patients. Many of us have additional training especially in the newer techniques and technologies that have really improved over the last 8 to 10 years. Many of these technologies allow patients to be treated in an office setting without using general anesthesia and a much more rapid recovery and return to normal life.

It feels like I constantly have a sinus infection, why is that?
If you feel you always have a sinus infection that doesn’t go away even with the use of appropriate medical therapy including antibiotics, you may be suffering from chronic sinusitis. This is a common diagnosis that we make in our office on many of our patients. The best way to determine this is to have a complete sinus evaluation by one of our experts right in the office. Usually this also involves an imaging study such as a CAT scan to really determine what’s going on inside your sinuses.

Chronic sinusitis is another problem that lends itself to the newer technology such as Balloon Sinuplasty, also known as balloon sinus dilation, simply uses a balloon type of catheter to expand the opening of the blocked or narrowed sinus. This is accomplished in an office setting under local anesthesia and can be rapidly performed in less than 30 minutes. The balloon gently dilates the opening, which permanently widens the drainage pathway for the sinus improving and or curing the patient sinus condition. This has been performed on millions of patients with very high success rates and safety. Patients that undergo this procedure often experience immediate relief of their sinus pain headaches and significant reduction of their sinus infections. Healing is rapid within a matter of several weeks and downtime after the procedure is limited to 24 to 48 hours before returning to a full schedule.

If you’re diagnosed with chronic sinusitis and have tried multiple medical treatments and failed, we will usually speak to patients about some type of sinus procedure. We usually try to start out with the least invasive technology, which usually involves balloon sinus dilation. This can be accomplished in an in-office setting under local anesthesia and can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to accomplish. Patients are back to the routine within 24 to 48 hours and overall healing takes weeks. For patients that have a much more involved form of chronic sinusitis, usually involving nasal polyps, we can still utilize an office-based procedure. However, other technologies will come in to play including devices that remove Polyps as well as utilizing dissolvable steroid implants to help control the inflammation. A much smaller percentage of our patients require general anesthesia and a more extensive operation in an operating room setting.

CT ENT’s Stamford office is now open at 1290 Summer Street, Suite 2300. To book an appointment call, (203) 295-0160. The office is open Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

CT ENT’s Norwalk office is at 761 Main Avenue, Route 7, Suite 101. To book an appointment call, (203) 716-6008. The office is open Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

This post is sponsored by CT ENT Sinus Center, Hearing & Balance

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