There are fewer things more annoying than blocked sinuses. Wheezing, sneezing, sniffling and generally struggling to breathe describe the feeling quite well. An exaggerated version of the common cold, sinusitis or sinus infections can also feel like a prolonged allergic reaction. But how do you differentiate common cold from sinusitis?
First, let’s understand what sinuses are. Think of sinuses as air spaces in your skull lined with mucus membranes. Every individual has a different sinus system. Normally most people have four sets of sinuses. Two are located in the forehead above the eyes called frontal sinuses; one inside each cheekbone or maxillary sinuses; a bunch of them behind the bridge of the nose called the ethmoid sinuses; and finally another cluster behind the nose and underneath the brain called the sphenoid.1 Sinuses are responsible for the easy flow of air and mucus between your nose and sinus system. When these air spaces are inflamed or filled with fluid, it leads to a sinus infection.
Extremely common, sinusitis affects an estimated 16 percent of the adult population in the USA every year. Because of the nature of this condition, sinus afflictions significantly affect one’s quality of life, more than other chronic ailments like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), angina, and back pain. Certain factors predispose people to sinus infections. These include allergy, upper respiratory tract infections, anatomic abnormalities, immotile cilia syndrome, cystic fibrosis (CF), immune deficiencies, and environmental factors.
Sinusitis is classified as acute, subacute, chronic and recurrent. Subacute sinusitis shows minimal to moderate signs of a sinus infection. Acute sinus infection is the most common and can last from anywhere between 10 to 30 days while chronic sinusitis lasts eight weeks or longer. The symptoms for both are the same but may vary in severity. If you suffer from sinusitis around three times every year, you probably have recurrent sinusitis.2
Stay Away From Dry Environment
If you are prone to sinus infections, you may want to steer clear of dry indoor environments (like centrally-heated or centrally-cooled places). According to a study, it was found that there was a direct correlation between the symptoms of sinusitis and other such nasal ailments and working in air-conditioned buildings.3
Can’t help it? Keep your sinuses moist by using a humidifier or placing a bowl of water near you to disperse water in the air. You should also stay away from irritants that may trigger a nasal infection such as cigarette smoke or chemical odors.
It is easy to confuse the symptoms of the common cold with symptoms of sinusitis, especially since it all begins with a cold. So before you diagnose yourself, read the signs of sinusitis.
What Are The Symptoms Of Sinusitis
1. Nasal Congestion
No prizes for guessing that nasal congestion is one of the primary signs of sinus infection. A stuffy nose is also a symptom of the common cold, flu, and allergies.
Though it causes nasal obstruction, not every nasal obstruction is caused by nasal congestion. Congestion has a lot to do with the cavernous tissues in the turbinates. It may also prevent you from having a good night’s sleep.4
2. Facial And/Or Dental Pain
If you have a sinus infection, you may experience pain in your face, which seems to be emanating from the inside. You may also feel some dental pain, particularly along the jaws.5
3. Headaches And Cluster Headaches
When facial and dental pains are present, can cluster headaches be far behind? One of the many signs of a sinus infection, cluster headaches are characterized by severe pain concentrated only on one side of the head. If you’re having a lot of headaches combined with a couple of other symptoms, you probably have sinusitis.6
4. Post-Nasal Drainage
When mucus runs down the back of your nose to your throat, it is known as post-nasal drainage. When your body is producing a normal amount of mucus, it mixes effortlessly with saliva and passes down your throat. You don’t even notice it. But when you produce way too much of it, it becomes quite evident. Disgusting as it may sound, you may actually be able to taste it. This is one of the symptoms of sinusitis.7
5. Runny Nose Or Purulent Rhinorrhea
When you’re constantly sniffling due to a runny nose, it is one of the many sinus blockage symptoms. The doctors may call it purulent rhinorrhea, a runny nose usually signifies an infection of the paranasal sinuses.8
6. Cough In The Night
If you’re coughing a lot, it may be a sign of sinus infection. In sinusitis, patients usually experience more coughing in the night.9
Each of these symptoms doesn’t amount to sinusitis individually. However, if you have been observing a bunch of them, it’s time to get it treated.
|↑1||Sinus Anatomy. American Rhinotological Society.|
|↑2, ↑5, ↑9||Slavin, Raymond G., Sheldon L. Spector, I. Leonard Bernstein, Sinusitis Update Workgroup, Michael A. Kaliner, David W. Kennedy, Frank S. Virant et al. “The diagnosis and management of sinusitis: a practice parameter update.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 116, no. 6 (2005): S13-S47.|
|↑3||Graudenz, G. S., C. H. Oliveira, A. Tribess, C. Mendes Jr, M. R. Latorre, and J. Kalil. “Association of air-conditioning with respiratory symptoms in office workers in tropical climate.” Indoor air 15, no. 1 (2005): 62-66.|
|↑4||COREY, Jacquelynne P., Steven M. HOUSER, and Bernard A. NG. “Nasal congestion: A review of its etiology, evaluation, and treatment.” Ear, nose & throat journal 79, no. 9 (2000): 690-702.|
|↑6||Takeshima, Takao, Seiho Nishikawa, and Kazuro Takahashi. “Cluster headache like symptoms due to sinusitis: evidence for neuronal pathogenesis of cluster headache syndrome.” Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain 28, no. 3 (1988): 207-208.|
|↑7||Morice, Alyn H. “Post-nasal drip syndrome—a symptom to be sniffed at?.” Pulmonary pharmacology & therapeutics 17, no. 6 (2004): 343-345.|
|↑8||Daley, C. L., and M. Sande. “The runny nose. Infection of the paranasal sinuses.” Infectious disease clinics of North America 2, no. 1 (1988): 131-147.|