How to tell the difference between a cold and sinusitis
It begins. Your child comes home from school with a stuffy nose. They cannot breathe very well and they are feeling miserable. Is it a cold? Is it the flu? Is it sinusitis- and if so- is it viral or bacterial? What should you do?
Well, if it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck. If your child is coughing, sneezing, and exhibiting the general signs of a cold, then they probably have a cold. Colds tend to go away within a week though, so stay vigilant.
According to the pediatricians at HealthyChildren.org, viral sinusitis usually accompanies a cold, flaring up and dissipating as the cold symptoms fade. Allergic sinusitis does the same thing, only it accompanies allergies to plants and animals. In fact, the term “hay fever” generally refers to an allergic sinus infection .
Bacterial sinusitis, on the other hand, is a secondary infection that often piggybacks a cold or allergy attack. If your child gets a cold and symptoms persist for more than ten days, it is time to take them to the paediatrician .
Symptoms of a bacterial sinus infection look a lot like the symptoms of a cold or a viral sinus infection. In addition to those symptoms though, your child may develop a fever that lasts three to four days. They may get a severe headache, develop dark, puffy circles under his eyes and have persistent bad breath .
Colds bring on a mix of symptoms that can wear you down. They include:
- Sore throat
- Stuffy nose
- Mucus buildup
- Swollen sinuses
- Fever (usually low-grade in adults but higher in children)
Sinus infection symptoms
Look for the following symptoms of sinusitis:
- Sinus pressure behind the eyes and the cheeks
- A runny, stuffy nose that lasts more than a week
- A worsening headache
- Slight dizziness when shifting position
- A fever
- Bad breath
- Thick yellow or green mucus draining from your nose or down the back of your throat (postnasal drip)
- Decreased sense of smell
Know when to make an appointment with your doctor
If your child exhibits any or all of these symptoms, take them to the doctor. Your doctor will be able to diagnose whether your child is suffering from bacterial sinusitis or some other infection.
In the case of a normal bacterial sinus infection, once your doctor puts your child on antibiotics, their symptoms should decrease and dissipate after two to three days. If they do not show any signs of improvement, call your doctor. You may need to arrange for another examination .
It is difficult to sit back and watch your child when they are unwell. If your child is having trouble sleeping due to especially thick mucous, you can use saltwater nose spray or flushes to help break up the mucous and allow them to rest.
For a fever, put a cool, damp wash cloth on their forehead, and make sure to keep them well hydrated at all times, especially when they are fighting a cold or sinusitis.
Seeking treatment for a sinus infection is important. Without treatment the infection can spread to the central nervous system and the brain. In this situation symptoms of a bacterial sinus infection can worsen and your child would experience swelling or redness around the eyes, vomiting, light sensitivity, or other increasingly severe symptoms. If you have concerns you should call your doctor immediately. In this case, it is an emergency, and treatment needs to commence as soon as possible .
If your child has symptoms of a bacterial sinus infection contact your local doctor, who will arrange for you to see an ear nose throat specialist. Your specialist can diagnose and treat the infection and recommend ways to help alleviate the discomfort from some of the symptoms. If you have chronic sinus infections and antibiotics and other treatments don’t help, you may need sinus surgery. Your doctor will enlarge the small openings of your sinuses, allowing them to drain and let you breathe better.