The Link Between Sinus Infections And Bronchitis
Reviewed by Theresa H. Care Delivery Manager & Family Nurse Practitioner
When a cold strikes, it can make you feel miserable. Whats more, a stuffed up head and nose can quickly progress leading to other uncomfortable symptoms including facial pain, sinus pressure, post-nasal drip and chest congestion. In fact its not uncommon for a cold to develop into a sinus infection or bronchitis.
But what exactly is a sinus infection? Are sinus infections and bronchitis linked? Why are some people more prone to developing sinus and bronchial infections? And, most importantly, if you have a sinus infection or bronchitis, what can you do to feel better?
Untreated Sinus Infection Risks
Sinus infections often start to improve on their own after about 10 days. If your symptoms last longer without improving or if they worsen, a doctor may need to treat the underlying cause of the infection.
If a sinus infection affects a sinus cavity close to the brain, it can spread to the brain if left untreated. Though rare, an infection can also pass into the eye socket and cause vision changes or blindness. These types of infections are more common in kids.
While uncommon, a serious fungal sinus infection left untreated may pass into the bones.
Make an appointment with a doctor if you have severe symptoms, or if the following symptoms last longer than 10 days or keep coming back:
Because the cause of your sinus infection can affect your treatment options, its important to see a doctor for a diagnosis. The Healthline FindCare tool can provide options in your area if youre looking for a doctor.
If you believe you have chronic or recurring sinusitis, consider asking for a referral to an otolaryngologist, also known as an ear, nose, and throat specialist. You may need imaging and other tests to determine the cause of your symptoms.
An ENT specialist can take a culture of nose drainage to better understand the cause of an infection. The ENT specialist can also examine the sinuses more closely and look for any problem in the structure of the nasal passages that could lead to chronic sinus problems.
Conditions causing your chronic infections may include:
A Word About Antibiotics
So many patients call asking for antibiotics for a cold,usually when theyve had symptoms for several days. There are a few times whenantibiotics are appropriate, for instance, strep throat or sinus infectionscaused by bacteria. But antibiotics simply dont work against viruses thatcause the common cold. Overprescribing antibiotics for viral illnesses leads toantibiotic resistance, which means the bacteria grow stronger over time andbecome tougher to beat with antibiotics.If a doctor prescribes an antibiotic for cold symptoms, its usually a short,three-day round of drugs. The patient often feels better after finishing themedication but probably would have recovered in that timeframe anyway withoutthe drug.
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Discharge From The Nose Or In The Throat
The most noticeable symptom of a sinus infection is the presence of discharge from the nose. This sign is similar to what you would experience with a regular cold or seasonal flu. The mucus from your sinuses may also drip down the back of your throat .
The color of the discharge may help you identify whether youre experiencing a common cold or a sinus infection. The former will often cause nasal mucus that is watery and clear or cloudy. The latter often comes with mucus that has a green or yellow tint. The discoloration is not a product of the bacteria itself. Instead, it is a result of your immune system fighting the infection by increasing white blood cells.
Get The Relief You Need
Recognizing common signs of a sinus infection can be helpful, but there is no substitute for getting a proper diagnosis and treatment from trusted specialists. At the Center for Allergy and Asthma of Georgia, our Board Certified specialists have extensive experience treating patients withsinus issues and a range of other conditions. You can learn more about finding the best treatment for you by booking an appointment online orcontacting us today. We serve the Atlanta metro area and beyond from multiple office locations.
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Why Do I Cough Up Dark Brown Mucus
Brown Phlegm The phlegm is brown because of blood and the intense chronic inflammation that comes with the chronic disease state. The bacteria camp out inside the lungs and cause very gradual changes in the consistency and appearance of phlegm. If you have chronic lung disease, you may be used to seeing brown phlegm.
What Causes Postnasal Drip
- Certain medications, including some for birth control and blood pressure
- Deviated septum, which is the crooked placement of the wall that separates the two nostrils, or some other problem with the structure of the nose that affects the sinuses
- Changing weather, cold temperatures, or really dry air
- Fumes from chemicals, perfumes, cleaning products, smoke, or other irritants
Sometimes the problem is not that youâre producing too much mucus, but that itâs not being cleared away. Swallowing problems can cause a buildup of liquids in the throat, which can feel like postnasal drip. These problems can sometimes occur with age, a blockage, or conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD.
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How A Sinus Infection Happens
Colds can progress to become sinus infections, but not all sinus infections are viral. Bacteria and even allergies also can cause sinus infections.
A sinus infection occurs when the sinus lining becomes inflamed, preventing the sinuses from draining, he says. The trapped mucous becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, which can lead to a sinus infection.
Conditions that may make you more likely to get a sinus infection include:
- Immunodeficiencies .
Is It A Cold Covid
One of the challenging things about recognizing COVID-19 and other illnesses is that they can share some of the same symptoms. Many articles have been written comparing the symptoms of COVID-19 and influenza, as these two illnesses have perhaps the most in common. But many symptoms of COVID-19 also resemble those of a cold or sinus infection . Learn to tell the difference and how to get the right treatment for your illness.
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How Can I Tell If I Have A Sinus Infection Cold Or Nasal Allergy
It can be difficult to tell the difference between a cold, allergies, and a sinus infection. The common cold typically builds, peaks, and slowly disappears. It lasts a few days to a week. A cold can transform into a sinus infection. Nasal allergy is inflammation of the nose due to irritating particles . Symptoms of a nasal allergy can include sneezing, itchy nose and eyes, congestion, runny nose, and post nasal drip . Sinusitis and allergy symptoms can happen at the same time as a common cold.
If you are fighting off a cold and develop symptoms of a sinus infection or nasal allergy, see your healthcare provider. You will be asked to describe your symptoms and medical history.
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What Are Sinus Infection Symptoms
Symptoms of a sinus infection include:
- Thick, yellow, foul-smelling nasal discharge
- Pressure or pain around the face and eyes
- Nasal obstruction
- A cold that wont go away or gets worse
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.
Runny Nose And Postnasal Drip
When you have a sinus infection, you may need to blow your nose often because of nasal discharge, which can be cloudy, green, or yellow. This discharge comes from your infected sinuses and drains into your nasal passages.
The discharge may also bypass your nose and drain down the back of your throat. You may feel a tickle, an itch, or even a sore throat.
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How To Use Cold
See also Warning section.
If you are using the over-the-counter product, read and follow all directions on the product package before taking this medication.
Take this medication by mouth with or without food, usually every 4 to 6 hours as needed, or as directed by your doctor. Drink plenty of fluids when you use this medication unless otherwise directed by your doctor. The fluid will help loosen the mucus in your lungs.
If you are using a liquid form, carefully measure your dose using a medication-measuring device or spoon. Do not use a household spoon because you may not get the correct dose. For some liquid products, you may need to shake the bottle well before each dose. Check the directions on the product package.
The dosage is based on your age, medical condition, and response to treatment. Do not increase your dose or take this medication more often than directed without your doctors approval. Improper use of this medication may result in serious harm .
Tell your doctor if your condition persists for more than 5 to 7 days, if it worsens, or if it occurs with rash, persistent headache, or fever lasting more than 3 days. These may be symptoms of a serious medical problem and should be checked by a doctor.
Get Your Antibiotics Fast
No one likes being sick, and having a sinus infection can be very uncomfortable. Getting antibiotics as fast as possible is crucial to healing, and is made possible with PlushCare. Our online doctors can diagnose your sinus infection, write a prescription, and send it to your local pharmacy in 15 minutes. PlushCare can help you effectively, quickly, and easily treat your sinus infection.
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Can You Have Allergies And A Sinus Infection At The Same Time
Its possible to have allergies but not a sinus infection, and its also possible to develop sinus infections without having allergies. However, if you have nasal allergies, youre more likely to develop a sinus infection. Getting your allergies under control can help reduce your risk of recurrent sinus infections.
Treating Your Sinus Infection
If you think you have a sinus infection, you may need to see your doctor.
âMostly, these acute infections go away on their own or after a simple course of antibiotics,â says ear, nose, and throat specialist Greg Davis, who practices at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle.
Davis recommends sinus irrigation for sinus infections. It can help ease your symptoms while you wait for the antibiotics to do their job. Steroids, , and over-the-counter mucus thinners can also ease your discomfort, he says.
See an ear, nose, and throat specialist if your sinus infection doesnât go away after one or two courses of antibiotics, Davis says.
Some people have sinus infections over and over. The only known risk factors, Davis says, are allergies and smoking In rare cases, an acute infection can become chronic if itâs not treated successfully.
If you have chronic infections, and antibiotics and other treatments donât help, you may need sinus surgery, Davis says.
Your doctor will enlarge the small or inflamed and swollen openings of your sinuses, allowing them to drain, and letting you breathe more easily.
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Other Remedies For Symptom Relief
Staying hydrated can help thin mucus to ease congestion.
Drinking hot liquids such as tea and broth may help relieve your symptoms. Breathing in moist air may also help relieve the discomfort that comes with nasal congestion. Try breathing in steam from the shower, a bowl of hot water, or a mug of tea.
If your voice is hoarse, rest it by avoiding yelling, whispering, and singing.
Placing a warm compress over the inflamed area can help reduce pressure and provide relief.
damages the natural protective elements of your nose, mouth, throat, and respiratory system.
If you smoke, consider quitting. Ask a doctor if you need help or are interested in quitting. Quitting may help prevent future episodes of both acute and chronic sinusitis.
Wash your hands frequently, especially during cold and flu seasons, to keep your sinuses from becoming irritated or infected by viruses or bacteria on your hands.
Using a humidifier during the cooler, dryer months may also help prevent sinus infections.
Talk with a doctor to see if allergies are causing your sinusitis. If youre allergic to something that causes persistent sinus symptoms, you will likely need to treat your allergies to relieve your sinus infection.
You may need to seek an allergy specialist to determine the cause of the allergy. The specialist may suggest:
- avoiding the allergen
- doing allergic immunotherapy
Keeping your allergies under control can help prevent repeated episodes of sinusitis.
When Do Symptoms First Appear
The symptoms of a sinus infection often come on suddenly. COVID-19 symptoms can develop more gradually 2 to 14 days after exposure to SARS-CoV-2.
Viruses that cause a cold or flu tend to circulate in the fall and winter months. COVID-19 can occur any time of the year. While a sinus infection could develop following COVID-19, this hasnt yet been reported by research.
A sinus infection can also occur after exposure to allergens or irritants, such as pollen, pet dander, and cigarette smoke. If you have allergies or were recently around an irritant, you may be at risk for a sinus infection.
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Sinus Pain And Pressure
Fluid trapped in the sinuses can fill the sinus cavities, causing intense pain and pressure. The sinuses may be sensitive to the touch. A person may have an urge to sneeze but be unable to do so.
The pain can be in the cheeks, around the eyes and nose, or in the forehead because these areas are where the sinuses are. Bending over may make the pain worse.
Sometimes, the pressure and pain are intense enough to interfere with sleep.
Sinusitis may also cause the tissue in the nose to swell.
How Is A Sinus Infection Diagnosed And Treated
Your doctor may prescribe medication. They may recommend antibiotics if your symptoms go on for more than 10 days. , antihistamines, and other drugs help lessen the swelling in your sinuses and nasal passages.
Steam and hot showers can help you loosen mucus. Your doctor may also suggest nasal saline to wash mucus from your nose.
In rare cases, when a sinus infection doesnt go away, long-term antibiotics or surgery may be needed.
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Sinus Infection Versus Cold: How To Tell The Difference
When it comes to the battle between a sinus infection vs. cold, knowing which one you have is tricky. Dr. Woodard suggests that you consider these questions to tell the difference between the two:
Other symptoms of a sinus infection may include loss of smell and taste, cough, congestion, fever, headache, fatigue or aches in your upper jaw and teeth.
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Preventing Sinus Infections And Bronchitis
The best way to prevent both sinus infections and bronchitis is to wash your hands regularly and try to minimize your contact with someone who has a cold.
If you have allergies, try to manage those symptoms well and avoid allergens as much as possible. Both can reduce your risk of developing a sinus infection. This includes avoiding cigarette smoke and other air contaminants, which can irritate and inflame the lungs and nasal passages.
Finally, regular use of a humidifier adds moisture to the air and may help prevent sinusitis. It is critical, however, to regularly clean the humidifier to assure it is free of mold.
There is some evidence that an annual flu shot can reduce your chances of getting bronchitis, as flu viruses have been shown to be a significant cause of bronchitis. Additionally, avoiding cold and damp environments can reduce your risk of developing bronchitis.
At Columbia Allergy, we are experts in the treatment of asthma or allergies. Our providers are here to help with a patient-focused approach. Contact us at any of our convenient locations in California, Oregon, Idaho, or Washington to learn more about how we can help with your unique challenges and goals.
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