How To Tell The Difference Between Covid
Allergy and sinus symptoms can be similar to COVID-19 symptoms. An otolaryngologist explains how to tell them apart and when you should seek treatment.
Allergy season has become more complicated since the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have allergies or sinus problems, you may not be sure how to tell the difference between those symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms. Jessica Southwood, MD, otolaryngologist, offers expert guidance to help you better understand these three conditions.
Since sinus and allergy symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms can seem similar and have some overlap, it is important to familiarize yourself with the differences. That way, you and your provider can manage your health care appropriately.
What Causes Chronic Sinus Infection
Multiple factors acting together usually contribute to chronic sinusitis.
People with allergies are more prone to develop chronic sinusitis. About one in five people with chronic sinusitis also have asthma. This is because the linings of your nose and sinuses are in continuation with the linings of your lungs. These people are also likely to have nasal polyps .
A bacterial or viral infection can also trigger the condition. The infection is often low grade. The bacteria confine themselves in stubborn biofilms, making it difficult for your immune system or antibiotics to find and attack them.
An overlap of additional factors such as smoking, environmental pollutants, and deviated septum, further complicate the picture of chronic sinusitis.
It would be more appropriate to say that if youre already prone to allergies and nasal polyps, it becomes easier for harmful bugs, especially fungi to penetrate your sinuses. Likewise, a weak immune system makes you more susceptible to catch bacterial, viral, or fungal sinus infection.
A sinus that is inflamed and swollen can no longer sweep away the excess mucus and harmful agents due to the blockage of tiny hairs that facilitate this function.
Use A Nasal Steroid Spray
Available over the counter, these sprays can help reduce the inflammation that adds to congestion. Sometimes the inflammatory reaction is self-perpetuating, Kern says. The 2015 sinus inflammation and congestion treatment guidelines from the American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery Foundation advises using local steroid treatments and, if necessary, antibiotics to break the cycle.
And while nasal steroid sprays and saline sprays are both helpful, Kern stresses that other nasal sprays, such as decongestant sprays, can make the problem worse if you rely on them consistently.
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Making Proactive Changes To Your Sleeping Environment
Do you have a blocked nose at night only? If you do, making the following adjustments in your bedroom may help alleviate your congestion.
- Keep your pets out of your bedroom, especially if you are allergic to pet dander or dust.
- If the air in your house tends to be dry, purchase a humidifier. This suggestion is especially relevant during the winter months when the air is often drier.
- Avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine before bed. Both can make you dehydrated, which can aggravate your sinuses.
- On that same note, do what you can to stay hydrated. Hydration will help you feel better overall, but it can also work to alleviate some sinus pain.
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.
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Care Advice For Sinus Congestion
Pain Or Pressure In Your Sinuses
Facial pain is a common symptom of sinusitis. You have several different sinuses above and below your eyes, as well as behind your nose. Any of these air-filled cavities can hurt when you have a sinus infection.
Inflammation and swelling can cause your sinuses to ache with dull pressure. This is because inflammation may alter the typical path of mucus from the nose to the back of the throat.
You may feel pain in:
- on either side of your nose
- in your upper jaws and teeth
- between your eyes
This may lead to a headache. Headaches caused by sinus infections can occur where the sinuses are or in other places.
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Catch Some Zs With Balloon Sinuplasty
Answering the question, Why are my sinuses worse at night? isnt always easy, and addressing your symptoms might take a multipronged approach. If youve lost more nights than you can count to sinus problems caused by sinusitis, allergies, sinusitis and sleep apnea, sinus problems and snoring, nasal polyps or even a deviated septum, it may be time to consider balloon sinuplasty.
As mentioned previously, balloon sinuplasty is a minimally invasive, in-office procedure that takes less than 20 minutes and provides long-lasting sinus relief. During the procedure, your doctor inserts tiny balloons into your sinus cavities via your nasal passages. When these balloons are expanded, healthy drainage is restored.
Dr. Napoleon G. Bequer of Sinus Solutions of South Florida, a leading Florida ENT, has performed balloon sinuplasty on thousands of Tampa and West Palm Beach-area patients. Hes given them the opportunity to take their life back from chronic sinus problems.
Signs Your Allergy Symptoms Are A Sign Of Something Much Worse
Find out when you should stop blaming spring and call your doctor.
When it’s spring, you might be inclined to write off that congestion, coughing, and sneezing as “allergies” rather than admit that you’re sick. While an estimated 50 million Americans suffer from Real Seasonal Allergies, it’s notoriously difficult to figure out what actually triggers certain symptoms.
Pull the ol’ allergy card, and you could end up ignoring a more serious diagnosis and deter yourself from getting to the bottom of it ASAP.
“The treatment for allergies is so different from the treatment for the flu or a cold,” says Beth E. Corn, MD, associate professor of clinical immunology at the Allergy and Immunology department of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and spokesperson for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. If you treat a viral infection with antihistamines , you subject yourself to side effects such as loopiness when all you really need is cough syrup and lots of liquids, Dr. Corn explains.
“The quicker you find out what it is, the sooner you can make interventions to feel better,” Dr. Corn promises. So look out for the signs your symptoms aren’t allergies, but an actual, potentially contagious illness like a sinus infection, cold, or the flu.
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How To Prevent Winter Sinus Problems
With winter quickly approaching, you can expect a higher risk of certain sinus problems. With the upcoming season, you might experience a stuffy nose with congestion from temperature changes and the common cold becoming more common! There are a few simple things you can do to prevent winter sinus problems from occurring.
What Kicks It Off
With both sinusitis and allergies, your nose and sinuses get stuffed up, but it happens for different reasons.
If you have allergies, the passages of your nose and sinuses swell because they’re trying to flush out “allergens.” That’s just a technical word for anything you’re allergic to, like pollen, mold, dust mites, and pet dander.
Sinusitis usually develops because of allergies or a cold. Sometimes, but not often, it’s from bacteria that cause an infection.
When you have allergies or a cold, your nose and sinuses get inflamed. That blocks mucus from draining, which can cause an infection — not to mention pain and pressure.
If you have allergies, you’re more likely to have sinus problems. That’s because the inside of your nose and sinuses often swell up when you breathe in triggers.
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Loss Of Smell And Taste
A side effect of nasal congestion is that you will find it challenging to smell or taste. Again, the swelling is to blame since the scents and aromas you are used to cant reach the top of the nose.
Sometimes, the inflammation presses down on the nervous system, impacting the signal that triggers taste and smell. Allergies and a cold can also cause these symptoms, which is why its vital to speak to a professional ENT doctor if youre concerned.
Having Trouble Tasting And Smelling This Could Be A Sign Of Sinusitis
When your sinuses are inflamed and not draining properly, the effects can be fairly obvious as congestion hampers your ability to breathe and leads to pain and discomfort. But if youre also experiencing a loss of taste and smell, the cause may stem from the same problem sinusitis.
At Florida Ear, Nose, Throat & Facial Plastic Surgery Center, Dr. Wade Han and our team specialize in nasal problems, and we understand the widespread impact this seemingly small area of your health can have on your overall wellness. For patients in Orlando and Kissimmee, Florida, who are struggling with the symptoms of sinusitis, weve pulled together a basic primer on the problem and how it can affect your health and your senses.
If youre having trouble tasting and smelling, heres a look at why sinusitis may be at the root of the problem.
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When My Minor Symptoms Became Not
On day six, I woke up with a severe headache one like I’d never had before, which was scary. It lasted the whole weekend. When I got to work on Monday, I told my doctor about my headache, and he mentioned I could have a sinus infection. But, as a person who hates taking antibiotics unless I really need to, I decided to just wait to see if my symptoms got worse.
Things never really got much worse for me. Just a few days later, I was left with only lingering symptoms a headache and some strange nasal congestion that wasn’t really even congestion. About a week and a half after my symptoms had started, I was finally feeling like I was on the mend.
My symptoms started long before COVID-19 was spreading in the community, so I didnt think twice about it being more than just allergies. Plus, I didnt really have any of the most common COVID-19 symptoms. I never had a fever and my cough was slight and infrequent. Looking back, I may have had a little bit of chest pain here and there, but only when I’d cough which, in itself, was rare.
But, then I got some news.
Reasons For Increased Congestion And Sinus Problems At Night
Why are my sinuses worse at night? The reasons are various and interrelated, but they are far from impossible to manage. A good place to start is to ask yourself which of the following sinus-related problems or household circumstances you experience.
Before you do, however, its worth mentioning that your sinus problems may worsen at night because youre less distracted and paying more attention to how you feel .
While this idea may be true to some extent, paying attention doesnt cause sinus symptoms, sinus problems cause sinus symptoms its wiser to address the latter than worry about the former.
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What Can I Do
While you wait for your infection to run its course, you can take steps at home to feel better.
Look into nasal sprays. Store-bought saline nasal spray loosens up mucus, temporarily clearing it from your nasal passages. A steroid nasal spray like fluticasone may help tame inflammation, especially if you have underlying allergies. Unsure about using a steroid? Follow package directions and go to your HCP with questions.
Be wary of decongestant nasal sprays, like oxymetazoline . Using them for longer than three days could cause rebound symptoms persistent stuffiness eased only by the spray itself. Dryness and addiction are also possibilities.
Embrace sinus rinses like the neti pot. Many sinus infection veterans swear by nasal irrigation systems, such as plastic squeeze bottles or teakettle-shaped neti pots. These devices are filled with a sterile saline solution and used to flush snot from your sinuses.
Neti pots and their ilk are widely available and typically safe, as long as you handle them properly. Dont use water directly from your tap. Instead use distilled water, a sterile saline solution or water that has been boiled and then cooled.
Try over-the-counter medicines. Experts recommend analgesics including acetaminophen , ibuprofen and aspirin to ease pain, as well as decongestants like pseudoephedrine to alleviate the pressure of congestion.
Finally, you may want to avoid flying or scuba diving, since either can aggravate sinus pain.
Keep Your Hands Clean
Winter marks the peak for common cold and the flu to strike as people spend more time stuck indoors and in closed up rooms. The cold and flu can cause sinus problems like a runny nose, sneezing, congestion, and sinus pain and pressure. One of the best ways to prevent the cold and flu and stop it from spreading is to wash your hands before eating or touching your face.
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Tests For A Sinus Infection During Pregnancy
If you seek medical attention, your doctor may conduct a variety of tests. These include:
- Nasal endoscopy. Your doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube into your nose to examine your sinuses.
- Imaging tests. Your doctor may order a CT scan or an MRI to take pictures of your sinuses to help them confirm a diagnosis.
Depending on your specific case, your doctor may also order a nasal and sinus culture to determine the underlying cause of your sinus infection. You may also undergo allergy testing to see whether allergies are triggering your chronic sinus infections.
From Possible Exposure To Testing Positive
On day 11, my husband called to tell me that someone who was at the same event as us a few weeks before had tested positive for the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
One thing to know about me is that I’m the type of person who never stops learning. Between my own research and the questions I’d asked the doctor I work with, I already knew most of what I needed to know about COVID-19 long before my husband told me that we’d possibly been exposed.
But, before I could really even process what this information meant for me and my health, I knew I needed to get tested immediately for the sake of my patients. Knowing that I interact with people every single day, including infants and the elderly, all I could think was: “What if I got someone sick?” and “What if I get someone else sick?”
I was symptomatic, I’d had a possible exposure and I needed to know if I had COVID-19. Thankfully, I was able to get tested. After a few swabs, some questions and a chest x-ray, my husband and I were sent home since our symptoms were minor. We immediately began quarantining.
A day later, we got the phone call. Both my husband and I had tested positive for coronavirus. We were two of the earliest COVID-19 cases caused by community spread in the Houston area.
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The Effects Of Sinusitis
Whether acute or chronic, sinusitis can have a significant impact on your health, leading to:
- Difficulty breathing
- Pain and pressure around your sinuses
Among these symptoms lies an unlikely effect a loss or reduction of your sense of smell and taste.
Lets start with your loss of smell. First, because of the congestion that often comes with sinusitis, youre unable to breathe in deeply enough to reach the olfactory sensory neurons higher up in your nose to initiate smell in the first place.
Second, the viral infection inside your nasal passageways can temporarily damage your highly sensitive sensory cells.
Your sense of taste and its relationship to sinusitis is trickier. The condition doesnt necessarily lead to a direct loss of taste, but it can alter the sense because your sense of smell and taste are linked. Taste and smell work in lockstep, and when you lose one, the other is compromised.
Your sense of taste may also be altered because of a pervading foul taste brought on my infected mucus at the back of your mouth and throat.
The bottom line is that the sooner you come in to see us for treatment, the sooner we can restore order among your senses. If you suspect you have sinusitis, please call us so we can set up an appointment.
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