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Do You Have A Common Cold Or Sinusitis?

There is nothing more romantic than a candle-light dinner in Rome… that cute smile, that contagious laugh, that yellow mucus running from his nose… Gross uh? No need to lie, we have all been there, wondering whether to tell our partner or pretend everything is all right.

Catching a cold is inevitable, especially during the winter months, and even packing your suitcase with all kinds of medications can’t fully prevent you from getting sick on vacation. But are you sure you’ve got a cold, and not something else? You don’t need a doctor to save you from a simple cold but be aware that if symptoms are persistent, your runny nose could be a sign of different illnesses.

Among these, a common condition is sinusitis, an inflammation of the sinuses, often caused by the same germs responsible for your cold.

What are sinuses?

Sinuses are hollow cavities located behind your cheekbones and forehead and lined with a thin tissue called mucosa, which generally produces a small layer of yellow discharge (mucus).


Common symptoms of sinusitis include:

  • A runny nose or blocked nose
  • Nasal yellow or green discharge (mucus)
  • Dental pain
  • Facial pain or tenderness

People with sinusitis could also suffer from:

  • High temperature
  • Headaches
  • Reduced sense of smell
  • Ear pressure
  • Bad breath
  • Tiredness
  • Cough

We chatted with our ENT specialist in Rome for more information about sinusitis causes, symptoms and treatments.

What causes sinusitis?

Sinusitis can be a result of bacterial, viral, or mycotic infections. When the mucosa is infected, the tissue swells and impedes the passage of fluid from the sinuses. Nasal blockage leads to the accumulation of mucus inside the sinuses, which causes pressure and pain.

This process can be triggered by many factors, including common colds, allergic reactions, and tissue irritants. Moreover, nasal polyps – small growths located at the openings of the sinuses – and deviated nasal septum can interfere with airflow into the sinuses and cause the inflammation.

Is there anything patients can do on their own? When to see a doctor?

To treat their symptoms, patients tend to rely on over-the-counter nasal sprays, which if not used and chosen properly can even trigger and aggravate sinusitis. Nasal wash sterile solutions are a better option for patients, as they can often help reduce excess of mucus.

Please note that whenever symptoms persist, the patient needs to visit a clinic, and see an ENT specialist. The doctor can diagnose sinusitis by examining a patient’s face and symptoms, and by performing a CT scan of the patient’s face.

How can you tell the difference between a common cold and sinusitis?

 Some symptoms of sinus infections are similar to those of common colds. However, if you are suffering from facial pain/ pressure and lachrymation, a sinus infection is definitely to take into consideration.

How to treat sinusitis?

 The treatment depends on the cause of the sinusitis. Bacterial infections are generally treated with antibiotics, which have to be prescribed by a doctor. Contrarily, viral infections cannot be treated with antibiotics, as these do not kill viruses.

Cortisone nasal sprays are often prescribed to reduce nasal swelling.

To treat chronic sinusitis, especially if the infection is caused by a deviation of the nasal septum, surgery might be necessary. In this case, surgery does not only cure the sinusitis, but helps prevent a reoccurrence of the infection.

When a patient is affected by chronic sinusitis and suffers from seasonal allergies, doctors often prescribe cyclical allergy medications to prevent allergic reactions to trigger sinusitis.

WARNING: Be aware that sinus infections rarely go away without treatments, and if not treated can lead to serious complications.

Spending a couple of hours of your vacation at a clinic in Rome might not be what you had planned for, but it might be necessary. If health is not your main concern, we can ensure that your partner will be happy you decided to do something about your stuffy nose!