Cold, Flu and Sinus Infection

The common cold, flu and sinus infection are all respiratory issues, with different degrees of severity, affecting different parts of the respiratory system. For instance, cold and flu have similar symptoms, but they manifest with a different degree of severity. Some similar symptoms of the common cold and flu are, for example, sneezing, a runny nose, body aches and fatigue, but in flu’s case, these are more severe. On the other hand, one of the main symptoms of a sinus infection is increased pain and pressure in the face, followed by yellow or greenish mucus. Below we will discuss the three, separately.


Common cold

The common cold may be caused by a variety of viruses, and specialists catalogue it as a self-limited type of infection. It is an upper respiratory tract infection, and is one of the most frequent diseases in the world, generally manifesting itself during the cold season.

Cold Overview & Facts

Those with common cold seem to be the most contagious during the first interval (two to three days) of the flu, interval in which their interactions with healthy individuals should be limited, in order to limit the prospect of passing the infection. Common cold causes is a virus infection. There are more than 200 viruses guilty of the common cold, each of these responding differently to medication. Because of this reason, the virus causing the infection must be identified, and the management strategy, including medication, must be adapted. The areas of the respiratory tract affected by this type of infection are the following:

Some of the most common viruses that cause cold are the Rhinovirus, the Coronavirus, the RSV and the parainfluenza virus.

Cold Symptoms & Diagnosis

Frequent symptoms of the cold manifest after an incubation interval of the virus, which usually takes three days from the moment the patient is contracting the virus. However, the incubation period and the symptoms are determined by the type of virus causing the infection. The symptoms manifest differently in each individual, but below are some of the most common of those.

  • A sore throat:
  • Sneezing;
  • A runny nose;
  • Watery eyes;
  • Hoarseness;
  • Headaches and body aches;
  • Low fever;
  • Low appetite;
  • Fatigue to different degrees;

These symptoms manifest in both children and adults, but children may experience those to a more severe degree.

The common cold diagnosis does not require a visit to a GP’s office. Based on the symptoms described above, each patient can determine if they have an upper respiratory tract infection or not.

Cold Treatment & Care

While the common cold has no treatment available, taking proper medicine will help with relieving the symptoms. Some of the most common cold treatment is over the counter drugs.

  • Over-the-counter medicine – drugs that will relieve the nose stiffness, coughing and sneezing are recommended in the common cold.
  • Antihistamines and decongestants – are also recommended when patients experience a stuffy nose and sneezing.
  • Nasal sprays – help with nose stuffiness.
  • Aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen – are recommended for aches and pain.
  • Antibiotics – are not recommended in the common cold, since the cold is caused by viruses and not bacteria.


The Flu (Influenza)

The Flu Overview & Facts

Also known as the flu, influenza is the result of an infection with an influenza virus. The flu symptoms are similar to the cold symptoms, but their manifestation is more severe. In children, the symptoms may include vomiting and nausea. These are, however, uncommon in adults. Untreated, the flue may lead to severe complications, such as pneumonia, sinus infection, asthma and in rare cases even heart failure. The flu can be divided into three types.

  • Type A;
  • Type B;
  • Type C.

Each of these types is extremely contagious, and general recommendations during the flu season are washing hands frequently, wearing a surgical mask and limiting the contact with those infected. The flu transmission ways are through contact with contaminated surfaces, or even with the hand or eye of those contagious. The World Health Organization is recommending yearly vaccination against influenza, especially for children since they are more prone to develop complications. Antiviral drugs seem to also help for this purpose.

The Flu Symptoms & Diagnosis

The most rapid method of flu diagnosis is a flu rapid test. These are usually performed during an influenza epidemic. However, this is not the most effective way of determining the presence of an influenza virus, because the quality of these tests varies, and also their efficacy to the type of virus present. In many cases, clinical tests are not performed, the judgement of the doctor themselves being enough. However, in order to diagnose the type of virus that is at the root of the infection and adapt the treatment, testing may be necessary. In order to establish the presence of a virus, a polymerase chain reaction is incredibly effective.

Some of the most common flu symptoms are as it follows.

  • High fever (unlike the common cold, in which a low fever is present);
  • Muscle aches;
  • Headaches;
  • A runny nose;
  • A sore throat;
  • Nose stiffness;
  • Coughing;
  • Extreme fatigue.
  • Nausea (in small children);
  • Vomiting (in children).

Flu Causes

The flu is caused by influenza viruses. There are three types of influnzaviruses, divided into three branches. The A, B, and C branch. However, in the past few years has been suggested a D branch of this classification, being specific to bovine influenza.

  • Influenzavirus A – a type of virus that is transmitted by aquatic birds that are the hosts of the virus. Generally, the virus is transmitted from bird to bird, but in many cases, the virus migrates to human hosts. This type of virus is one of the most severe that can be transmitted to humans and it is guilty of real pandemics. The virus is divided into several serotypes as it follows:
  • H1N1;
  • H2N2;
  • H3N2;
  • H5N1;
  • H7N7;
  • H1N2;
  • H9N2;
  • H7N2;
  • H7N3;
  • H10N7;
  • Influenzavirus B – is a type of virus that infects only humans.
  • Ifluenzavirus C – is a type of virus that infects pigs dogs and humans equally.

Flu Treatment & Care

Common recommendations for those suffering from the flu are plenty of rest, prohibiting consumption of alcohol and cigarettes, drinking plenty of water and medication administration. However, antibiotics are not recommended in this infection’s case. However, in case of complications, such as bacterial pneumonia, antibiotics are recommended as a treatment for a secondary affection. Some of the frequently prescribed drugs recommended in flu treatment & care strategies are as it follows.

  • Antivirals;
  • Anti-inflammatories – such as aspirin, ibuprofen and others, in order to relieve the aches and fever.
  • Decongestive nose sprays – these will help with relieving the stiffness sensation in the nose;
  • Coughing syrup – is recommended for relieving a sore throat.
  • As a preventive treatment strategy, doctors recommend vaccination, especially for small children, since their immune systems are weak.

Also, a common recommendation for those with an influenza virus infection is quarantine, because of the highly contagious character of this infection.


Sinus Infection

Sinus Infection Overview & Facts

Sinus infection is an inflammation of the sinuses, also known under the name of sinusitis or rhinosinusitis. When the sinus cavity (usually filled with air) becomes clogged and filled with fluids and secretions, germ and bacteria growth is promoted. In many cases, other conditions can lead to clogged sinuses. From these worth mentioning are the common gold, allergic rhinitis, and nasal polyps. This is quite a common affection; approximately 36 million of Americans suffer form it in yearly. Sinus infection is more likely to be developed by those with frequent blocked drainage ducts, those with frequent colds, immune system weakness or even nasal polyps. There are three categories of sinus infection – acute, subacute and chronic.

  • Acute sinus infection – it’s a relatively new type of sinusitis and it can usually last up to 12 weeks. It can be severe or non-severe.
  • Subacute sinus infection is the transition phase of acute sinusitis to chronic sinusitis.
  • Chronic sinusitis – can be considered the type of sinus infection that lasts more than the previously mention interval (12 weeks).

There is another type of sinusitis recognised by researchers, the acute exacerbation of the condition. The symptoms grow in intensity in this case, but after specialised therapy they disappear completely.

Sinus Infection Symptoms & Diagnosis

Sinus infection symptoms are severe. Some of the most common, based on the type of sinusitis, are:

Non-infectious sinusitis

  • Facial aches and tenderness;
  • Sinus headache;
  • Fever;
  • Pain and pressure in the sinus area;
  • Stuffy nose;
  • Facial swelling;
  • Sore throat;
  • Cough;

Infectious or bacterial sinusitis

  • Purulent discharge from the nose;
  • Facial pulsing;
  • The symptom’s persistence and resilience to over-the-counter drugs.

Sinus infection diagnosis is based on each patient’s history and symptoms; a GP will diagnose the condition and recommend treatment. The presence of three or more of the symptoms above in a patient indicates clearly a sinus infection.

Sinus Infection Causes

Sinus infection causes are varied and differ from individual to individual. However, if the sinus passage is blocked with inflammation or mucus, the sinus cavity becomes clogged and the pain installs. Some of the most common causes of sinus infection are the following.

  • Sensitivity and allergies – various allergic reactions or sensitivities to elements in the environment may lead to sinus swelling and blockage. In this case, GPs usually recommend anti allergic drugs and limited exposure to various irritants, such as pollen, perfume or tobacco smoke.
  • Narrow sinuses – are more likely to become blocked by mucus and inflammation in the sinus.
  • Sinus blockages – each sinus has a narrower part, a part through which the mucus is drained. In many cases, the mucus coagulates and blocks the small passage.
  • Deviated nasal septum – this may be one of the most frequent causes of sinus infection. In deviated nasal septum, one part of the septum is considerably narrower than the other, case in which septum blockage is more likely to appear. A deviated nasal septum may be the result of genetics or injuries.
  • An extra sinus – this is a rare condition, only 10% of the worldwide population having it. Nevertheless, in its presence, the passage space in the sinuses becomes even smaller.

Sinus Infection Treatment & Care

Sinus infection treatment and management strategies differ depending on the type of sinusitis. Regardless of the strategy adopted, the sinus infection treatment has as goals drainage improvement, infection removal (if there is an infection present), pain relief and scar tissue formation prevention. In most of the cases, doctors recommend drinking plenty of water and rest. Because it is a viral infection, antibiotics are in many cases avoided.

Antibiotics for sinus infection treatment

  • However, if the infection lasts more than 11 days, is the preferred antibiotic;
  • If, after 8 days of Amoxicillin treatment the symptoms do not improve, doctors recommend an amoxicillin associated with clavulanate.
  • Fluoroquinolones and macrolide antibiotics are recommended to the patients allergic to penicillin.

Corticosteroids for sinus infection treatment

Intranasal corticosteroids are usually prescribed for acute sinusitis. However, recent research has shown that they have no effect on the condition’s evolution. The benefits from a combination of corticosteroids and antibiotic are relatively small, as the research suggests.

Surgery for sinus infection treatment

As a last resort solution, in cases of reoccurring sinus infections, surgery is recommended by most specialists.

  • The benefits of nasal surgery instead of medication in those with nasal polyps have not been demonstrated yet, as the matter is poorly researched.
  • Maxillary antral washout is oftentimes performed in cases of sinus infection. The procedure involves sinus puncturing and removing the mucus with the help of a saline mixture.
  • Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery is yet another therapy method through which the tissue disruption is diminished.
  • Balloon sinuplasty is another surgery recommended for chronic sinus infection cases. The procedure is similar to the one performed on heart arteries, but it is performed on the sinus cavities, for opening them up.

Sinus Infection Conclusions

Sinus infection is one of the most common conditions in the world, only in the United States, approximately 32 billion of individuals suffering from a form of sinusitis. From those, approximately 13% suffer from chronic sinusitis.

Last updated on June 19th, 2018

Chris Riley

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