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Are You Fighting a Cold That Won't Let Go?

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/22/2006 | Health
Have you ever felt that your cold would never end? A cough that follows a cold can last several weeks making you feel like you will never get over it. However, if you have suffered from a lingering cough, it could indicate you are dealing with more than your typical cold virus. If you've had a cold with a cough lasting 3 weeks or longer you may have developed an infection known as sinusitis.

WHAT IS SINUSITIS?

Sinusitis is an infection or inflammation of the mucous membranes that line your sinus cavities and nose. A blocked sinus can prevent the proper drainage of mucous - usually because of a cold or allergy. The inflamed membranes cause swelling which can lead to a feeling of pressure or pain in the sinus areas.

A blocked sinus cavity is then susceptible to the growth of bacteria and fungus. The condition can come on suddenly (acute) after a viral infection such as a cold, or become long term (chronic) where the individual suffers from symptoms indefinitely.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE SINUSITIS?

The key distinction between a cold and sinusitis, according to one health manual, is that a cold usually lasts about seven days and symptoms begin to lessen. Sinusitis suffers may experience prolonged symptoms which can worsen with time.

A Mayo Clinic study reported on in 'Prevention' magazine claimed that approximately 1/3 of individuals with chronic coughs (lasting more than three weeks) could be suffering from sinusitis. The research was based on CT scans of the sinuses of 132 patients with chronic coughs.

Other symptoms, besides a chronic cough, that can be linked to a sinusitis infection are: headaches, bad breath, post-nasal drip, stuffy nose, fever and tooth pain.

WHAT DO I DO IF I THINK I HAVE SINUSITIS?

Mild cases of sinusitis can be treated at home with over the counter decongestants, keeping air moist with a humidifier (especially in the bedroom) and drinking fluids to thin the mucus.

If symptoms are not responding to home treatment you may need a doctor to prescribe antibiotics or other medication. Fungal infections, which are not treatable with antibiotics, will need to be treated with other medication or surgery.

A chronic case of sinusitis may also need more intense treatment. Your doctor should be able to determine if you are suffering from sinusitis based on your history. Sinusitis may not be identified based solely on a physical exam.

HOW DO I PREVENT SINUSITIS?

Taking care of yourself during a cold - keeping air moist, drinking fluids and resting - can help reduce the inflammation that can lead to sinusitis. However, repeated colds or allergies may make you more vulnerable. Seek the advice of your physician if you feel that your symptoms are not consistent with a typical cold or allergy and you just can't shake that cough. function SubmitRating(btn) { ratingchecked = false; if (btn.form.aRating0.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (btn.form.aRating1.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (btn.form.aRating2.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (btn.form.aRating3.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (btn.form.aRating4.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (ratingchecked) { btn.form.btnRating.value=btn.value; btn.form.submit(); } else { alert("Be sure a rating value has been selected to continue."); } }