Sinus Infection vs Cold Washington DCMany people seek information about the differentiating features of a sinus infection vs cold in Washington DC.  It is extremely common to experience cold and sinus infections in Washington DC.  A “cold” is a colloquial term to describe a constellation of symptoms of an infection of the upper respiratory tract.  The infection is caused predominantly by viruses and not bacteria.  A group of viruses called rhinovirus are the most common cause of colds in Washington DC.  The mode of transmission of the virus is usually through droplets.  They can be transmitted either by air that we breathe in or by physical contact with surfaces such as countertops, door knobs, faucets, shared cleaning material, utensils, etc.  These viruses are highly contagious in Washington DC.  Though one can develop colds in any season, they are more common in the Winter months.  Overcrowding and poor ventilation systems facilitate transmission from person to person.

Initially the virus usually affects the linings inside of our nostrils.  As a result, a condition called rhinitis develops.  The result is inflammation of the nose which leads to excessive mucus secretion by the mucus membranes and swelling of the tissues called turbinate inside the nostrils.  It gradually spreads to involve the tissues in the throat and voice box which can cause pharyngitis and/or laryngitis.  The first indications of a cold in Washington DC usually is an itching and tingling sensation inside the nose, occasionally followed by sneezing.  Excessive mucus secretion manifests itself as a runny nose.  The nasal secretions are usually clear but can may also be stringy in consistency.  The swelling of the tissues usually causes a feeling of congestion inside the nose and may also lead to nasal blockage.  The mucus may also run down the back of the throat (i.e., post nasal drip) and irritate the throat.  A sore throat and mild dry cough from throat irritation is fairly common when an individual develops a cold in Washington DC.  Other symptoms of colds may include achiness and fatigue.  Rarely a cold may result in headaches and a mild fever.  Most individuals usually recover from colds in approximately 7 days and all the symptoms gradually resolve.  Since colds are caused by viruses in Washington DC, antibiotics are not helpful.  Rest and increased intake of clear fluids sometimes may hasten recovery.  Saline nasal sprays may also help relieve nasal congestion.  Decongestant nasal sprays such as Afrin should be avoided as they can cause rebound nasal congestion and have the potential for habituation.  Oral decongestants such as Sudafed, though sometimes helpful, may cause side effects such as palpitations, tremors, and insomnia due to their stimulant effects.  Antihistamines may offer relief from sneezing and itching, but they can thicken the secretions.  Mucolytics such as guaifenesin are helpful in thinning the secretions which results in the increased ability to drain more effectively.  Headaches and fever can be relieved with over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

In some instances, the infection can spread to adjacent tissues and may cause sinus infections in Washington DC.  Sinuses are air filled cavities within the facial bones.  There are sinuses in the cheek bones (i.e., maxillary), around the eyes (i.e., ethmoid), between the eyes (i.e., sphenoid), and behind the forehead (i.e., frontal).  These cavities are also lined by a thin mucus membrane.  This lining is similar to the lining inside the nose.  The sinuses communicate with the nose through small openings into the nostrils.  Due to this anatomical contiguity, the infection sometimes spreads from the nose into the sinuses through these openings.  These openings can also be clogged due to swelling of tissues inside the nose, making it difficult for the sinuses to drain into the nose properly.  An infection of the tissues inside the sinuses will cause additional symptoms such as facial pressure, pain, and a persistent headache.  Though the majority of sinus infections are viral in nature, occasionally a secondary bacterial infection may develop.  This can prolong the duration of illness and also lead to discolored nasal secretions, loss of smell, and/or taste.  Antibiotics are helpful only in a minority of sinus infections because the vast majority of sinus infections are viral in nature as stated previously.  Most sinus infections also resolve spontaneously in 2 to 3 weeks and only symptomatic treatment is needed for the most part in Washington DC.  In case of recurrent sinus infections or symptoms lasting for several months, a CT scan of the sinuses may be needed to confirm the diagnosis.  If anatomical and structural abnormalities are identified, sinus surgery may be needed in certain situations.

Though the symptoms and signs of cold vs sinus infection in Washington DC are initially similar, they can be distinguished from each other by the duration of illness, physical examination, imaging, and the response to treatments.  A few simple precautions such as avoiding exposure to infected individuals (i.e., sneezing and coughing release viruses into the atmosphere), covering the sneezes and coughs, frequent and thorough handwashing with soap and water, and not sharing things can prevent viral transmission to some extent.  Unfortunately, no vaccinations are currently available for common viruses that cause colds and sinus infections in Washington DC.

If you suffer from either a sinus infection or a cold or cannot differentiate between a sinus infection vs cold in Washington DC, the board-certified allergists at Black & Kletz Allergy are pleased to see you.  We have been treating patients with sinus infections as well as other upper respiratory infections for more than 50 years.  We have office locations in Washington DC, McLean VA (Tysons Corner VA), and Manassas VA.  Our Washington DC and McLean VA locations are Metro accessible.  We also offer on-site parking at each location.  Please call us for an appointment.  Alternatively, you can request an appointment on our website.  The allergy specialists at Black & Kletz Allergy treat pediatric and adult patients and are proud to help allergy sufferers in the Washington DC metropolitan area.