Allergies, cold and sinusitis

Sinus infections may be on the rise in the United States, and many of them creep up on us as a cold or an allergy, a survey shows.

According to a survey of doctors and patients, 42 percent of those surveyed said they suffered through at least one sinus infection in the past 12 months, a jump of 9 percent from the previous year. And 39 percent of them said their sinusitis started with an allergy, while 28 percent said the infection began with a cold.

The survey also shows sinus problems wreak havoc with daily life. More than half of those questioned say they lost sleep at least twice during the allergy season last year, and 42 percent missed anywhere from one to seven or more days of work or school because of the nasty and bothersome infection.

Severe allergy season a factor

A severe spring allergy season doesn’t make it any easier on sinuses, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. In a more severe allergy season, doctors see a jump in the number of sinus infections. Blame swollen sinus passages caused by an allergy or a cold for sinusitis. Those warm, wet passages are a playground for bacteria. An inflamed, swollen sinus passage leads to blockage of the sinus opening and a backing up of nasal and sinus mucous.

Sinusitis is one of the most commonly reported diseases in the United States, affecting an estimated 37 million people and accounting for more than 11.5 million visits to the doctor each year.

How to tell if you have sinusitis

Most people can’t tell the difference between allergies or a cold and sinusitis, but a few variables differentiate them. One is how long the problem lasts. A head cold and allergies can prime the sinuses, making them inviting to bacteria. Sinusitis generally lasts 10 to 28 days and usually follows a cold or allergies. So if you have pain in the forehead or the face, accompanied by coughing, fever and nasal congestion lasting more that two weeks, you should see your doctor. The second variable is the nature of the mucus that develops. Allergies usually involve itching and clear, watery nasal discharge. But if you’re having excessive thick, sticky yellow-green mucous or mucous that has a bad taste, seek the advice of a doctor. The News

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