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Is it an Allergy, Cold or Sinus Infection?

By Emily Gurnon, Contributing Writer
January 09, 2013; 2:50 PM

If you have allergies, you probably expect to sneeze when the pollen levels jump. (Or if you are allergic to cats, when you visit a friend who has cats.) In addition to sneezing, allergies often cause your eyes to itch. Your nose gets runny and stuffed up. Depending on what you're allergic to, allergies can last weeks.

If you're sneezing, coughing and have a sore throat, you're likely to decide it's a cold. Colds also come with a runny and stuffed-up nose. They usually last three to 14 days.

Other symptoms may point to sinusitis, which means your sinuses are inflamed.

What is a sinus infection?

Nasal passages are spaces within the bones around the nose. A sinus infection is when the nasal passages get red and swollen. Usually this is caused by a virus and comes after a cold. A sinus infection can also be caused by allergies or pollution. Less commonly, it is caused by bacteria.

Symptoms of sinus infection

One of the most common symptoms of a sinus infection is pain. You may have a terrible headache. Or pain in your upper jaw or teeth. Or tenderness on the sides of your nose or between your eyes.

Most people with a sinus infection hurt in several different places.

Another common symptom is thick mucus from the nose that is yellowish, greenish, white or blood-tinged. It can drain down the back of the throat and be difficult to clear.

Sinus infections may also cause fever, fatigue and bad breath.

Sinus infections that last up to four weeks are called acute. When they last more than four weeks and come back more than four times a year, they are called chronic sinus infections.

If you think you are getting lengthy, severe or frequent sinus infections, be sure to discuss your concerns with your doctor. Chronic sinus infections can be caused by nasal polyps or tumors, allergies or respiratory tract infections, among other things. People with asthma and allergies, immune deficiency disorders or cystic fibrosis may be at higher risk of chronic sinus infections. People who have prolonged symptoms or bacterial sinusitis may need antibiotics.

For more information on treatment and and signs, click here

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