Congested, full sinuses: Do you have allergies or a cold?

Sinus con­ges­tion at this time of year is con­fus­ing. We’re at the tail-end of winter and still are sub­ject to more colds and flu bugs going around, but with an early spring this year in Southern Ontario people are now also exper­i­en­cing early aller­gies, with con­ges­ted runny noses that feel hot and irrit­ated. What to do?

  • Identify the prob­lem

Is it truly a sinus “infec­tion”? Sinus “infec­tions” are acute inflam­ma­tion in the upper nas­al pas­sages, which include the max­il­lary and front­al sinuses (across the cheeks and across the fore­head) that fill with mucous. The mucous fills the sinuses as pro­tec­tion as when irrit­a­tion and inflam­ma­tion is ini­ti­ated by bac­teri­um or a vir­us the immune sys­tem attempts to “drown out” the offend­ing art­icle. Often, the same response will occur with aller­gies and irrit­ants in the sur­round­ing envir­on­ment.

True sinus infec­tions that have a bac­teri­al source will often pro­gress, mean­ing there will be a fever com­pon­ent and your mucous is typ­ic­ally yel­low or green. When the sinuses are merely inflamed due to aller­gies, you may have symp­toms of head­aches or pain in your teeth (due to full and blocked front­al and max­il­lary sinuses) just like a bac­teri­al-sourced sinus infec­tion but your mucous will typ­ic­ally be clear, and you may have itchy watery eyes.

Truthfully, they are often very easy to con­fuse with one anoth­er.

Where anti­bi­ot­ics are troub­ling to address this issue is that when it is aller­gic-asso­ci­ated con­ges­tion, it is not neces­sary to kill our good flora (bac­teria) and as a res­ult we are left sus­cept­ible to fur­ther infec­tions. The ori­gin­al inflam­ma­tion or allergy does not get addressed at all.

Don’t believe me? Check out this art­icle :

Antibiotics Do No Good for Most Sinus Infections – New Guidelines — Health Blog — WSJ.

  • Use an appro­pri­ate solu­tion

Not all sinus inflam­ma­tion then is truly an infec­tion. If you are exper­i­en­cing aller­gic inflam­ma­tion, redu­cing histam­ine and aller­gic reac­tion is pos­sible with both anti­histam­ines and nat­ur­al sources of anti­histam­ines like quer­cet­in, a com­pound found in fruits and veget­ables that is cap­able of redu­cing your over­all histam­ine expos­ure.

Dealing with inflam­ma­tion can be done with some good qual­ity omega-3 fish oils (if you are not aller­gic to sea creatures!), and quer­cet­in is also anti-inflam­mat­ory (see above).

Another import­ant point is to keep the sinuses mov­ing dur­ing this time while you are work­ing at the inflam­ma­tion trig­gers, as in the use of a nas­al rinse or a neti pot that involve a salt solu­tion (water and salt) to encour­age cir­cu­la­tion in the nas­al pas­sages. My Neti Pot (seen below, and I do not get bene­fits from this com­pany for pro­mot­ing this product) has come in handy for many a sinus irrit­a­tion!

the Neti Pot

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