How can you tell when that lingering cold is actually a sinus infection? Dr. Jordan Josephson, a leading ear, nose and throat surgeon, explains the symptoms and treatment for each.
LISA: I'm Lisa Birnbach. Sometimes what you think is a really bad head cold turns out to be a sinus infection and when that's the case the treatment is different. But how can you tell if it's a common cold or a sinus infection? Here with us to explain is Dr. Jordan Josephson, an ear nose and throat specialist and author. Dr. Josephson why do we call it common cold when it's not so common?
DR. JOSEPHSON: A common cold is very common. More common than you say so it is common. Everybody has had a common cold. It usually lingers for two to five days. You're just feeling run down. Kind of clogged up in your nose. You can't breathe, sore throat, just achey, maybe have a little fever. So it is a common cold, but if it lingers for more than five days, then you probably have a little bit more than the common cold.
LISA: If you're a worrier what do you do? If you're running a fever for days and days.
DR. JOSEPHSON: You can help yourself. First of all, eating right is very important.
LISA: Why do they say feed a cold? What can you do for your cold by eating better or eating more? Especially if you're not in the mood.
DR. JOSEPHSON: Well the bottom line is when you have a cold, resistance is low. You want to elevate your resistance and how can you do that? You can do it by eating properly, staying well hydrated, vitamins, supplements. Things like that will increase your resistance and knock that cold out of the box.
LISA: Now if it's a sinus infection can you treat it yourself with over the counter products or do you need to see a doctor and get a prescription filled?
DR. JOSEPHSON: Yes, early sinus infection if you have it, maybe it's once every third year, you know fluids is very good. Irrigating your nose with saline sprays. Maybe using a netty pot or an irrigator. Those are all wonderful things to treat your sinus infection. If you have allergies that are causing the sinus infection you may want to take an anti-histamine. I'm not real high on combination medicines, but if you speak to the pharmacist, break it apart and take some of the over the counter stuff, that may be helpful to you.
LISA: Mm-hmm. Now do you know your sinuses are infected because they're swollen and you can feel it and it's tender to the touch?
DR. JOSEPHSON: Many people will tell you that they have headaches in this area, around their eyes, in their forehead sinuses, in their cheek sinus. And in the sinuses in between their eyes and sometimes even acheiness behind their eyes. Chronic sinus infections are common. 30 million sufferers in the United States suffer from chronic sinusitis.
LISA: And what does that mean? That means they're always dealing with that stuff?
DR. JOSEPHSON: And many of them think it's normal and it's not normal. And the good news is, many people that have had treatment before whether it's medical or surgical that have failed--there are new combinations of medical therapy and surgical treatments that can give them a possible success and relief of their symptoms.
LISA: Dr. Josephson if you do need sinus surgery, what should you be--what should you know in advance?
DR. JOSEPHSON: Well number one, sinus surgery is reserved for when medical therapy fails. Number two is, for those people who have had medical therapy and/or surgical therapy in the past, the new techniques we have now give them new hope for feeling better. Number three is when I do sinus surgery, it's done under a local, so there's no general anesthesia. There are almost never any black and blues. We very rarely put any packing in your nose. And people that have had sinus surgery in the past say the packing is miserable. And it is. People are typically back to work the next working day with a few Tylenol and that's about it. So it's not a devasting type of surgery.
LISA: So do you actually--do you remove sinuses? Does the person need all of his or her sinuses?
DR. JOSEPHSON: What we do is we take through the nostril microinstruments and telescopes and what we do is we take out blockages in the sinuses and open up the passageways so that the sinuses drain normally. And what we try to do is return the sinuses back to their normal state.
LISA: Dr. Josephson, of all the treatments, Eastern and Western, that are available now at your disposal, what is the one that excites you the most?
DR. JOSEPHSON: One of the things that excites me the most, and I irrigate myself, is irrigating with either a netty pot or a nasal irrigater. They work wonderful or even just a little saline spray that you could just keep in your pocket and irrigate throughout the day.
LISA: Really? And is netty pot old world, new world, East, West?
DR. JOSEPHSON: These all came from Eastern philosophies. They've been around for thousands of years. They've worked. There's almost no risk that I can think of. So there's only an upside. How can you go wrong with that?
LISA: Thank you so much Dr. Josephson.
DR. JOSEPHSON: Thank you.
LISA: I'm Lisa Birnbach.
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