Is it cold or sinus? Dr. Benke knows the nose

By March 8, 2012 Nose, Sinusitis

By Jami Shelton

If you’ve ever had a cold or allergy attack that just wouldn’t go away, there’s a good chance you may have actually had sinusitis. Over 37 million people get it each year, making it one of the most common health conditions in America, but how do you know you have it, and how do you get relief? Just ask Dr. Benke; he knows the nose.

As a board certified pediatric and adult otolaryngologist/head and neck surgeon, Dr. Ted Benke is a physician concerned with medical and surgical treatment of the ears, nose, throat and related structures of the head and neck.

In other words, he’s the go-to-guy for all things ‘nose,’ and since colds, allergies and sinusitis all affect the nose, Benke can tell you which one you have and how to treat it.

“Symptoms of sinusitis sometimes mimic those of colds and allergies, so you may not even realize you need to see a doctor,” Benke said. “Colds are characterized by a runny nose, coughing and nasal congestion and can go away on their own or with over-the-counter medication, but allergies can also cause a runny nose.

“Allergies can be a big nuisance, especially now with mountain cedar levels high, but with sinusitis, a patient needs an appropriate antibiotic.”

Benke said patients with sinusitis often complain of facial pain or pressure, sometimes even pain in their upper teeth.

“They may have fever, headache or swelling around their eyes. But the main thing we notice is color of their nasal discharge. It’s typically a thick yellow-green color.

“If a person has what they think is a cold, but it lasts more than 10 days, it’s probably sinusitis. It can start out as a cold, allergy attack or nasal irritation caused by something in the environment—in fact, many times those lead to a sinus infection.

“Normally mucus that collects in the sinuses drains into the nasal passages. But, when you have a cold or allergy attack, your sinuses become inflamed and are unable to drain properly, and that leads to congestion and often, infection.”

Benke said with bacterial sinusitis, patients need an antibiotic, coupled with saline nasal spray. We often add a nasal steroid for acute sinusitis as well as for most chronic sinusitis patients.

“Of course, to prevent your cold or allergy attack from turning into sinusitis, remember an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So keep your sinuses clear using an oral decongestant or a short course of nasal spray decongestant for no more than three days, gently blow your nose, blocking one nostril while blowing through the other, and drink plenty of fluids to keep the nasal discharge thin, or use a saline spray three times a day.”

He also said to try to avoid contact with things that might trigger an allergy attack, but if you can’t, then use over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines and/or a prescription nasal spray to control allergy attacks.

If you have sinusitis frequently or when the infection lasts three months or more, Benke said, it could be chronic sinusitis, which can cause irreversible changes that may require surgery to repair.

“If surgery is necessary because the nasal obstruction cannot be corrected with medication, we do it using an endoscope, where we can look directly into the nose, while at the same time, removing diseased tissue and polyps and clearing the narrow channels between the sinuses.”

For more information or an appointment for sinusitis, allergies or other chronic problems like ear infections and hearing loss, snoring and facial and neck lesions and tumors or audiology services, including for infants and children, diagnostic hearing tests, a complete line of hearing aids and evaluation and treatment for vertigo, call Benke ENT Clinic at 817-641-3750 or go to contact us.

Benke Ear, Nose & Throat Clinic is located at 1317 Glenwood Drive, next door to Dr. Michael Glover.