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Is It a Cold, Flu, Allergies or Something Else?

Is It a Cold, Flu, Allergies or Something Else?

 Murray Grossan, MD.
 About the author: Dr. Grossan is an otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon with the Tower Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los  Angeles and the founder of the Web based Grossan Sinus & Health Institute ( He is author of Free Yourself from Sinus and Allergy  Problems Permanently.

How to tell what it is and the best way to treat it:

Sniffling, sneezing and wiping your eyes? You might assume you have a cold…but not so fast! These symptoms also can come from the flu, allergies, something similar to an allergy, or even from something else entirely—sinusitis! Telling these five conditions apart can be tricky, even for doctors, but knowing the difference is the key to getting the most effective treatment.


Colds can be caused by more than 100 different viruses. Your symptoms will depend on the specific virus you are infected with.

TELLTALE  SIGNS: In addition to common cold symptoms such as sneezing, a sore throat, congestion and/or a cough, you may also have a low-grade fever, mild body aches and aching, swollen sinuses. Symptoms usually last a week or two.

My favorite cold remedies: Get into bed and rest! Chicken soup, hot soups and decaffeinated green tea with lemon and honey may help, as chicken soup and green tea have anti-inflammatory properties that help fight infection. If you can, watch a funny movie. Some research shows that laughing promotes healing. If you need help sleeping, try 3 mg to 10 mg of Melatonin, an over the counter sleeping aid.

For an immune-boosting herbal cough syrup: Mix one-half teaspoon each of cayenne pepper and freshly grated gingerroot, two tablespoons each of honey and apple cider vinegar and four tablespoons of water. Take one teaspoon every few waking hours.


The flu will make you feel awful.

TELLTALE SIGNS: Symptoms can be the same as a cold, but you will have significant body aches and probably a fever. The flu also comes on more suddenly than a cold.

My advice: Get a flu shot once you have recovered, or in advance. If you still come down with the flu, stay home for at least 24 hours after any fever is gone so you will not spread the virus. Adults over age 65 and those with any chronic health problem should take an anti viral drug such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) to avoid flu complications including pneumonia. Anti-virals work best if taken within 48 hours of starting to feel sick.


Allergic rhinitis (nasal allergy) is caused by a hypersensitive immune system that identifies an otherwise innocuous substance as harmful and attacks it, causing uncomfortable symptoms.

TELLTALE  SIGNS: Nasal allergies can cause symptoms nearly indistinguishable from a cold—congestion, sneezing, red and runny eyes, scratchy throat, etc.—but allergies do not cause the mild fever or achiness of a cold. With seasonal allergies, you get symptoms from exposure to pollen (trees in spring, grass in summer and weeds in fall). Allergies to pet dander, dust, etc., tend to occur year-round.

Helpful: Use a diary to track your symptoms and the times they occur. It will help you distinguish allergies from other conditions.

My advice: Steroid sprays such as fluticasone propionate (Flonase) and azelastine (Astelin) work for most people with less risk for side effects than antihistamine pills. Avoid strong odors and spicy foods, which can worsen nasal allergies.


This condition causes virtually the same symptoms as allergies, but is not a true allergy that involves the immune system. Non-allergic rhinitis is triggered by specific irritants such as certain odors, smoke and exhaust— or even changes in the weather.

TELLTALE SIGNS: With nonallergic rhinitis, standard allergy medications fail to relieve symptoms, and allergy tests are negative. Postnasal drip (an irritating flow of mucus down the back of the throat) tends to be worse with nonallergic rhinitis than with seasonal allergies.

My advice: Avoid irritants that you are sensitive to and consider using the prescription drug Ipratropium Bromide (Atrovent), an inhaled nasal spray that helps relax and open air passages. This drug can cause side effects including dizziness, so use it only when needed and at the lowest dose possible.


Sinusitis is tough to diagnose because it often occurs in conjunction with colds and allergies because of excess mucus from congestion providing an optimal breeding ground for bacteria and viruses.

TELLTALE SIGNS: Congestion accompanied by tenderness and a feeling of pressure around the eyes, cheeks or forehead. In addition, when you blow your nose, the mucus will usually have a yellow or greenish color. Fever may be present as well. Symptoms can last for several weeks (acute) or even longer (chronic).

My advice: Prescription nasal sprays such as TK  help open the airways. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or naproxen (Aleve) work for sinus pain. Bromelain (from pineapple) and papain (from papaya) also help reduce pain. Antibiotics are not always needed for acute sinusitis.

Natural Remedies for All Sinus Problems!

Nasal cilia (tiny hairlike strands) help clear mucus from the nasal cavity. Slow-moving cilia can lead to nasal and sinus irritation and congestion.

To stimulate cilia:

 Hum. It may sound far-fetched, but the vibrations from humming break up and thin accumulated mucus. Patients of mine who hum for a few minutes several times a day tend to get fewer sinus infections.

Keep the nose moist by using a preservative-free saline nasal spray such as NeilMed NasaMist Hypertonic Saline Spray, available at Walgreens and online. Do daily irrigation with a NeilMed NetiPot or NeilMed Sinus Rinse.

Stay warm. Cold temperatures can slow the movement of nasal cilia, so wear a jacket, a hat and scarf to keep warm. Additionally, avoid cold beverages and drink hot green or black tea, which contain L- theanine, an amino acid that increases ciliary activity. The excess fluid will also help thin and clear mucus speeding recovery.

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img1_28May2016The spectre of super-bacteria resistant to antibiotic therapy is once again in the news. Media coverage, (notably in The Economist, a widely read newsweekly) has highlighted that bacteria are increasingly gaining the capacity to be resistant to commonly used antibiotics, and that this will have a serious impact upon human health.
What impact does this have on sinusitis sufferers? Possibly quite a bit.
Acute bacterial sinusitis is frequently caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumonia. This used to be easily treated with . However, in 1988 Don Low, a Canadian infectious disease specialist working at the University of Toronto reported the emergence of a penicillin-resistant Streptococcus pneumonia in samples form respiratory tract infections. National monitoring strategies were put in place over the following decade and showed an increase not only in penicillin resistance, but also showed the emergence of resistance to the macrolide class (claritrhromycin (Biaxin™) and azithromycin (Zithromax™)). Further work from Dr. Low and others demonstrated how inappropriate use of antibiotics to treat respiratory infections was responsible for the development of bacterial resistance in Streptococci. As sinusitis is responsible for 25% of all oral antibiotic use in humans, this led to the development of guidelines, both in Canada and internationally, for appropriate antibiotic use in order to minimize risk of development of resistance.
While these had been reasonably effective in Canada, in many other countries, antibiotic resistance to these two agents has reached epidemic levels . Thus, in many places, effective treatment of acute bacterial sinusitis now requires either newer, stronger medications or drug combinations.
Patients with chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) also have cause for concern. Staphylococcus aureus is frequently implicated in CRS, and antibiotic resistance in S Aureus has been increasing rapidly. While resistance to penicillin by S Aureus was noted only 3 years after the introduction of penicillin, methicllin resistant staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) are now seen in patients with CRS, particularly those with long standing disease and multiple sinus surgeries. In an additional novel twist, Gram-negative agents such as Acinetobacter and Klebsiella are increasingly resistant to ampicillin, a synthetic penicillin recommended as first line therapy by many guidelines. Thus, clinicians are increasingly required to perform a culture of sinus secretions in order to precisely identify bacterial resistance in patients not responding to initial therapy.
What does the future hold? It’s not hopeless but will certainly require new strategies as new antibiotics may not be an option. While drug companies were previously able to invent new molecules to treat these antibiotic resistant bacteria, this strategy appears to be growing thin and we may be running out of the effective medication to treat these bugs which are easily capable of modifying their genetic makeup to develop resistance strategies.
Novel strategies may instead involve use of bacteriophages, small viruses which attack and destroy bacteria. Or they may instead opt to introduce ‘healthy’ bacteria into the sinuses, in order to drive out replace ‘bad’ bacteria or prevent them from taking hold. In all instances, continued efforts to educate patients and physicians on the responsible use of antibiotics will vital in preventing the further development of resistance.
This column is dedicated to the memory of Don Low, who passed away in 2013 at the age of 68. We miss you Don but your wisdom carries on.


Maintenance Therapy For Your Nose and Sinuses

Maintenance Therapy For Your Nose and Sinuses

Dr.Nathan B. Sautter Nathan B. Sautter, MD
Board certified in Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery
Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology
Oregon Sinus Center at Oregon Health & Science University
About the author: Dr. Sautter completed a fellowship in Rhinology/Sinus Surgery and has been practicing at Oregon Health & Science University for the past 6 years. His practice is devoted to treatment of chronic rhinosinusitis, allergy, and all other disorders of the nose and sinuses.

The nose serves many important functions, including filtration of the air we breathe. Dust, pollution, mold, bacteria, viruses and other microscopic particles are often present in the air that enters the nose. The nasal and sinus membranes are coated with a thin, mobile layer of mucus responsible for trapping particles in the air when we breathe in through the nose, preventing these particles from reaching the lungs where they may cause irritation or infection. The cells that comprise the nasal membranes are covered with tiny hairs, or cilia, that work together to move this mucus blanket along with the trapped particles towards the back of the nose where it is directed into the digestive tract. Acid in the stomach neutralizes any viruses, bacteria or other microorganisms present in the swallowed mucus, and this functions as an important first line of defense against infection.
Any condition that results in inflammation in the nose and sinuses, such as allergies, chronic sinusitis, scarring from prior surgeries, or anatomic abnormalities can impact the normal function of the nasal cilia and mucus blanket. This may result in buildup of sticky, tenacious mucus, crusting, chronic infection and inflammation which can cause symptoms of loss of sense of smell, foul smell, nasal obstruction and thick nasal drainage. Ultimately, the normal function and physiology of the nose and sinuses may be compromised by this process.
Regular saline nasal irrigations aid in cleansing the nasal and sinus membranes, preventing buildup of abnormally thick mucus and crusting in order to maintain a healthy nose filter. Just as the air filter in your car or home ventilation system requires regular maintenance for optimal function, so does your nose. In patients who are prone to nasal and sinus inflammation due to processes such as allergy or chronic sinusitis, I routinely recommend regular, daily saline nasal irrigations. I find this is particularly effective in patients who have had prior surgery to open the sinuses. Regular irrigations also aid in the healing process following sinus surgery, and may help to speed recovery during a routine cold or sinus infection. In selected patients, addition of special medications to the saline nasal irrigations may further help to reduce inflammation, thick mucus and infection.
Nasal saline irrigations are an effective, inexpensive and safe treatment for many different nasal and sinus ailments, and may help to prevent problems in healthy individuals who happen to work or live in dusty, smoky or moldy environments. I encourage my patients to make nasal saline irrigations part of their daily routine along with showering and brushing their teeth. It is a simple, easy and natural method for maintaining the health of your air filter!


Buffered saline solution irrigations help manage symptomatic septal perforations

Dr.Paul_Schalch Paul Schalch, MD.
Board certified Otolaryngologist – Head and Neck Surgeon.
Clinical assistant professor at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.
About the author: Dr Schalch works at Southern Illinois Healthcare, in Carbondale, Illinois, and has a special interest in rhinology and sleep apnea surgery.

Patients that seek help with septal perforations typically present with symptoms such as nasal obstruction, crusting, foul-smelling discharge, intermittent nasal bleeding and occasionally, a whistling sound when breathing through the nose. Patients occasionally have a subjective feeling of nasal obstruction, even if their exam reveals wide-open passages (perhaps due to the loss of sensate mucosa along the septum).

While some autoimmune and chronic inflammatory diseases are possible causes for septal perforations (Wegener’s granulomatosis, sarcoidosis), most often the cause is a history of nasal surgery or procedures (septo- and/or rhinoplasty, or procedures to control nasal bleeding, like cauterizations or nasal packing), nasal fractures or trauma (particularly in the setting of undiagnosed hematoma in the septum, or placement of nasogastric tubes), chronic use of oxygen via nasal cannula, or recreational drug use (typically intranasal cocaine). Rarer causes include infections (fungal, tuberculosis) or exposure to industrial fumes and gases, that may lead to the development of malignancy.

The diagnosis of septal perforations is typically made during the nasal portion of the physical exam. Anterior rhinoscopy (done with a headlight and nasal speculum) or nasal endoscopy usually reveal an area of crusting or bleeding that is adjacent to the edge of a perforated area in the septum. Anterior perforations (closer to the vestibule of the nose) tend to be more symptomatic than posterior perforations. The size of the perforation can be variable, and it may involve cartilage or bone or both.
Regardless of the cause, strategies should focus on managing the excessive crusting and occasional bleeding that tends to occur with these perforations. Maintaining the nasal mucosa well moisturized with saline gel and other nasal emollients is a useful strategy, along with buffered saline sprays or irrigation, which prevent the formation of large crusts that cause nasal obstruction and bleeding. It is important to instruct patients to avoid chronic use of topical decongestants (such as oxymethazoline), because of concerns of rebound congestion and dependence (rhinitis medicamentosa). It is also useful to add the use of a humidifier in the bedroom at bedtime. Patients on oxygen via nasal cannula should be switched to humidified face mask.

Surgical strategies are available to address perforations with variable rates of success. These may range from septal buttons (small silicone implants that are placed to cover perforations) to more extensive open rhinoplasty approaches with tissue flaps/rearrangement. Recently, some biomaterials have been introduced as possible adjuncts to surgical repair.


Learning from unexpected patients: My family

Learning from unexpected patients: My family

Dr.David Anmuth David M. Anmuth MD
Diplomate of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatrics
Allergy & Asthma Associates, Houston TX
About the author: Dr. Anmuth joined Allergy & Asthma Associates in July, 2007. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatrics and the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. In addition, he is a member of both the American Academy and the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

As a physician, we are taught disease processes and treatments, many of which we will never experience ourselves. Being an allergist and treating common everyday problems gives me the opportunity to experiment with various medications on myself or family members (most frequently my wife) in order to make better recommendations to my patients. My wife is a long time allergy sufferer, and prior to our meeting, would get 2-3 sinus infections per year that would “require” antibiotics. After explaining to her that a bacterial sinus infection was unlikely after only three days of symptoms, I needed to teach her a better treatment plan. That is where NeilMed has played an enormous role. Since becoming a regular user (almost daily) and understanding better the need for nasal steroids in chronic rhinitis, she has reduced her antibiotic use dramatically.

My wife was a definite success. However, my greatest achievement has come with our daughter. Since her birth in 2010, I have learned so much about myself as a person as well as a physician. I have, without a doubt, become a better, more empathetic doctor since her arrival. From early on, nasal saline was a regular part of our illness regimen. We would use a saline aerosol spray that was cold and uncomfortable. Either my wife or I would offer chocolate chips so that we could get the opportunity to headlock her and clean her nose as best we could. Even so, she would be unable to clear infections and inevitably need oral antibiotics to improve. At the age of three, at the suggestion of her pediatrician, we decided to give the Pediatric NeilMed a try. It was an instant success. We found that, since the rinses were more comfortable and effective, she stopped fighting and started asking for them when she felt congested. The results have been amazing and to see a three year old perform the maneuver by herself, is truly a sight. Since making NeilMed a part of her upper respiratory treatment, she has taken no antibiotics and breathes better, leaving more time for play and exploration.

Overall, sinus rinsing is an effective way to cleanse the nasal passages, allow better delivery of nasal treatments, and even reduce the need for further medications. Through my family’s personal experiences, I now fully appreciate the NeilMed value and am more confident to encourage all of my sinus/allergy patients to use nasal rinses on a regular basis.


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