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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.

For more information, visit:



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.


Chronic Sinusitis and Balloon Sinuplasty

Chronic Sinusitis and Balloon Sinuplasty

Dr Aijaz Alvi Aijaz Alvi, MD, FACS
Board certified Otolaryngologist and Head and Neck Surgeon.
About the author: Dr. Alvi has graduated college from New York University and then completed his medical school training at Pennsylvania State University. He completed his Otolaryngology residency at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York and additionally completed a fellowship in Head and Neck Surgery at University of Pittsburgh.His practice is located in Barrington and Elgin , Illinois ( . He has been in practice for over 15 years. He has extensive experience in balloon sinuplasty and sinus disease.

The painful symptoms associated with chronic sinusitis can be overwhelming. It can significantly affect your health, work and school. If symptoms are difficult to control with medications alone, your primary doctor may refer you to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist, who can determine the best course of treatment, including further medication therapy or surgery to open the sinus passage ways.
Now, there is an additional surgical option for treatment of blocked sinuses called Balloon Sinuplasty™ Technology. If you have been diagnosed with chronic sinusitis and are not responding well to antibiotics you may be a candidate for surgery. Your surgeon now has a less invasive option that is clinically proven to be safe, effective and improve the quality of your life.
Balloon Sinuplasty™ Technology is an endoscopic, balloon-based system for patients suffering from sinusitis that can be performed in children and adults in the hospital or some patients, in the office under only local anesthesia. The FDA-cleared technology uses a small, flexible, sinus balloon catheter to gently open up blocked sinus passageways, restoring normal sinus drainage. When the sinus balloon is inflated, it gently restructures and widens the sinus opening. The sinus can then be irrigated with an antibiotic solution, which can rid the sinus of harmful bacteria. This can significantly eliminate the sinus infection, facial pressure, headache, and improve nasal breathing and sinus health. Check out reviews of Target weekly ads and pharmacy stores of various brands. Additional information on weekly ad products of CVS pharmacy and Kroger.


What is the difference between Sinusitis and the Common Cold?

Dr. Daniel Ganc Daniel Ganc, MD
Board Certified Otolaryngologist with a special interest in Sinus and Allergy
Associate Professor at Florida Atlantic University College of Medicine
About the author: Daniel Ganc, MD is a Board-Certified Otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist). He is an Assistant Professor at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University (FAU). He has published articles in major medical books and magazines and has lectured at national physician conferences on various topics. Dr. Ganc specializes in the medical and surgical treatment of ear, nose, throat, sinus, and allergy conditions for both adult and pediatric patients.

It can be hard to differentiate between a common cold and a sinus infection. Sinusitis is often preceded by a common colds. This progression is more common in certain people. Allergies and narrow sinus drainage are two common factors associated with sinus infections.
How can you tell if you have sinusitis rather than just a cold?

Common colds are viral infections that usually last for 5 to 10 days. They are most severe between days 3 or 5, and then symptoms improve and disappear. Nasal discharge usually starts clear and watery, and after a day or two, the nasal discharge may become thicker with white, yellow, or green color. After several days, the discharge becomes clear again and dries.

Sinusitis, or more properly termed rhinosinusitis, is an inflammation of the mucosal lining of the nose and sinuses. The infection can begin with inflammation from a viral cold, which can lead to narrowing of the drainage passages of the sinuses. This narrowing can also be related to swelling from an allergy flare up. Symptoms like nasal discharge, headaches, and facial pressure last more than 10 days without improvement or get worse after a week of a common cold. The headaches in sinusitis in general are behind or around the eyes, and they get worse when bending over.


Common colds are treated only with over-the-counter medications based on the symptoms they cause. These medications may also be helpful for the symptoms of bacterial sinusitis, but in these cases antibiotics are indicated as well, so see your doctor.

Decongestants for difficulty breathing through the nose are available in oral forms, notably pseudoephedrine (e.g. Sudafed), and topical sprays, i.e. oxymetazoline (Afrin) and phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine). Note that the decongestant sprays can be used for a maximum of 3 days.

For those with thick mucus or pus from either a common cold or bacterial sinusitis, sinus rinses and neti pots are useful to irrigate the nose.

Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) work well for pain. Thick mucus in the nose and chest can be treated with guaifenesin (e.g. Robitussin, Mucinex), and dextromethorphan (Delsym) is helpful for cough. Many times these medications are combined into one “cold and sinus” pill, so read the labels to be sure it has the ingredients that will help you.


Nasal Irrigation for Pediatric & Adolescent Allergic Rhinitis, Sinusitis, Nasal Congestion & Asthma – A Safe & Effective Non-Prescription Approach

Dr.Alan Cohen Alan H Cohen, MD, FAAP, FCCP, FAAAAI, FCAAI
Board certified Pediatric Pulmonologist
Clinical Adjunct Faculty – Stanford University, Packard’s Children’s Hospital
About the author: Dr. Cohen is a board-certified pediatric pulmonologist. He currently holds an appointment as adjunct clinical faculty at Stanford University School of Medicine – in the Dept of Pediatric Pulmonology and Critical Care Medicine at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital seeing patients, teaching and working with the medical students and fellows in both allergy and pulmonary medicine.

As a Board Certified Pediatric Pulmonologist who cares for many children and families experiencing allergic rhinitis, seasonal allergies and nasal congestion – often associated with concomitant asthma, the role of local and topical treatment of the nasal inflammation often comes up and is typically neglected by community physicians. From my first years of training at the University of Colorado and National Jewish Medical Center in Denver, CO – we were always taught of the important role of upper airway inflammation in the management of both upper and lower airways disease. Simply put – you will oftentimes not gain sufficient control of the lower airway symptoms of wheezing, cough and bronchoconstriction – unless you begin to adequately address the chronic inflammation of the upper airway. Long before easy to buy and use premeasured “Nettie Pots” and other nasal irrigation devices to enhance successful nasal clearance for children, adolescents and adults were available – we were preaching the importance of airway hygiene and patency. Using normal saline and gentle irrigation techniques have consistently proven successful in the hands of the many children and families that I recommend using these non-medication approaches to airway care and upper and lower airway health and well-being. At a time where I am regularly fielding questions about the use of topical steroids – both in the nares and lower airways of growing children and adolescents – I have rarely met a family that is pleased or happy to hear that I am also recommending a topical nasal steroid, oftentimes to use after nasal irrigation and treatment. It optimizes the ability of the topic steroids to come into contact with the nasal mucosa more readily, and allows for these useful therapies to work as effectively and efficiently as they can. I remind people that by performing regular nasal irrigation before an intranasal steroid, as well as an inhaled daily controller medication of mild/moderate or severe asthma – like an ICS or ICS/LABA combo – they are optimizing the efficacy and success of these drugs and often enable to use a lower steroid dose, less often and at a more tolerable manner. For those with “steroid phobia” or fearfulness of using intranasal steroids – the mechanical benefits of nasal irrigation are often sufficient and helpful enough that the need for additional treatments like intranasal and lower airways steroids is less critical for optimal care outcomes. What could be simpler and safer then salt water washes in the nasal canals? At a time when many parents of growing children, and adults would like to have less prescription medications in their medicine cabinets and in their systems – more natural treatments such as nasal irrigation with saline makes even more sense.


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