Is It a Cold, or Something More? Is It a Cold, or Something More?
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

The stuffy-nosed, headachy, tired all the time feeling that many people experience every winter is often thought to be a cold. But is it really a cold, or is it something more serious?

“Millions of Americans think they’re suffering from a cold when they’re actually experiencing sinusitis,” said Brian A. Smart, MD, FAAAAI, Chair of the AAAAI’s Rhinosinusitis Committee. “People should remember that colds are the most common cause of acute sinusitis, and people with allergies are more likely to develop sinusitis.”

Approximately 31 million Americans develop sinusitis each year, resulting in more than 18 million physician visits and more than $5.8 billion in overall health expenditures according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

Sinusitis is an inflammation of one or more of the nasal sinuses – the hollow cavities within the cheek bones found around the eyes and behind the nose.

Symptoms of sinusitis include:

Nasal congestion
Green or gray nasal discharge
Postnasal drip
Pressure in the face
Chronic cough
If sinusitis is caused by a bacterial infection, treatment begins with an antibiotic. Medications such as decongestants, mucus-thinning medicine or cortisone nasal sprays are prescribed to reduce blockage and control allergies. Antihistamines, cromolyn and topical steroid nasal sprays also help control allergic inflammation and keep the sinus passages open.

When to see an allergy/asthma specialist
The AAAAI’s How the Allergist/Immunologist Can Help: Consultation and Referral Guidelines Citing the Evidence provide information to assist patients and health care professionals in determining when a patient may need consultation or ongoing specialty care by an allergist/immunologist. Patients should see an allergist/immunologist if they:

Have chronic or recurrent infectious rhinosinusitis.
Have other types of chronic rhinosinusitis
Have allergic fungal rhinosinusitis.
To find an allergist/immunologist in your area or to learn more about allergies and asthma, call the AAAAI’s Physician Referral and Information Line at (800) 822-2762 or visit the AAAAI Web site at