The common cold may not seem like a significant problem, but this mild virus may lead to a number of complications. Two frequent complications are sinus infections and bronchitis, however both of these illnesses may occur independently of the common cold, either from a virus or bacterial infection. While these are both common and treatment tends to be similar, symptoms of these two illnesses may be quite different.
Bronchitis affects the bronchioles, the tubes that carry air from the mouth and nose to the lungs. When bronchitis occurs, the bronchioles become inflamed and irritated. This typically causes a deep cough that often brings up phlegm, which may be yellow or green in color. In most cases, a person will recover from bronchitis with no medical intervention, however severe cases that last more than a week or lead to shortness of breath may require prescription medication. Since not all bronchitis is bacterial, it is not always beneficial to take antibiotics. Your doctor may determine if bronchitis is bacterial or viral in nature and therefore determine the best course of treatment.
Sinusitis is commonly known as a sinus infection. The sinuses are hollow cavities in the skull, located around the eyes and nose. If a patient with a cold, upper respiratory infection, allergies, or even a deviated septum has inadequate drainage of mucus, the sinus cavities may become inflamed and infection may set in. Symptoms of sinusitis may include headaches, soreness and tenderness around the eyes and nose, aching in the teeth and/or gums, greenish or yellowish nasal discharge (snot), a stuffy nose, and fatigue. Where a patient may confuse bronchitis and sinusitis is coughing. The nose and throat are connected, so a sinus infection may cause mucus to drain into the throat. This drainage may cause coughing, often producing greenish or yellowish sputum, which also frequently occurs in bronchitis. As with bronchitis, a bacterial sinus infection may be treated with antibiotics.
If there is any doubt as to the nature of your illness, or if cold-like symptoms last for more than ten days, schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor, who can determine the cause of your symptoms and the best course of treatment.