Is it a cold or sinusitis?

As the colder weather occurs and we head more indoors, we encounter many more contagious infections from others.  In particular, there are many people with colds also known as upper respiratory infections get shared to others.

I’m often asked do I need antibiotics to resolve the infection.  Most upper respiratory infections are a virus and no antibiotics are needed.  All the areas noted in the picture above can be infected and the symptoms are the same for a virus versus a bacterial infection.

The typical virus gets worse for the first 3 to 5 days and will then start to improve.  It is not uncommon to have yellow or green drainage even in a virus.

Bacterial infections may evolve from the viral infections noted above.  In that case the symptoms often get much worse after 5 days with much more yellow or green drainage.  Occasionally a bacterial infection will occurs right away and symptoms are typically more severe.  The sinuses pictures above are most commonly the source of infection.   In those cases, antibiotics are indicated.

Recommendations:  If you have an upper respiratory infection which just started and is evolving, it’s worth waiting a few days to see what happens.  It’s better not to take antibiotics and taking them to prevent a bacterial infection can lead to a much worse infection.  If symptoms are severe or continue to get worse, it’s best to get evaluated by your physician to help decide on the best course of treatment.

As always, I make sure I’m available for calls and appointments when needed.  We always have same day appointments available for people in need.  You are always welcome to call with questions and for an appointment when needed.

I hope everyone stays healthy in the cold season and if not I am here to help.

Bert Brown MD


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