Head Congestion: colds, allergies and sinus infections

Acute nasal congestion is referred to as Rhinitis or nasal lining inflammation and is usually caused by either viral infections or seasonal allergies. Occasionally it may be caused by inhalation of irritants ,the swelling and inflammation caused by these 2 entities may lead to blockage of sinuses opening and lead to bacterial infection of the sinus cavities what we know as Sinusitis.

The following is simple description of major symptoms and sings of viral rhinitis (common cold) and allergic rhinitis.


  • Nasal congestion, nasal discharge clear or discolored and mild sore throat with mild cough
  • Mild headache is common
  • May cause swollen lymph nodes
  • Low grade fever and mild body aches for the first 2 days
  • Illness lasts on average 1 week
  • Most common causes are: Rhinoviruses, Influenza, Parainfulenza, and Adenovirus.

Treatment: mucolytic and decongestants


  • Nasal congestion, clear nasal discharge and irritated eyes with sneezing
  • No fever, headache or body aches
  • Spikes during allergy season
  • Commonly caused by airborne pollen, house dust mite or animal danders
  • Usually associated with atopic dermatitis, urticaria, food allergy and asthma
  • Nasal steroid spray or oral antihistamine is the recommended treatment

Acute Sinusitis

  • Bacterial sinus infection usually occurs as a complication of a cold or allergy that blocks the sinuses openings trapping bacteria in the cavities
  • Multiple bacteria are usually found
  • Common symptoms include headache ,sinus pain ,discolored discharge and low grade fever
  • Cough may occur from post nasal drip
  • Sinusitis can occur in people with nasal polyps or deviated nasal septum due to sinus opening blockage
  • People with weak immune system or other chronic illnesses are prone to sinusitis

Acute Sinusitis

Criteria for Acute Sinusitis Diagnosis

Must have one of the following three:

  1. Head congestion for 10 days with headaches and discolored drainage
  2. Fever 102 for 3 days with sinus pain and discolored drainage
  3. Head cold followed by improvement then worsening of symptoms (double hump)

Treatment of acute sinusitis:

  • Amoxil or Augmentin
  • If Penicillin allergy: 
  • Doxycycline or Quinolone or Clindamycin
  • Zithromax has no role in treating sinusitis

If you think  you have any of the symptoms above, Contact Medical Care One is an urgent care and Walk-in clinic in Ypsilanti

Visit Urgent Care Near You.  All Walkins are welcome and no Appointment  Necessary. Can’t make it to the urgent care?   Meet your doctor online with  Telemedicine.  Read about COVID-19 safety info.