Majority of Canadians confuse sinusitis with H1N1 symptoms

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It's winter, that great Canadian season of snow, ice, grey skies...and colds and the flu. In a year when H1N1 is high on everyone's radar, it is more important than ever for Canadians to know what their symptoms mean and when they should see their doctor.

A new survey conducted by Léger Marketing shows that the majority of Canadians don't know how to tell the difference between the symptoms of sinusitis, the common cold and the flu, including H1N1.(i) In particular, the distinguishing symptoms of sinusitis tend to go unnoticed because its other symptoms mirror that of the common cold and flu. Unlike the common cold or flu, sinusitis sufferers experience facial pain and congestion, headache and tooth pain as well as a fever, nasal congestion and a stuffy nose.(ii) Symptoms of sinusitis can last from several days to as long as four weeks.(iii) If your symptoms persist after seven days, it's time to visit your doctor.(iv)

"I find a great deal of confusion among my patients when it comes to symptoms of seasonal illnesses like the flu, the common cold and sinusitis. It's important to be able to distinguish between them so as not to delay appropriate treatment," says Dr. Amin Javer, Director, St. Paul Sinus Centre, Vancouver. "I am also concerned that many patients ask for an antibiotic when they might need a nasal corticosteroid. Patients might be surprised to learn that most seasonal illnesses are viral and should therefore not be treated with an antibiotic. There are other treatment options, such as NASONEX(R), the one prescription nasal spray approved by Health Canada for the treatment of sinusitis."

This year sinusitis will affect more than four million Canadians,(v) the flu will affect more than six million Canadians(vi) and on average adult Canadians will have two to four colds.(vii) To get better as quickly as possible, identify your symptoms and know when to visit your doctor.

Guidelines on when to see a doctor

- Cold symptoms, including sneezing and a runny nose, can be treated at home by rest, relaxation and chicken soup. It is not necessary to see a doctor. - Flu symptoms, including fever, muscle aches and chills, should be monitored and if persists more than five days, it's time for a visit to the doctor. - Sinusitis symptoms, including nasal congestion, facial pain and congestion, fever and headache, should be treated by a physician. There is only one Health Canada approved nasal corticosteroid for the treatment of sinusitis.(viii) It works by reducing the inflammation, allowing the sinus congestion to drain and thus relieving the associated pain, the vast majority of the time, without the use of an antibiotic.(ix)

Léger Marketing data shows that the majority of Canadians surveyed are unsure of the appropriate treatment for sinusitis and nearly four-in-ten of them mistakenly believe sinusitis should be treated using antibiotics.(X) Sixty-five per cent of the time, a prescription for an antibiotic is unnecessarily given to a sinusitis sufferer,(xi) often due to a patient requesting it.

Highlights of the Léger Marketing survey findings

- Forty-six per cent of Canadians surveyed feel they should go to their doctor to be treated for their cold and flu symptoms, when in fact they just should stay home and rest.(xii) - Of everyone surveyed, those over the age of 45 are twice as likely to visit the doctor when experiencing cold and flu symptoms than those between the ages of 25 to 44.(xiii) - The majority of Canadians surveyed (73 per cent) try and avoid taking antibiotics,(xiv) however many (37 per cent) think it's what is needed to treat their symptoms.(xv) More than half are unaware of more appropriate courses of treatment.(xvi) - Women are more likely than men to try home remedies to feel better faster, while men are more likely to say they would do nothing.(xvii)



  1. Dr. Lilly Dr. Lilly United States says:

    Yes, indeed, antibiotics in most cases are not effective. Clinical studies support the use of nasal irrigation for all kind of nasal sinus problems because it can cleanse away the root cause of the problems.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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