Is it Sinus Infection or Cold?

Is it Sinus Infection or Cold?

So, why is there so much confusion if a nasal infection is a sinus infection or cold? It is because the symptoms of sinus infection and cold mimic each other. However, there are certain symptoms of these conditions that can help you distinguish between them.
HealthHearty Staff
A cold is the most common type of infection which adults and children get. Common cold infections are the reason why most adults take a leave from work and children take a leave from the school. It is possible that cold infection can develop into a sinus infection called sinusitis. However, a cold is not the only reason why a person can get a sinus infection. This is the most important difference between sinus infection and cold.

Cold is caused by a virus. You can get a cold from just breathing in the virus. If a person who has a cold is sneezing, blowing their nose, wiping their nose, or is sitting near you then it is possible that you can catch a cold. Even if you touch an object that has the cold virus, and then touch your nose with the same hand, it is possible that you can get contaminated by the virus. So, the important thing to remember is - one always catches cold due to a virus.

Sinusitis on the other hand is mostly caused due to a virus. However, it is not just a virus alone that can cause sinus infection. Rarely, bacteria can also cause the infection. Other causes of sinusitis are allergies, pollutants, fungal infection, structural problems with the nasal cavity, and a weak immune system.

Similar Conditions
There are two other conditions which can give you symptoms similar to sinus infection or cold. A person can get allergies when the allergens are breathed in. Such allergic condition can give a person a stuffy nose, itchy nose and throat, mucus production, sneezing, coughing, or wheezing. However, in a sinus infection a person suffers from pain, this is the main difference you should remember to distinguish if a nasal infection is sinus infection or allergies. Flu on the other hand called seasonal influenza is caused by the influenza virus and it gives a person symptoms like severe onset, hot moist skin, cough, sore throat, chills, body aches, and extreme fatigue.

How to Differentiate Between Sinus or Cold Symptoms
There are many similar symptoms of sinus and cold infection symptoms, however certain symptoms can help you to distinguish between these two conditions. Common symptoms of sinus infection or cold are given below. These are the symptoms which are blamed for the confusion between both the conditions.
  • Nasal congestion
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
Common cold infection lasts for 5 - 6 days or a week at the most. Sometimes it can become high, and then it will gradually reduce in the next few days. The symptoms of a common cold are:
  • Slow onset
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Mild fatigue
  • Chest discomfort
  • Cough
  • Nasal mucus is clear, white, or slightly yellow
Sinus infection and cold infection start very differently. Given below are sinus infection symptoms that will help you to distinguish between cold and sinus infection.
  • Pain in the neck area
  • Headache or pain around the nose region
  • Pain in jaw or teeth pain
  • Sinus headache
  • Pressure feeling around the eyes, nose, and forehead
  • Nasal mucus is dark yellow or green
  • Due to infection nasal mucus can have a peculiar smell
  • Sense of smell of the patient is affected
Treatment for Sinus Infections and Cold
So, why is it necessary to distinguish if a nasal infection is a sinus or cold infection? It is important to distinguish between these two infections, because treatment for these infections differ.

For a common cold there is no treatment or no treatment that can reduce the duration of the cold. However, decongestants, pain relievers, and cough syrups can help give the patient relief and reduce the symptoms. While for sinus infection treatment you need to seek medical help. The doctor will perform a medical exam and recommend tests like an X-ray. After the diagnosis the doctor will recommend decongestants and antihistamines for sinus infection treatment that will help to reduce swelling in the sinuses and clear the nasal passages. If the symptoms of sinusitis don't get better within 10 - 14 days, then antibiotics are prescribed. If you have chronic sinusitis or multiple infections of sinuses then a surgery is also recommended.

So, use the above signs and symptoms to differentiate if a nasal infection is sinus infection or if it is a cold. And use the home remedies to treat cold, or seek medical help if you suspect a sinus infection.

Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.