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Spotting the Difference Between a Sinus Infection and a Cold

March 18, 2024

Spotting the Difference Between a Sinus Infection and a Cold

Did you know that a sinus infection and cold are often very hard to tell apart? Initially, it is hard to tell if you have a cold or a sinus infection because their symptoms are so similar. Understanding the differences between a sinus infection and cold can help you determine which you may have.

What is a Cold? 

Over 100 different viruses can cause a cold. A cold, also referred to as rhinitis, is a viral infection of the respiratory system. Colds can spread when someone with the virus coughs or sneezes the virus into the air. A cold can also be caught by touching the same surface that an individual with a cold has touched. For this reason, it is important to wash your hands after touching objects that an infected individual may have touched, like a telephone, towel, or utensils. 

There are factors that can heighten your chances of catching a cold, such as having a weakened immune system, smoking, or the time of year. Colds can persist during certain times of the year, so if you hear about a cold spreading, take precautions. If you are in an area with many people around, you will also want to be sure to wash your hands and avoid sharing utensils or drinks. 

Symptoms of a Cold 

Cold symptoms appear one to three days after being exposed to the virus. Symptoms include a runny nose,  stuffy nose,  sore throat, coughing, congestion, body aches, mild headaches, sneezing, a small fever, or a general sense of not feeling well. If you have a high fever or are experiencing shortness of breath, wheezing, a severely sore throat, severe headache, or a fever lasting five days, you will want to be seen by a medical professional. 

What is a Sinus Infection? 

A sinus infection, also known as sinusitis, occurs when your nasal cavities are infected, inflamed, and swollen due to blocked sinuses. There are two types of sinus infections, acute sinusitis and sub-acute sinusitis. Acute sinusitis can last from 2 to 4 weeks while sub-acute sinusitis can last 4 to 12 weeks. 

Sinus Infection Symptoms 

Acute sinusitis symptoms include facial pain, pressure, a stuffy nose, runny nose, loss of smell, coughing, congestion, fever, bad breath, fatigue, and even dental pain. Acute sinusitis does not just depend on how long you suffer from an infection, but it also depends on the number of symptoms you have and if you are suffering from thick, green or yellow nasal discharge. 

Chronic sinusitis symptoms can last for 12 weeks or more. Symptoms include congestion, a feeling of fullness in the face, nasal obstruction, nasal blockage, pus in the nasal cavity, fever, and a runny nose. You may also have headaches, bad breath, tooth pain, and fatigue. 

Differences Between a Sinus Infection and a Cold 

The biggest difference between a sinus infection and cold is the amount of time they last. A cold can last from 5 to 10 days, while sinusitis can last from 4 to 12 weeks. Sinus infections can also remain in the body for up to four weeks. It is hard to know if you are suffering from a cold or sinus infection because of the similar symptoms, so make sure you see a doctor if your symptoms persist for more than five days or are worsening. 

Urgent Care You Can Count On 

While a cold will usually get better on its own, a sinus infection may warrant sinus infection antibiotics. Instead of waiting to get an appointment at a doctor’s office, you can be seen immediately at BASS Primary Care. Not only can we determine whether or not you have a sinus infection or cold, but we can prescribe proper antibiotics if needed. You can rest assured knowing that our services are here on standby, waiting to quickly provide you with aid. 

At BASS Primary Care Walk-in Clinic, it's Your Health, Your Schedule.