Sinus Infections

Cold or Sinus Infection: How to Tell the Difference

December 14, 2021

4 minutes

Reviewed by Michael Kaplan, MD

When temperatures start to drop, many patients begin to feel cold weather sinus pain but are unsure if it’s simply the common cold or a sinus infection. Because they have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell which you are dealing with. However, knowing how to identify the symptoms can help you know how to treat the virus or infection and may even provide guidance on when to seek medical advice. 

Not sure how to tell the difference between a cold or sinus infection? The experts at Kaplan Sinus Relief are here to help you tell the difference.

How can you tell the difference between a cold or sinus infection?

Symptoms of the common cold, including a runny or stuffy nose and chest congestion, can also be signs of a sinus infection. So, how exactly do you tell them apart? The most important thing to note is how long your symptoms are lasting.

If your cold continues for a longer period of time than normal (typically more than 10 days), your sinuses can fill up with fluid due to inflammation or swelling in the sinuses. The blockage allows for bacteria to develop and grow, turning your common cold into a sinus infection, also known as sinusitis. Sinusitis has different levels of severity, but it’s important to be able to recognize your symptoms in case you need to seek medical attention.

Symptoms of a sinus infection

What are the symptoms of a sinus infection? Because the common cold and sinus infections both share similar symptoms, we have noted the traits that are unique to sinus infections. These differentiators include:

  • Bad breath: Followed by a runny or stuffy nose, thick and greenish or yellowish sinus discharge (mucus) may occur. The discharge may also give off what is called a sinus infection odor that can result in bad breath.
  • Facial pain: Even though headaches are common with a common cold, a sinus headache comes on more in the form of facial pain. So, what causes sinus pressure? The pain is due to the pressure of the sinuses swelling and inflammation, causing you to feel a sense of pressure in your face, typically behind your eyes or in your forehead.
  • Nasal polyps: These painless growths can occur in your nose as a result of a persistent sinus infection. Though they are not easy to trace, if you have a lost sense of smell, pain in your upper teeth, or frequent nosebleeds on top of cold symptoms, you may have nasal polyps.
  • Dental pain and ear infections: Your sinuses are located in multiple areas around your head and face, making the surrounding areas susceptible to pain if you have a sinus infection. If you begin to have ear infections or pain in your upper teeth, it’s safe to assume that you are dealing with a sinus infection.

Can a cold or sinus infection go away on its own?

Symptoms of a sinus infection and a cold can usually go away on their own. However, if you are dealing with a sinus infection caused by bacteria, it’s likely you will need antibiotics or other medications to erase the symptoms completely. The common cold is much easier to handle with at-home care and generally will not require medical intervention. 

If you suffer from chronic sinusitis, or a sinus infection lasting longer than 12 weeks, it would be beneficial to speak to an expert who can provide you with long-term solutions for a lifetime of relief.

Whether it’s a Cold or Sinus Infection, Kaplan Sinus Relief Can Provide Long-Term Relief

Because they have similar symptoms with different severities, it’s important to know when to spot a cold or a sinus infection. If you find yourself dealing with chronic sinus infections or other sinus troubles, Dr. Kaplan from Kaplan Sinus Relief helps patients learn how to treat chronic sinusitis so they can breathe better and live happier.

Call 713-766-1818 or contact us online to schedule an appointment with Dr. Kaplan today! 

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