Sinus Infections, Sinusitus

Winter Sinusitis: Cold Weather and Sinus Problems

October 3, 2019

6 minutes

Reviewed by Michael Kaplan, MD

While winter may tempt us with cozy sweaters and eggnog, it also increases our chances of winter sinusitis issues. If you have allergies, recurrent sinus issues, and often start asking questions like, “How do I know if I have a sinus infection or a cold?” or “Why are my sinuses so bad in the winter?” when winter rolls around, you may be more vulnerable than average to winter sinusitis during this chilly season. 

The good news? You’re not alone. And if you take some preemptive steps, you may even be able to ward off your winter sinusitis with common household remedies. Learn more about what causes winter sinusitis, how to identify its onset, and the available treatments for both acute and chronic winter sinusitis. 

How do I know if I have a sinus infection or a cold?

Not sure whether you’re struggling with winter sinusitis or a cold? With the two illnesses sharing so many symptoms, it’s natural to be confused — but there are still some notable differences.  

Before we get into how to differentiate between winter sinusitis and a cold, however, we should note that there are two types of sinusitis: acute and chronic. Acute sinusitis is a sinus infection that lasts around 10 days. Chronic sinusitis occurs when symptoms persist for more than 6 weeks.

Colds, too, tend to last around 10 days. So while it’s easy to tell the difference between a cold and chronic sinusitis simply by the duration of your illness, you must look to your symptoms in order to tell the difference between a cold and acute sinusitis.

As stated before, colds and sinusitis share many symptoms. But some symptoms are more likely to be present in one than the other.

For winter sinusitis, these include sinus pressure, pain, thick, yellow or green discharge, diminished ability to smell, headache, sinusitis nausea, and pain in your teeth and jaw. 

For cold (and even flu), these include a sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, and a cough. 

What factors contribute to winter sinusitis and colds?

While we are more likely to get sick during cold weather, the change in temperature may not be the sole cause of sinus problems in winter seasons. There is a range of factors, from both indoor and outdoor environments to holiday-specific fragrances. 

Environmental causes

Whether you’re escaping the chilly weather and hanging out inside, or enjoying the winter festivities, your sinuses may be susceptible to a variety of allergens. Cold and damp environments increase the likelihood of mold (both indoors and outside) which can’t be killed as easily as pollens with a sudden temperature drop. 

And while many people assume their safe from winter sinusitis-inducing elements when they head indoors, the use of fireplaces can dry out the air as well produce smoke and debris, all of which can irritate the lining of your sinuses. Finally, pulling out warm rugs, blankets, and sweaters from the back of closets often leads to more dust in your home’s air, which may also trigger allergy symptoms. 

Holiday accouterment 

Candles! Room sprays! Christmas trees! All of these festive items and even some of the ingredients in seasonal desserts and delicacies may expose you to allergens which you may not encounter for the rest of the year. 


As much as we love our furry friends, animal dander can also lead to cold weather sinus pain and winter sinusitis — especially when your animals are spending more time indoors. Additionally, depending on the breed of your animal, you may notice increased shedding as your animal makes room for its winter coat and prepares for the colder months. 


Whether you love the holiday season or not, all of us can agree on one thing: it’s a busy time of year. Whether you’re running from place to place for holiday shopping, wrapping up work before heading home for a break, shuttling your kids from one holiday party to another, or actively avoiding any and all time spent with annoying relatives, the holidays can wear you down both physically and mentally. And can stress make sinusitis worse? Unfortunately, yes  When we’re worn out, our immune system isn’t functioning at full capacity, and we become more susceptible to sinus issues —  colds, the flu, and winter sinusitis alike. 

Treating winter sinusitis

As you prepare for the winter ahead, you can also take precautions in your day-to-day life to lower your chance of sinus problems. Good proactive strategies include: managing humidity levels indoors, grooming your pets, treating mold as soon as possible, and clean frequently.

Should you get sick, the treatment for sinusitis that your ENT recommends will depend on the severity, duration, and underlying cause of your winter sinusitis symptoms. Some patients experience symptom relief through the use of decongestants, oral steroids, antihistamines, or nasal steroid sprays. Others may need to be prescribed antibiotics.

Patients with severe, chronic sinusitis may want to explore more intensive treatment options. Balloon sinuplasty, a minimally-invasive, in-office procure that can be completed in less than 21 minutes and requires little-to-no recovery time, is an increasingly popular option for those considering sinus surgery. 

Don’t let winter sinusitis problems ruin your holiday season

Sinusitis at any time of year can be a frustrating, sometimes debilitating issue — but winter sinusitis has the added burden of keeping you from celebrating the season with your family and If you’re looking for long-term relief from your sinus symptoms and problems, balloon sinuplasty may be able to provide you with the relief you need.

Dr. Kaplan of Kaplan Sinus Relief is one of the most preeminent providers of balloon sinuplasty in the nation. He and his staff are dedicated to giving their patients the sinus relief they deserve. 

Ready to enjoy this winter? Take a moment to review the balloon sinuplasty recovery, hear how our patients have found relief within our balloon sinuplasty reviews, and call Kaplan Sinus Relief at 713-766-1818 to schedule a consultation today.

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